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Widener Awards Diplomas to More Than 800 at Undergraduate Commencement Ceremony

Nicole Gilette, who was selected to address the Widener University Undergraduate Commencement Ceremony on Saturday, May 21 as the President’s Award recipient, reminded the class of 2016 to cherish the moment – as it was the last time they would all be together as students, and their first time together as graduates.

Gilette urged students to stay connected to Widener, telling a story of the migration of North Pacific salmon, who return to where they were born to help “the species survive and thrive.”

“So why not be the salmon – and invest the time, energy and resources to go back to the place where you became the person you will be for the rest of your life,” Gilette said. “This experience will not be forgotten unless we forget it. And these four years will not be meaningless unless we do not actively choose for it to produce something meaningful. Our experience and impact at Widener University as undergraduates is not over yet, because there is still so much potential that we have.”

Gilette, who graduated with bachelor’s degrees in biology and biochemistry, joined more than 800 of her classmates who received associate’s and bachelor’s degree from seven Widener schools and colleges.

Before starting a two-year research assistant position at the Boston Children’s Hospital through the Howard Hughes Medical Institute, Gilette will spend time volunteering at a community hospital in Belize through the Medical Electives Belize program.GRADS

Alison Alkins of Aston, Pa., was named valedictorian for the class of 2016. She graduated with a bachelor’s degree in elementary education and special education. She also graduates as an Oskin Leader, which means that over the past four years, she has had one-on-one leadership coaching courtesy of Widener’s Oskin Leadership Institute. Michael Capobianco of Easton, Pa., was named salutatorian for the class of 2016. He graduated summa cum laude with a bachelor’s degree in mechanical engineering.

The commencement address was delivered by Michael Smerconish, host of his own radio show on SiriusXM and of CNN’s “Smerconish.” Smerconish, who received an honorary doctor of humane letters degree, spoke about the significance of overcoming rejection. Smerconish attributes his accomplishments in life, such as being named one of America’s most important talk show hosts by Talkers magazine, to being able to accept reject and potential failure.

Once asked to deliver the commencement address, Smerconish began reflecting on this success, and he realized there is more to learn from his failures. He wanted to convey to students that success in life is determined by “your unwillingness to accept rejection.”

Also a newspaper columnist and author, Smerconish has been an MSNBC contributor and a frequent guest-host on Hardball with Chris Matthews, as well as a number of other political programs including: the Colbert Report, O’Reilly Factor, Larry King Live, and Real Time with Bill Maher. Smerconish is the author of six books, two of them New York Times’ best sellers, and writes a Sunday column in The Philadelphia Inquirer.

The event also marked the first Undergraduate Commencement Ceremony for Widener President Julie E. Wollman who began her tenure in January. Wollman previously served as president of Edinboro University.

In her remarks, Wollman spoke directly to the class of 2016: “Do more. Challenge yourself. Ask the hard questions and continue showing the same grit and determination you’ve already demonstrated.”

“The world needs leaders with the knowledge, strengths and compassion you honed here at Widener,” Wollman said. “Be ambitious, keep your aspirations alive and keep working toward them. Your Widener education gave you the tools to be a game changer not only in your profession, but in your community, across the country and around the world. I know you will put these tools to work in ways that will continue to make us all exceptionally proud!”

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 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. are proud to be a tobacco-free. Visit the university website, www.widener.edu