Mom, two sons among 40 grads at Mont Alto

May 14, 2006|by RICHARD F. BELISLE / Staff Correspondent


About 140 Penn State Mont Alto students received their degrees Saturday, among them a Chambersburg, Pa., mother and her two sons who received diplomas.

Saturday's commencement marked the 100th anniversary of the college's first graduating class, when six seniors received degrees from what was, in 1906, Pennsylvania's forestry school.

The Mont Alto campus opened in 1903.

"I think our founders would be pleased by the way the campus has grown in size and number of majors," said David C. Gnage, Mont Alto chancellor.


Today, the school offers degrees in business, information sciences, nursing, forestry, occupational therapy, human development and family studies.

Charlene Gingrich, 45, and her sons, Jacob, 23, and Micah, 21, graduated Saturday. According to college officials, it is believed to be the first time a mother and her two children graduated together at the local campus.

"It just sort of happened," Charlene Gingrich said.

She earned an RN degree from Mont Alto in 1994, had two more children - Caleb, now 13, and Josiah, 11 - and returned to the campus to earn her bachelor of science in nursing. She made the dean's list, along with Jacob, and was honored with an academic achievement award.

Jacob Gingrich spent his first two years of college at Mont Alto, then transferred to Penn State's Berks campus to complete his four-year degree. He received his degree at Mont Alto Saturday so he could join his mother and brother.

Micah received his associate degree in business administration Saturday, and plans to stay two more years at Mont Alto to earn a bachelor's degree.

Charlene said she timed her return to the campus and scheduled her classes to coincide with those of her sons.

"I figured I could walk with both of them today," she said.

Charlene and Micah shared some of the same classes.

"It was neat to go to class together and study together." They often rode to school together and shared textbooks.

"We learned how to respect each other's time, and to support each other when someone had a test," Charlene said. "It was a challenge, but it was worth it."

Asked if she would return to Mont Alto for a master's degree when her two youngest sons are ready to enter college, Charlene said, "You can never say never."

Walt Peechatka, a 1961 Mont Alto forestry graduate and executive vice president of PennAg Industries in Harrisburg, Pa., called on comedian George Carlin in his commencement address.

Quoting Carlin, Peechatka said, "Keep only cheerful friends. The grouches pull you down. Surround yourself with what you love, whether it's family, pets, keepsakes, music, plants, hobbies, whatever. Your home is your refuge."

Peechatka used a six-step "ladder of success" as a metaphor for what lies ahead for the graduates and the advice they will receive through life.

The first five steps urged them to be thankful for all who help them; focus not on how they will make a living, but rather on what they want to do; take risks; be ready to overcome obstacles; and remember that everyone they meet is important.

Calling on Carlin again, Peechatka reminded the grads, "Life is not measured by the number of breaths you take, but by the moments that take your breath away."

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