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Event Details for Widener 2018 Commencement Ceremonies

Widener commencement

More than 1,500 graduates will receive degrees between the graduate and undergraduate commencement ceremonies.

Chester, Pa. - Widener University will celebrate the 2018 graduate and undergraduate commencement ceremonies on Friday, May 18 at 9:30 a.m. and Saturday, May 19 at 9:30 a.m. respectively. Both ceremonies will be held rain or shine on Memorial Field located behind the Old Main building on campus. More than 1,500 graduates will receive degrees between the two events.

Members of the media are invited and encouraged to attend both ceremonies. Parking and seating can be reserved in advance of the events. Please contact Mary Allen, director of communications, at or 610-499-4246 as soon as possible to make arrangements.

Honorary degrees will be presented to the graduate and undergraduate commencement speakers. Graduate commencement speaker Jeffrey Rosen will receive an honorary doctor of law degree and undergraduate commencement speaker Maj. Heather “Lucky” Penney will receive an honorary doctor of humane letters degree. The degrees recognize their accomplishments and records of service, in addition to the ways they exemplify the Widener mission.

Rosen is president and CEO of the National Constitution Center and partnered with Widener in November when the university launched its Common Ground Initiative. Penney is widely recognized for her heroic service on Sept. 11, 2001 when she received orders to deploy that morning in an F-16 fighter jet to bring down United Airlines flight 93. A former Air Force pilot, she now serves as senior resident fellow at the Mitchell Institute for Aerospace Studies at the Air Force Association. Additional background on both speakers can be found here.

The university will present a third honorary degree at the undergraduate ceremony to Thomas H. Bown II, a distinguished Widener alumnus and an honorary member of the Widener Board of Trustees. Board Chairman Gen. John Tilelli will present Bown with an honorary doctor of public service degree for his decades of service to and support of Widener and the advancement of its students, faculty and staff.

A resident of Gwynedd Valley, Pennsylvania, Bown graduated from Widener in 1967 and went on to serve in the United States Air Force. After his years in the service, Bown returned to the university as director of alumni relations and the Widener annual fund. In the years that followed, Bown continued to build his career as a successful businessman, establishing two real estate companies and operating several manufactured housing communities. During his time as an honorary member of the board he served as chair of the Advancement Committee and also chaired Widener’s most successful fundraising campaign, “Taking the Lead - The Campaign for Widener.” His commitment to Widener was first recognized in 2010 when he received the Outstanding Alumnus Award.

Along with his wife, Bonnie, Bown has given generously to support both student scholarships and the Widener Fund. The pair were also the driving force behind the creation of the Bown Sculpture Garden, located behind the historic Old Main building, which stands as a beautiful and symbolic campus landmark. Students pass through the garden dome at their freshman convocation and at commencement, symbolizing the beginning and end of their journey at Widener.

Headshots of Rosen, Penney and Bown are available for download here.


Widener University is a private, metropolitan university that connects curricula to social issues through civic engagement. Dynamic teaching, active scholarship, personal attention, leadership development and experiential learning are key components of the Widener experience. A comprehensive doctorate-granting university, Widener comprises seven schools and colleges that offer liberal arts and sciences, professional and pre-professional curricula leading to associate, baccalaureate, master’s and doctoral degrees. Visit the university website,