"Businesses are looking for people who continue to learn throughout their careers," he said. Employers hire people who can communicate effectively, work enthusiastically, have people skills, perform as a team player and continue to learn throughout their career.
It's important to know how to adapt to change and use new tools, Fairchild said, adding that he had to do that while serving with the U.S. Army in Vietnam. He encouraged students to be informed and involved in their local communities by voting, going to borough council meetings and PTA meetings, and keeping up with local affairs.
Fairchild was presented with the Distinguished Alumnus Award. He graduated in 1967 with a degree in engineering.
Fairchild was president of a heavy construction business for 18 years and was elected to the Pennsylvania House of Representatives in 1988. Fairchild chairs the House Intergovernmental Affairs committee and is a member of the Tri-State Chesapeake Bay Commission. He also is a pilot and serves as chairman of the House Aviation Subcommittee.
The Penn State Alumni Association is the largest in the world, said George Siehl, member of the Penn State Mont Alto Alumni Association, in welcoming the new graduates into it. He urged them to join with the 152,000 members of the association in staying connected to the university.
Graduates hugged family, friends and faculty on the sunny lawn after the ceremony.
While waiting for their families to join them, Christine Lentz of Newville, Pa., and Robin Johnston of Chambersburg, Pa., both 30, said they had been together through the two years of earning their nursing degrees, including summers.
Lentz said she already has a bachelor's degree in social work, and came back for her second degree.
Johnston, who earned her LPN degree 10 years ago, worked part time in the dialysis unit of Chambersburg Hospital while earning her degree.
Christy Lehman, 24, of Chambersburg, received a bachelor's degree in human development and family studies after earning her associate's degree in occupational therapy in 2002. She works at St. Paul's Day Care and is looking for a job as an occupational therapist.