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More than 1,500 graduate and undergraduate students received their degrees during commencement ceremonies.

With a flip of the tassel and a toss of the cap, more than 1,500 Widener students officially became alumni.

Commencement ceremonies held last week for graduate and undergraduate students marked the culmination of years of study, hard work, and dedication, and signified the start of the next leg of their journeys.

At the undergraduate ceremony, speaker and honorary degree recipient Maj. Heather “Lucky” Penney inspired the more than 800 graduates and their guests with her incredible story of courage on Sept. 11, 2001.

On that day, the young Air Force fighter pilot – barely older than a college graduate herself – was deployed in an F-16 on a suicide mission to find and bring down the hijacked United Airlines Flight 93.

Ultimately Flight 93 crashed in western Pennsylvania when passengers and crew aboard attempted to gain control of the aircraft. But that day taught Penney an invaluable lesson about heroism, one that she generously shared with the graduates. 

“In the time since the clear blue morning of 9/11, I’ve come to realize that heroism isn’t something unique or possessed by only a chosen few,” she said. “In the dark smoke of that day, comes the realization that character, leadership, service - courage is there inside each and every one of us.”

It is how we choose to exercise those qualities, on a daily basis, that determine who we are, said Penney.

“Don’t wait for some major crisis, some accident of history, to bring that hero out. You can all be a hero to somebody,” she told the graduates. “You all have the capacity to change someone’s life, to make a difference, to make this world a better place.”

During the graduate ceremony the day before, speaker and honorary degree recipient Jeffrey Rosen offered the nearly 700 master’s and doctoral students a piece of sage advice: never stop learning. It’s a philosophy, he said, that was embraced by America’s founders as essential for maintaining a healthy republic.

“Now is the time to devote yourself to a lifetime of self-education, not only for professional success, but to further your development as a human being and as a citizen,” said Rosen, CEO of the National Constitution Center in Philadelphia, which partnered with Widener last November to kick off the university’s Common Ground initiative.

Tulsi Patel, recipient of the President's Award, who graduated with a bachelor’s degree in biomedical engineering and computer science, encouraged her classmates to proudly share their Widener story with the world.

Look to your left and your right. You are sitting here with your mini family, the ones who you shared four years of your life with.

Tulsi Patel ‘18

In her time as a graduate nursing major, student speaker Christine Aiello learned leadership, tolerance, and teamwork.

“Widener University has allowed all of us the chance to master our skills and to begin to grow into leaders in our fields,” said Aiello.

Widener’s commencement celebrations also included the Nightingale Ceremony honoring 167 nursing graduates, as well as graduate student award and undergraduate academic award ceremonies. The weekend was capped off with the commissioning of 20 ROTC Dauntless Battalion cadets as second lieutenants of the U.S. Army. Six of the students are Widener graduates.

Relive all the excitement of the undergraduate and graduate commencement ceremonies through highlight videos of the events.