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Widener Awards Diplomas to more than 500 at First Graduate Commencement Ceremony

Graduate student speaker Erin Donnelly urged her fellow graduates to "go forward with a passionate heart in both work and life."

Paul Beideman, president and chief executive officer of Avenue of the Arts, Inc., on Friday urged more than 500 students at the Widener University Graduate Commencement Ceremony to apply the same strategic planning principles that successful corporations use to achieve long-term goals to achieving their goals related to their families and their communities.

Beideman, a 1979 graduate from Widener with a master's degree in finance, received an honorary doctor of public service degree during the ceremony, which was the first ever ceremony at Widener exclusively for those receiving master's or doctorate degrees.

"I found myself working 12- to 14-hour days, traveling extensively and having career success, but feeling perpetually exhausted," said Beideman, who was chairman and CEO of Associated Banc-Corp when he retired in 2009 following at a 32-year career in banking and finance. "By the time I got home, there was little left to invest in the family. It was hard to deal with the feelings of guilt."

He said that successful companies create strategies that allocate valuable and limited resources to achieve their long-term objectives, and the same strategic thinking can be applied to achieving goals in one's personal life.

"It takes time to learn and to develop the discipline, but if you plan your time and energy correctly, you can work really hard, and still be the well-rounded person you and your partner and family want and need you to be," Beideman said. "So that when you look back in 20, 30 or 40 years, you can be proud of what you have been able to accomplish and the relationships you have shared."

Beideman has led Avenue of the Arts, Inc. since 2012. The Avenue of the Arts corridor is a 3.5-mile section of Broad Street from Glenwood Avenue in North Philadelphia to Washington Avenue in South Philadelphia. Avenue of the Arts, Inc. has played a vital role in the creation of several key performing arts venues and has advocated for the physical improvements of the district's streetscape. It also serves as a catalyst for policies, programs and projects that encourage economic and cultural development on the Avenue of the Arts.

A member of the Widener Board of Trustees, Beideman and his wife, Caroline, made a $500,000 commitment to Widener in 2011 to establish the Beideman Visiting Scholar program within the Oskin Leadership Institute. Through their gift, distinguished scholars from outside institutions spend time at Widener sharing their expertise and guiding faculty and student discussion and research.

Dr. Erin Donnelly, who graduated Friday with a doctorate in clinical psychology and a master's of education in human sexuality, represented the graduating class as the student speaker. She echoed Beideman's theme of achieving a balance between career and personal life.

"I wish for us to go forward with a passionate heart in both work and life," Donnelly said. "We know that commitment to our work not only improves the quality of it, but our satisfaction in doing it. Remember what motivates us to place both feet on the ground in the morning and continually assess which direction we are facing."

Donnelly, a resident of Kansas City, Kan., is currently finishing her internship with the Department of Outpatient Psychiatry at Einstein Medical Center in Philadelphia. She also works at Concordia Behavioral Health.
An active student in the Institute for Graduate Clinical Psychology, Donnelly was awarded the Citizen and Leadership Award earlier this year, and received the Piotrowski Award for Excellence in Psychological Assessment last year.

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 eight schools and colleges that offer liberal arts and sciences, professional and pre-professional curricula leading to associate's, baccalaureate, master's and doctoral degrees. The university's campuses in Chester, Exton, and Harrisburg, Pa., and Wilmington, Del., serve some 6,300 students. Widener is proud to be a tobacco-free university. Visit the university website,