Penn State Brandywine graduates encouraged to pay it forward

Two students before graduation
Credit: Penn State

MEDIA, Pa. — Mike Arata, director of engineering at United Airlines, addressed Penn State Brandywine’s class of 2015 on Dec. 18 and encouraged graduates to pay it forward.

Students and faculty stand at the lion shrine

Happy and proud graduates posed one last time at the Nittany Lion Shrine with faculty members.

Credit: Penn State

Chancellor Kristin R. Woolever welcomed the 86 graduates and approximately 500 attendees in the Commons Athletics Center on campus.

“Take pride in recognizing how far you have come,” Woolever said. “Although it might have been quite challenging at times, you navigated the hurdles, completed the journey, and are richer for the experience.”

Brandywine chancellor sits on stage

Chancellor Kristin R. Woolever welcomed the graduates and attendees to the 2015 fall commencement ceremony.

Credit: Penn State

Arata, a Penn State alumnus and Penn State Brandywine advisory board member, followed shortly after Woolever’s welcome and gave the commencement address.

During Arata’s speech, he explained the passionate connection he shares with graduates — both to the Philadelphia region and Penn State.

“Many of you share a very similar connection with me,” Arata said. “Our college careers that touch this campus were defined by the unique bond of being loyal to this area, and at the same time expanding our horizons to the world renowned institution known as Penn State.”

Mike Arata speaks at graduation

Mike Arata, United Airline’s director of engineering, Penn State alumnus and Penn State Brandywine advisory board member, addressed Penn State Brandywine’s Class of 2015 on Dec. 18.

Credit: Penn State

Arata explained that during his time as a Penn State student he grew more independent, allowing him to venture out of his comfort zone and take advantage of Penn State opportunities. He encouraged the graduates to remember that none of the accomplishments they made while in school would be possible without the sacrifices of their support system.

Graduate and grandmother

Graduate Christopher Daly received his diploma from his grandmother, Penn State Abington's Professor Emeritus Patricia Overdeer.

Credit: Penn State

“We are all indebted to those who provided everything from financial support to moral support and beyond to bring us to this point,” Arata said. “Your lifelong thanks will be shown in what you do for those who come behind you. It’s our commitment to make life better for each generation that comes behind us.”

Student stands with family

Penn State Brandywine graduate Ana Elmasllari proudly stands with her family after the commencement ceremony.

Credit: Penn State

After Arata’s commencement address, Cynthia G. Lightfoot, director of academic affairs, and Woolever conferred the degrees.

As students received their diplomas, a long-standing Penn State Brandywine tradition began, and students were able to take a few moments to share thoughts about their journey to graduation day. Many thanked family, friends, faculty and staff.

Lauren Lomas on stage

Lauren Lomas, Schreyer Honors Scholar, took advantage of the opportunity to thank her family, friends and Penn State Brandywine Associate Professor of Human Development and Family Studies Jennifer Zosh. Lomas was one of only eight Penn State students from across the Commonwealth to present her research at the undergraduate research event at the Pennsylvania Capitol.

Credit: Penn State

Penn State awarded approximately 5,200 diplomas to graduating students University-wide during the fall commencement. The Penn State graduates joined the largest dues-paying alumni association in the world, consisting of more than 177,000 members.