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Graduates Share Emotional Messages of Thanks

Elizabeth White at the podium during Commencement
Elizabeth White
12/20/2011 —

“This day would be incomplete without recognizing an individual who many years ago got on a plane and flew to Guatemala because she wanted a daughter, during that country’s civil war,” Elizabeth White, of Berwyn, said through tears as she received a bachelor’s degree in communications from Penn State Brandywine. “She is the most honest, loving and inspiring woman I know … Mom, you advocate love and kindness, truth and goodness and justice for all. It is an honor just to be your daughter.”

White’s moving remarks to her mother were part of a Penn State Brandywine commencement tradition dating back to 1992 when the campus began allowing its graduates to say a few words on stage as they received their degrees. Of the more than 90 graduates at the ceremony on Friday, December 16, nearly every student shared messages of thanks to loved ones and mentors.

Stephanie Tracy (bachelor’s degree, human development and family studies), of Broomall, who played on the men’s soccer team for three of her four years at the campus, thanked Athletic Director Jim Gastner. “On my first day as a scared freshman, you saw something in me that it took me two and a half years to see,” she said. “Without you, I wouldn’t be here.”

Garnet Valley resident Stephen Ianniccari (bachelor’s degree, business) incited laughter from the crowd when he said, “First of all, I’d like my brother to thank me for the day off from school.”

For Brittney Walker (bachelor’s degree, communications), of Yeadon, graduation day held special meaning. After years battling muscular dystrophy, she is known across campus for being active in countless clubs, activities and departments. Her positive attitude remains an inspiration to the campus and her fellow graduates. She thanked God, a number of faculty, students and staff by name and her family. “To the offices here, I would be up here for four hours thanking everyone,” she said to a room full of roars and cheers in her honor. (To read Walker’s triumphant story, visit http://bit.ly/brittneywalker.)

Brittney Walker standing with Sophia Wisniewska

Chancellor Sophia Wisniewska and Brittney Walker

"I couldn't have asked to attend a better college. Thank you, Mom and Dad, for making this possible,” said Lee Burpee (bachelor’s degree, communications), of Conshohocken.

"To the faculty: thank you for bringing passion into your work every day," said Kimberly Davis (bachelor’s degree, human development and family studies), of Kennett Square.

Keynote speaker Gerald J. “Jerry” Parsons, of Chester Springs, a 1974 Penn State graduate who spent two years at the Brandywine campus, inspired the graduates to work hard, be persistent and be passionate about their futures.

Keynote speaker Jerry Parsons

Jerry Parsons

“I would not be the business person I am today without a degree. Use it well and be Penn State Proud,” the chairman and CEO of CTDI, Inc., said. “Be yourself. The world is a much better place because we are doing the best we can.”

Just one year after graduating from Penn State, Parsons and his father, Donald, founded CTDI, Inc. in the family’s garage. Today, the company is recognized as a premier service provider and strategic partner in the global telecom service arena.
“You will and you can make a difference,” he insisted. “Never stop dreaming.”

collage of photos from commenement

To order photos from the photographer, Third Eye Productions, Inc., click here and use password 121611.

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