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DiBiasi speaks at commencement

Difference Makers

Viraga Perera traveled almost 9,000 miles from his home in Sri Lanka to study at Widener University.

Four years later and just weeks from graduation day the dual electrical engineering and physics major was named co-valedictorian and the President’s Award winner for the undergraduate class of 2015. He earned the annual award for his contributions to campus life through scholarship and participation in extracurricular activities.

Doctor of Physical Therapy Alanna DiBiasi was selected to address her peers during the graduate ceremony. She made a trip of her own after coming to Widener as a “3+3” student in 2009. But her journey was thousands of miles south to Central America.

It was there that she laid the foundations to pioneer the Institute for Physical Therapy Education’s first international clinical education experience in Belize.

The Staten Island native worked in a rural rehab clinic, “traveling across dirt and sometimes-flooded roads to make home visits,” said Robin Dole, associate dean of the Institute for Physical Therapy Education.

She found herself a difference maker out on those roads, just as Perera did to the people of Chester as he committed at least 300 hours of community service each year in the city as part of the Presidential Service Corps/Bonner Leaders Program at Widener.

“I didn’t have many expectations formed when I got here, but the closeness of people and the faculty has really blown me away,” said Perera. “It is such a small community of people who are concerned about each other.”

During his time in America, Perera has become Widener’s renaissance man. He joined a fraternity, was a member of the club rugby team, and has performed in six different plays with the Widener FreshBaked Theatre Company.

“My experience at Widener has really helped me expand my perspectives on so many fronts,” said Perera, adding he is a “better informed global citizen.”

In her parting thoughts to the class of 2015, DiBiasi urged graduates to live life in line with the requirements of a successful walking gait: “stability, progression, and adaptation.”

“What Widener taught me was to take that next step and to have courage,” said DiBiasi. “I hope my growth with Widener University inspires others to establish stability, commit to progression, and practice adaptability in whatever next steps they wish to take.”