Penn State Hazleton celebrates determination of class of 2021

Graduates recognized during in-person commencement celebration
Row of graduates in caps and gowns seated in front of another row of graduates standing.

Penn State Hazleton on Saturday, May 8, conferred degrees to its class of 2021 during its 51st annual commencement ceremony, the first celebrated in-person in more than a year.

Credit: Dekka Studios

HAZLETON, Pa. — Celebrating graduates in person for the first time in more than a year, Penn State Hazleton on Saturday, May 8, conferred degrees to the Class of 2021 during its 51st annual commencement ceremony. 

Joined by their loved ones and members of the faculty, graduates gathered on the Sports and Recreation Field on campus to walk across the stage and receive their degrees.

In his message to graduates, Chancellor Gary M. Lawler commended them for their resiliency in earning their degrees while navigating the challenges of another academic year affected by COVID-19.

“In the past year, many of you were in person, many of you were partially in person, and some of you were completely remote. This was a challenge for you and also for our faculty in adapting these courses to meet the mode of instruction and your personal needs. They stepped up and so did you,” Lawler said.

Lawler said that as this year’s graduates have grown over the years, so has the campus around them. Upgrades to the Kostos Building and Lofstrom Library – part of a nearly $30 million investment in Penn State Hazleton by the University within the last several years – shaped their experiences and ensured they had the tools to be successful, he said.

“You have worked hard and been resilient in the face of adversity,” Lawler said. “You make us Penn State proud.”

In his address to the Class of 2021, Student Government Association President James Walsh reminded graduates that while their time on campus may be over, there are always opportunities to learn and grow.

“A lot of people graduate college, settle into a certain job and become comfortable where they are, whether or not they’re actually happy with it. I urge you to do the opposite,” he said. “Keep learning and keep growing until the day you die and never settle for a job, career or relationship you are not truly happy with.”

Commencement speaker

Krista Schneider, executive director of the Downtown Hazleton Alliance for Progress (DHAP) and Penn State Hazleton alumna, delivered the commencement address.

As head of DHAP, Schneider helped infuse more than $6 million into revitalization projects in Downtown Hazleton. Her fundraising efforts led to construction of a new city arts center, community park and welcome center. 

She also helped establish the Butler Township Community Park, a space where gardeners can rent and maintain their own plots while learning about organic farming and sustainable agriculture.

Schneider said that as graduates start exploring the opportunities presented by earning their degrees, they should keep their eyes open for chances to celebrate their successes and make a meaningful difference in the world.

“Keep your head down and continue to do great things, but never do them for credit or for money,” Schneider said. “Find the things that bring you joy and do them well, and everything else will fall into place.”

Earning degrees were a total of 66 graduates, including 40 bachelor’s degrees and 26 associate degrees. 

Candidates were presented by Dr. Elizabeth J. Wright, associate dean for academic affairs for Commonwealth Campuses and director of academic affairs at Penn State Hazleton, and Dr. Maggie Gordon Froehlich, associate director of academic affairs.

Barbara Brazon, information sciences and technology program coordinator and assistant teaching professor of information sciences and technology, served as faculty marshal.

Degrees conferred:

Associate degrees:

Associate in science in business: Michelle Hackenberg, Danville.

Associate in science in information sciences and technology: Christian D. Meyers, Pottsville. 

Associate in science in physical therapist assistant: Erica Adamczyk, Warminster; Cassidy Sue Buser, Langhorne; Mark Chapman, Hughestown; Alexa Rose Clark, Effort; Brianna Rae Clark, Effort; Laura Elizabeth Dorsey, Lebanon; Madison Felty, Schuylkill Haven; Megan Amanda Houser, State College; Michael Anthony Hudson, Manheim; Mitchell Lacerda, Scranton; Kasey Lynn Leidy, Hazleton; Bailey Leslie, Easton; Abigail G. Majeski, Plains; Maria Noel Muentz, Easton; Kevin Ogorzalek, West Hazleton; Juan Ortiz, Stroudsburg; Garrett James William Rokosky, Selinsgrove; Adam Specht, Wilkes-Barre; Shannon Stewart, Chalfont; Brian Richard Thomas, Luzerne; Hannah Mae Ulsh, Wiconisco; Abigail Weaver, Fayetteville; Jercora Witherspoon, Bloomsburg; and Christiana Yoder, Nescopeck.

Baccalaureate degrees:

Bachelor of arts in administration of justice: Lexi L. Kenny, Saylorsburg.

Bachelor of science in administration of justice: Elizabeth Madurki, Hazleton; and Silvio Alejandro Reyes, Hazleton.

Bachelor of arts in corporate communication: Dominick M. Lamont, Hazleton; and Anthony Louis Salazer Jr., McAdoo.

Bachelor of arts in letters, arts, and sciences: Camille Nicole Principe, White Haven.

Bachelor of arts in psychology: Andrew James Whitesall, Drums; and Dominika Zandrowicz, Cresco.

Bachelor of science in psychology: Abby L. Bessoir, Scranton; and Megan Elizabeth Hudock, White Haven.

Bachelor of science in business: Sean Choley, Jim Thorpe; Mackenzie Joy, Hazle Township; Owen R. Klingaman, Drums; Catherine Elizabeth Matyas, Sugarloaf; Alfonso Penilla, Freeland; Carlos Jeanpierre Torres, Hazleton; Marisol Velazquez, Shenandoah; and Michael Witczak Jr., Lehighton.

Bachelor of science in engineering: Daniel Joseph Galffy, Berwick; and Colin Knoll, Pine Grove.

Bachelor of science in information sciences and technology: Mohammed Babji, Bilaspur, India; Carlos E. Colon Castillo, McAdoo; Jacob Deremer, Sugarloaf; Satchit Sharath Hegde, Mumbai, India; Kaellen Henderson, White Plains, N.Y.; Anush Iyer, Mumbai, India; Yugandhar Mankar, Mumbai, India; William Matthew Moses, Zion Grove; Steven Rafael Santiago Perez, West Hazleton; Lee Michael Pliska, Hazleton; David S. Wontor II, Lords Valley; and John Wray, Danville.

Bachelor of science in project and supply chain management: Lauren Emylee Gober, Barnesville; and Brian Patrick Zinman, Center Valley.

Bachelor of science in rehabilitation and human services: Erin Dull, Manheim; Jennifer Fisher, Drums; Amanda Montz, Weatherly; Liz Debbie Rosa De Aza, Shenandoah; Lynn Karen Rosa De Aza, Shenandoah; and Samantha Shamonsky, Tamaqua.

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”; and 6 percent “cum laude.”

Graduating “summa cum laude” were Catherine Elizabeth Matyas, Sugarloaf; and Anthony Louis Salazer Jr., McAdoo.

Graduating “cum laude” were Michelle Hackenberg, Danville; Anush Iyer, Mumbai, India; Yugandhar Mankar, Mumbai, India; Amanda Montz, Weatherly; Garrett James William Rokosky, Selinsgrove; and Marisol Velazquez, Shenandoah.

Recognition of military service
Students recognized for military service were Dominic M. Lamont, Hazleton; and Amanda Montz, Weatherly. Each wore a red, white and blue honor cord.

Frank C. Kostos Awards 
Dr. Froehlich announced the Frank C. Kostos Award recipients, who achieved the highest grade-point averages in their respective degree programs: 

— Lauren Matyas, a business major from Sugarloaf, received the honor for the full-time sophomore enrolled in a Penn State degree program.

— Anthony Louis Salazer Jr., McAdoo, who earned a bachelor of arts degree in corporate communication during the ceremony, was honored as the graduate earning the highest grade-point average in a Penn State Hazleton baccalaureate degree program.

— Michelle Hackenberg, Danville, who earned an associate degree in business, was recognized for the highest grade-point average of a graduate in a Penn State Hazleton associate degree program.