Listen to senior class speaker Ian Ollila's speech to the Class of 2019. Watch WCN's telecast of Commencement 2019 at the bottom of the story.
NEW WILMINGTON, Pa.– Westminster College celebrated its 165th annual commencement Saturday, May 11, conferring degrees on nearly 300 students at an outdoor ceremony on Weisel Senior Terrace.
In his speech “Two Words,” senior class speaker Ian Ollila, a religion major from Mercer who graduated magna cum laude, encouraged his classmates to go through life fueled by critical thinking and compassion.
“Westminster has shown us these two worlds, the world of critical thought and of human emotional reality, together. And not always in perfect harmony. But this is the great human journey,” Ollila said.
“We live in a world that is too dangerous for anything but truth, and too small for anything but love. So, never lose the spark of critical thought or the care for others that has been instilled in you and shown to you at Westminster College,” he said.
College President Dr. Kathy Brittain Richardson asked the members of the Class of 2019 to remember the mission of Westminster: to help students development characteristics that have distinguished human beings at their best.
“You stand as testimony to that mission. Your coursework, involvements, relationships, service, worship—and your challenges here—have helped you develop competencies in communication, critical thinking and collaboration and characteristics of curiosity, compassion, and diligence, all based on a commitment to integrity and respect for others,” she said.
A total of 281 undergraduate degrees were conferred on 277 students—four receiving dual degrees. Degrees awarded included 108 Bachelor of Arts degrees, 122 Bachelor of Science Degrees and 17 Bachelor of Music degrees. An additional 34 students earned Master of Education degrees.
An honorary degree, doctor of letters honoris causa, was presented to two-time Emmy Award-winning television producer Timothy Kaiser ’85 of Pittsburgh.
Kaiser’s work on the long-running popular NBC sitcoms “Seinfeld” and “Will & Grace” earned him two Emmys, as well as 10 Emmy nominations. Kaiser also executive produced “2 Broke Girls” and the current reboot of “Will & Grace.”
Additionally, Cranberry Township resident Dr. Paul Suorsa, a 90-year-old retired veterinarian who practiced in Slippery Rock, received his Bachelor of Science degree in chemistry, an achievement 70 years in the making.
Suorsa’s long path to a Westminster degree began in 1949 when the New Castle native enrolled as a chemistry major. In 1952 Suorsa was accepted into the University of Pennsylvania School of Veterinary Medicine and left New Wilmington for Philadelphia before he was able to complete the German credit hours that were required for him to complete his Westminster degree. He ultimately earned his Veterinariae Medicinae Doctoris (VMD) degree from Penn in 1956, but never gained enough credits to earn his bachelor’s from Westminster.
In September 2018, Suorsa’s family—in search of a 90th birthday gift for his father—reached out to Westminster in hopes of securing his father’s unrealized dream of earning a Westminster degree. The College approved the request.
Seniors Samantha Connell, a music performance/vocal major from Clayton, N.J., who graduated summa cum laude, and Lauren Faber of Greenville, who earned a Bachelor of Arts degree in communication studies and a Bachelor of Music degree in music performance/vocal summa cum laude, performed the Westminster College Alma Mater to end the ceremony.
A baccalaureate service earlier in the day featured the Rev. Dr. Randy Bush, senior pastor of the East Liberty Presbyterian Church in Pittsburgh, who shared “Timeless Classics in a Changing World.”