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Wilson grads celebrate 131st commencement

May 14, 2001

Wilson grads celebrate 131st commencement



By STACEY DANZUSO / Staff Writer, Chambersburg


CHAMBERSBURG, Pa. - Sitting on a mix of folding chairs and blankets, hundreds congregated on the lawn of Wilson College Sunday afternoon for the 131st commencement ceremony.

It was a picture-perfect spring day as parents, siblings and friends stood on chairs and craned their necks to catch a glimpse of the graduates, about 140 in all.

The intensity of the affair brought graduating senior Theresa Phelps, the student speaker of the College for Women, to tears midway through her speech.

"The time has flown by, and there is one common bond to a place we will all hold deep in our hearts - Wilson," Phelps said.

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Kathy Mouse, the student speaker for the College for Continuing Education, chose to focus her comments on the path that brought her, a Chambersburg mother and registered nurse, to Wilson in search of a degree in education.

"By 1993, I had been a wife for 15 years and a mother for 14," she said. "It was not part of the grand scheme for me to attend college."

Mouse first went back to school as a teacher's aide at Thaddeus Stevens Elementary School in Chambersburg, where she worked one-on-one with students who had difficulty reading.

It was her work with one particularly trying student that sealed her desire to become a teacher and led her to enroll at Wilson College.

"Progress was non-existent. He was guessing his way through work one day when I apologized for drinking a soda in front of him. I told him I hadn't had time for breakfast," she said. "He looked at me with empty eyes and said he never had breakfast."

That led to a daily routine of Pop Tarts and juice for the pair while "struggling through Johnny Tremain."

"When we finished, he told me it was the first book he'd read from front to back," she said.

Mouse said the fifth-grader was so proud of his accomplishment she knew she wanted to become a teacher.

"I want each student to have that moment of glory when they learn something new for the first time and smile," she said.

Sunday's graduation was the final one for President Gwendolyn Evans Jensen, who is retiring at the end of June after 10 years.

Each graduate handed Jensen a puzzle piece as they received their diplomas. When put together, the pieces will form a picture of Norland Hall, the Admissions Office.

Also during the ceremony, three women received honorary degrees: Leslie Anne Miller, the first female president of the Pennsylvania Bar Association; Nancy Neff Tanger, Wilson College class of 1945, and former college trustee; and Yon-Ok Lee, of Seoul, South Korea, who has been moderator in the National Organization of Korean Presbyterian Women since 1975.

Miller, the keynote speaker, advised the graduates that their learning is just beginning.

"Your commencement today marks the end for one kind of learning on the road to education," she said.

"If you make a bad choice, stop, turn around and try again," she said. "Ignore success or failure signs put there by others."

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