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Widener Awards Diplomas to Nearly 500 at Graduate Commencement Ceremony

A newly minted graduate celebrates her achievement at Friday's Graduate Commencement Ceremony.

Alanna DiBiasi, who was selected to address the Widener University Graduate Commencement Ceremony on Friday as the Graduate Student Leader, decided to take her classmates on a walk—figuratively of course.

DiBiasi, a resident of Staten Island, N.Y. who graduated with a doctor of physical therapy degree, said there are three sequential components for a successful gait: stability, progression and adaptation.

“Congratulations on all of your hard work in the classroom, in the community, and walking home with your degree in your hand today,” DiBiasi said. “I wish you stability, progression and adaptability as you put your foot down, advance your leg forward and adapt to any challenge that comes your way in the future.”

DiBiasi joined nearly 500 of her classmates who received master’s and doctoral degrees from seven Widener schools and colleges in the Bown Garden behind the majestic Old Main building.

The commencement address was delivered by John Lippincott, the recently retired president of the Council for Advancement and Support of Education (CASE). As President of CASE, Lippincott helped schools, colleges and universities around the globe strengthen their alumni relations, communications, fundraising and marketing operations. He was named to the position in 2004, and was the longest-serving president in the organization’s history before retiring in January.

“Widener has equipped you well with the knowledge and skills to be successful in your chosen field,” Lippincott said. “However, to find true satisfaction and to make significant contributions in your work, you will need to combine those strong cognitive resources with the right attitudinal assets.”

These attitudinal assets, Lippincott said, include staying true to yourself, taking pride in your work, focusing on the present, and realize that the true measure of success is how much you help others. 

Rev. James L. Ley, the Archdeacon of the Episcopal Diocese of Pennsylvania and an activist in the city of Chester, also received an honorary doctor of public service during the ceremony. Ley works very closely with Widener on the Community Based Learning Strategic Planning Taskforce, The Bonner High Impact Strategic Planning Committee, The Presidents Community Advisory Board and frequently guest lectures and provides administration, professors and students tours of Chester as seen through the lens of social justice.

“This honorary doctoral degree is the single most profound and most meaningful honor that I have received in my almost 70 years,” Ley said, “and it is made more profound by the fact it comes from Widener University, whose faculty and student civic engagement activities are not only nationally recognized, but as an institution, has precipitated many positive changes in Chester and in the lives of Chester residents.”

The event also marked the last Graduate Commencement Ceremony for Widener President James T. Harris III, who will become the President of the University of San Diego on August 1 after 13 years at Widener. Harris challenged the graduates to carry on the values of civic engagement that many of them demonstrated during their time at Widener.

“If you take anything away from your Widener education, I hope it’s this,” Harris said. “It is your responsibility as a citizen and as a college graduate to be engaged in those communities. As Widener graduates, more is expected of you. It is our expectation that your will take on inequities in society; that you will not turn your back on poverty, violence or inequity of any sort.”

Widener University is a 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 is comprised of 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 more than 6,000 students. Widener is proud to be a tobacco-free campus. Visit the university's website,