Graduate shakes hands with chancellor during commencement ceremony.

Business graduate Sara Shane, right, shakes hands with Penn State Hazleton Chancellor Gary Lawler during the 2017 commencement ceremony.

Image: Penn State

Commencement 2017 held at Penn State Hazleton

Penn State students received degrees and awards Friday evening during Penn State Hazleton's 47th annual commencement ceremony held in the Dr. Thomas M. Caccese Gymnasium in the Physical Education Building.

Director of Academic Affairs Elizabeth J. Wright presented the candidates to Chancellor Gary M. Lawler who conferred associate degrees and baccalaureate degrees to students completing programs of study at Penn State Hazleton and other Penn State locations who chose to participate in the graduation ceremony.

Amie Yenser, senior instructor in anatomy and physiology and president of the Penn State Hazleton Faculty Senate, served as the faculty marshal and led the academic processional.

Gordon L. Bigelow, president of the Penn State Hazleton Council, extended greetings and congratulations from the campus advisory board. Charmaine Tetkoskie, 1986 Penn State graduate and president of the Penn State Hazleton Alumni Society, inducted the new graduates into the Penn State Alumni Association.

Mary Veronica Sweeney, 1983 Penn State graduate, delivered the commencement address. Sweeney is the founder and director of Power City Arts, a social enterprise designed to empower young creative entrepreneurs at the intersection of traditional arts and new digital media. This summer, she will guide a class of Luzerne County Community College students to design a large mural dedicated to the idea of “The Hazleton Way,” a celebration of neighborliness as described by Chicago Cubs manager and Hazleton native Joe Maddon.

Sweeney graduated from Bishop Hafey High School and received an associate degree in letters, arts, and sciences from Penn State Hazleton. She furthered her studio training and certification in art education at the University of the Arts in Philadelphia. She earned a master of fine arts degree from the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts, the oldest art academy in the United States, and was the first woman in the school’s 194-year history to teach the renowned Thomas Eakins anatomy drawing curriculum in the original rotunda gallery.

She is dedicated to mentoring while maintaining a working studio. During a decade in Brooklyn, New York, her creative commissions included lectures and images both large and small for organizations such as PBS, Scholastic, The Interdependence Project, Random House, the Rubin Museum of Art and the Metropolitan Museum of Art. Her grants and awards include two Stobart Foundation grants, two Leeway Foundation grants and many arts residencies, including at the Vermont Studio Center and a Ballinglen Arts master class in County Mayo, Ireland. Sweeney’s prints, portraiture and landscapes are in numerous private and public collections. In 2006, she was invited to participate in the U.S. State Department Artsin-Embassies program. Sweeney’s work was featured in the 2006 traveling exhibition and book “Visions of the Susquehanna: 250 Years of Painting by American Masters.”

In 2015, Sweeney spent a year with movie director David Lynch as the next step toward visual storytelling and creative engagement with the world. She is editing her first documentary, “Whispering Infinity,” about the role of meditation in creativity, which includes conversations with actors Jim Carrey and Los Angeles painter Don Bachardy, among many others.

Sweeney teaches at the Cambridge Center for Adult Education in Boston, where she also earned a master of education degree in technology, innovation, and education from the Harvard Graduate School of Education.

Degrees, graduates and their hometowns

Associate degrees

Associate in Arts in Letters, Arts, and Sciences: Jacob L. Solano, Bethlehem.

Associate in Science in Business Administration: Yomaris E. Peralta, West Hazleton.

Associate in Science in Medical Laboratory Technology: Antonella Amato, South Abington Township; Colin T. Biglin, Old Forge; Samantha J. Flohr, New Windsor, MD; Ashton K. Hassinger, Milroy; Randi N. Luciano, Tafton; Erin E. Mattern, Milroy; Madison R. Miller, Barnesville; Elizabeth A. Naugle, East Waterford; Raisha L. Piper, Hanover Township; Cassaundra Richards, Port Matilda; and Rachael Spear, Milton.

Associate in Science in Physical Therapist Assistant: Andrew P. Adams, Clifford Township; Matthew Balas, Freeland; Hunter C. Baran, West Hazleton; Emilee A. Barkus, Mahanoy City; Emily N. Bendetti, Schuylkill Haven; Steven Bissoondial, Wayne, New Jersey; Sierra M. Blankenhorn, Cressona; Dylan A. Bressler, Julian; Alexander M. Carpenter, Stroudsburg; Sarah E. Cherry, Bath; Asia C. Christian, East Stroudsburg; Katie L. Cross, Mountain Top; Lauren N. DeBenedict, Tamaqua; Lauren A. Degler, Fleetwood; Amber R. Dolinsky, Weatherly; Alejandro Fortoul, Hasbrouck Heights, New Jersey; Jack Gross, Danville; Rachel S. Harner, Paxinos; Whitney L. Heydenreich, Danville; Samantha L. Hilsher, Williamsport; Crysta M. Hmelak, Berwick; Zachary E. Hogan, Ashland; Alec J. Hontz, Sugar Notch; Melissa C. Iman, Zionsville; Nathan C. Johnston, Ephrata; Alaina Kokinda, Conyngham; Sydney C. Mayall, Clayton, North Carolina; Kathleen B. McDonald, Ashley; James R. McNally, Southampton; Brian J. Miller, Barnesville; Marc R. Olander, Hazleton; Christopher M. Perry, Richboro; Dana A. Rooney, Moscow; Marianny Rosario, Hazleton; Elle Rowe, New Albany; Ariel A. Rowlands, Wapwallopen; Kelly A. Sheetz, Fleetwood; Ryan T. Sod, Plains; Erin M. Sweetra, Danville; Alicia Wayne, Abbottstown; Kayla L. Woolley, Nazareth; Taylor K. Young, Lewisburg; and Anthony J. Zolota, Drums.

Baccalaureate degrees

Bachelor of Arts in Psychology: Olive A. Harrison, Brooklyn, New York; Andrea J. Johnson, Brooklyn, New York; Kelly M. Lopez, Williamsport; James G. Modico, New York, New York; Brianna A. Paulling, New York, New York; and Stephanie M. Peel, Hazleton.

Bachelor of Science in Turfgrass Science from the College of Agriculture: Colby R. Petrilla, Sugarloaf.

Bachelor of Science in General Engineering - Alternative Energy and Power Generation from the College of Engineering: Brett A. Finkelstein, Sugarloaf; Emanuel Marques De Mello Pereira, Lynn, Massachusetts; and Christian T. Skokowski, Saint Johns.

Bachelor of Science in Business (Intercollege): Alyssa D. Wagner, McAdoo.
Bachelor of Science in Administration of Justice: Amanda E. Bakunas, Ridgefield, New Jersey; Ashley Dougherty, Wilkes-Barre; Aaron L. Glass, Shippensburg; Anthony R. Kaiser, New Smyrna Beach, Florida; Kyle B. Minzola, Tresckow; and Katelyn J. Williams, McAdoo.

Bachelor of Science in Business: James Buchinsky, Shenandoah; Jared J. Carrelli, Conyngham; Megan T. Frater, Hazle Township; Lilibeth Fuentes, Drums; Jonathan Fung, New York, New York; Laurel E. Funk, Hazleton; Jenna M. Galtieri, Drums; Stephanie Guevara, North Brunswick, New Jersey: Angela M. Hyde, Manchester; Nadine Jarus, Mountain Top; Zachary T. Markle, Hazleton; Sean M. McCormack, Olyphant; Cody J. Ryba, McAdoo; Brittney A. Saccketti, Freeland; Sara M. Shane, Lattimer Mines; Robert A. Stark, Conyngham; Kyle T. Venditti, Berwick; and Gary Young, Tresckow.
Bachelor of Science in Information Sciences and Technology: Moises Brens, Hazleton; Keith M. Campbell, Hazleton; Dakota R. Kesner, Lords Valley; Thomas S. Kupres, McAdoo; and Randy A. Smith, Tobyhanna.

Bachelor of Science in Psychology: Heather J. Fessler, Hazleton; Amanda Viechec, Hazleton; and Amber M. Whittaker, Zion Grove.

Bachelor of Science in Rehabilitation and Human Services: Miranda Angelo, Pottsville; Daniel Brown, St. Clair; Sarah A. Burger, Mountain Top; Miranda M. Dunne, Montrose; Cruz A. Finnicum, Drums; Brandi Grunza, Olyphant; Brianna Grunza, Olyphant; Shane L. Kitzmiller, Wapwallopen; Joshua R. Miller, Weatherly; Katharine E. Ray, White Haven; Ronald J. Reedy, Williamstown; and Jaclyn M. Waschko, Sugarloaf.

Graduation with Honors
Students who are in the top 12 percent of their graduating class in their college and who have completed the required number of credits at the University receive special recognition. The 12 percent is divided into 2 percent “summa cum laude.” 4 percent “magna cum laude.” 6 percent “cum laude.”

Graduating “summa cum laude” are: Katharine E. Ray, White Haven; Ronald J. Reedy, Williamstown; and Taylor K. Young, Lewisburg.

Graduating “magna cum laude” are: Antonella Amato, South Abington Township; Matthew Balas, Freeland; Hunter C. Baran, West Hazleton; Moises Brens, Hazleton; Cruz A. Finnicum, Drums; Samantha J. Flohr, New Windsor, Maryland; Megan T. Frater, Hazle Township; Laurel E. Funk, Hazleton; Samantha L. Hilsher, Williamsport; Melissa C. Iman, Zionsville; Nathan C. Johnston, Ephrata; Joshua R. Miller, Weatherly; Dana A. Rooney, Moscow; Sara M. Shane, Lattimer Mines; and Ryan T. Sod, Plains.

Graduating “cum laude” are: Andrew P. Adams, Clifford Township; Emily N. Bendetti, Schuylkill Haven; Jared J. Carrelli, Conyngham; Jack Gross, Danville; Ashton K. Hassinger, Milroy; Whitney L. Heydenreich, Danville; Crysta M. Hmelak, Berwick; Shane L. Kitzmiller, Wapwallopen; Zachary T. Markle, Hazleton; Raisha L. Piper, Hanover Township; and Amanda Viechec, Hazleton.

Frank C. Kostos Awards
Carl S. Frankel, assistant professor of biology, announced the Frank C. Kostos Award recipients who achieved the highest grade-point averages in their respective degree programs: 

- Bridget M. Baksa, a sophomore business major from Hazleton, received the honor for the full-time sophomore enrolled in a Penn State degree program.

- Katharine E. Ray, White Haven, who earned a bachelor of science degree in Rehabilitation and Human Service during the ceremony, was honored as the graduate earning the highest grade point average in a Penn State Hazleton baccalaureate degree program.

- Antonella Amato, South Abington Township, who earned an associate degree in Medical Laboratory Technology, was recognized for the highest grade-point average of a graduate in a Penn State Hazleton associate degree program.