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Widener Awards Diplomas to More Than 700 at Undergraduate Commencement

More than 700 graduates from seven schools and colleges at Widener received their undergraduate degrees Saturday

Viraga Perera of Colombo, Sri Lanka, who was selected to address the Widener University Undergraduate Commencement Ceremony on Saturday as the President’s Award recipient, reminded graduates not to measure success on the strength of their resume or their footprint on social media.

Late night discussions with friends about the nature of life are not resume worthy, Viraga said. Just like the struggle to stay awake at 4 a.m. to finish a 10-page term paper is not an Instagram moment.

“The value of each moment is great in its own right, regardless of what someone else may think about it,” Perera said. “While we understand these moments did not attract job recruiters, or likes, or re-tweets, we also understand that moments like these defined our college experience and shaped us. So, as we now embark on the new adventure ahead of us, look back and reflect on the moments that no resume, or Facebook post, or Snapchat story could ever capture.”

Perera, who was co-valedictorian of the class and graduated with bachelor’s degrees in both electrical engineering and physics, joined more than 700 of his classmates who received associate’s and bachelor’s degree from seven Widener schools and colleges in the Bown Garden behind the majestic Old Main building.

Perera recently accepted a position as a software engineer with Harman Audio in Michigan. He shared valedictorian honors with Brenden Overton of Exton, Pa., who graduated with a bachelor’s degree in mechanical engineering. Overton will begin his career as a nuclear energy risk management engineer at ERIN Engineering in West Chester, Pa. Margaret Karmeris of Wilmington, Del. was named salutatorian for the class of 2015. She graduated with a bachelor’s degree in biology, and will continue at Widener as part of a “3+3” program through which she is scheduled to earn a doctor of physical therapy degree in 2017.

The commencement address was delivered by Dr. Martin E. P. Seligman, a pioneer in the field of positive psychology and director of the Positive Psychology Center at the University of Pennsylvania. The former president of the American Psychological Association, he is the recipient of two Distinguished Scientific Contribution awards from the association.

Seligman, who received an honorary doctor of public service degree during the ceremony, encouraged the graduates to live optimistically. “Don’t live your life around what you do badly and trying to fix your mistakes,” he said. “Live life around what you’re best at. Forget your weaknesses.”

The event also marked the last commencement ceremony at Widener for 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.”

Patton Vo of Philadelphia, Pa., who served as chair of the Senior Class Gift Committee and earned a bachelor’s degree in psychology, announced that the class of 2015 raised more than $4,100 for the Widener Fund, 100 percent of which will go toward student financial aid.

For more information on the Undergraduate Commencement Ceremony, see he homepage feature.

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,