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State Senator, Avenue of the Arts President to Deliver Commencement Addresses

Growing enrollment and increased retention have prompted separate commencement ceremonies for the first time.

Pennsylvania Senate Majority Leader Dominic Pileggi and Philadelphia Avenue of the Arts, Inc. President and CEO Paul Beideman will deliver the commencement addresses at Widener University, which is splitting its Main Campus commencement into separate graduate and undergraduate ceremonies for the first time.

Growing enrollment combined with increased retention prompted the university to conduct separate commencement ceremonies this year for the first time. More than 500 students earning master's and doctorate degrees will graduate on May 16, and about 800 students earning associate's and bachelor's degrees will graduate on May 17. Students, parents, alumni and faculty and staff can participate in the social media dialog leading up to commencement using the hashtag #widener2014.

Beideman will present the address for the Graduate Commencement at 9 a.m. Friday, May 16, and Senator Pileggi will present the address for the Undergraduate Commencement at 9:45 a.m. Saturday, May 17. Both will receive honorary doctor of public service degrees from the university during the ceremonies which will take place in the Bown Garden behind Old Main.

Maureen F. Curley, the retiring president of Campus Compact, the only national higher education association dedicated solely to campus-based civic engagement, will also receive an honorary doctor of public service degree during the undergraduate commencement ceremony.

"Paul Beideman, Maureen Curley and Senator Pileggi embody the principles of leadership and public service that Widener strives to instill in all of our graduates," Widener President James T. Harris III said. "They are strong supporters of Widener, of higher education and the communities in which they live and are very deserving of the honor."

A lifelong resident of Chester, Senator Pileggi has served Pennsylvania's ninth district, including parts of Delaware and Chester counties, since 2002 and has served as the majority leader of the state Senate since 2006.
As majority Leader, Senator Pileggi determines legislative priorities, manages the Senate calendar, builds consensus on legislation and serves as one of the chief negotiators of the annual state budget. He chairs the Rules and Executive Nominations Committee and is a member of the Senate Appropriations and Senate Judiciary Committees.

As a leader in Pennsylvania government, Senator Pileggi also represents the state at the national level. He currently serves on the Advisory Committee of the U.S. global Leadership Coalition; the Board of Directors of the State Legislative Leaders Foundation; and the National Conference of State Legislatures Redistricting and Elections Committee.

A 1979 graduate of Widener with a master's in finance, Beideman has served as president and chief executive officer of the 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 services 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. Prior to joining Avenue of the Arts, Inc., Beideman served as chairman of the board and CEO of Associated Banc-Corp.

Since becoming president of Campus Compact in 2006, Curley led an action-oriented, member-driven approach to supporting the community involvement of colleges and universities. Curley led the efforts to establish a strong strategic plan and improved organizational structure for the association which grew to more than 1,100 members with 34 state affiliate offices under her leadership. She also directed the association's efforts to examine the impact of higher education's community engagement on critical contemporary issues such as college retention and economic development.

In 2011, Campus Compact launched Connect2Complete. Funded by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, the program works with community colleges in Florida, Ohio and Washington to utilize peer mentoring and service learning to help the most vulnerable community college students achieve academic success and engage with their peers, the college and the broader community.

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,