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Degrees a source of pride for Penn State graduates

May 16, 2010|By KATE S. ALEXANDER
  • Orrstown, Pa., twins Brandi and Brittani Timmons move their tassels Saturday during graduation ceremonies at Penn State Mont Alto.
Kevin G. Gilbert, Staff Photographer

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    MONT ALTO, PA. -- A still-wavering job market did not faze the 122 graduates of Penn State Mont Alto Saturday because each of them came away with a degree from the Pennsylvania State University.

    "No matter where you go, people recognize the name Penn State and Penn State quality," said David Gnage, chancellor of Penn State Mont Alto.

    It was the clout of the old state that convinced Erica Sexton of McConnellsburg, Pa., to start a new career as a teacher with a degree from the university.

    After a year traveling with the Kennedy Center as a costume designer, Sexton wanted to supplement her B.A. degree in theater from Shenandoah University in Winchester, Va.

    Sexton still has a year of classes at Wilson College in Chambersburg, Pa., until she is certified to teach in Pennsylvania, but she said the degree from Penn State is a source of pride for her.

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"I was never a football fan until I started here," she said. "Even though you are not at main campus, you can't help but feel part of the PSU spirit."

There was never another school in BJ Bookwalter's future, he said.

A native of Mercersburg, Pa., he knew before he joined the Marine Corps that, should he choose to go to school, it would be at Penn State.

A deployment with the Marine Reserves interrupted his studies at Penn State Mont Alto, but Bookwalter was grateful and excited to finally be finished.

"This is my first degree and my last," he said.

As Bookwalter crossed the stage to receive recognition for an associate in science degree as a physical therapist assistant, he could not help but smile.

For Sexton, her excitement was more subdued as she received her second bachelor of arts degree, this one in human development and family studies.

Charging the graduates to keep the human element at the center of their lives, commencement speaker Kevin Mosser said the point of life is people.

"Life is about who you help and who you touch," he said. "At the end of the day, I tell you, your satisfaction with your career, your memories and your self-worth will be determined by what you give to your community, co-workers, family, friends and people in need."

Occupational therapy graduates Benjamin Shank of Waynesboro, Pa., and Stacy McCleaf both were eager to start new careers helping people.

"I might want to continue my education eventually, but for now, I want to work," Shank said.

As the graduates talked casually to one another in the hallway of the Multipurpose Activities Center, Gnage looked around taking in the sight of the latest class.

"This, this day, is why we do what we do," he said. "I'm lucky. I get to do it again next year."

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