College graduation comes with more than the usual pomp and circumstance associated with donning caps and gowns and awarding academic degrees this year.
In Washington, a political debate rages about how to prevent the interest rate on federally subsidized student loans from doubling.
In Harrisburg, state legislators are scrutinizing Gov. Tom Corbett's budget, which calls for a 30 percent spending cut at Pennsylvania State University, the University of Pittsburgh and Temple University and a 20 percent cut for schools in the Pennsylvania State System of Higher Education, including Edinboro and Clarion universities of Pennsylvania.
Yet despite politic eruptions and student worries about loan debt and the job market, college commencement season is always a proud time for new graduates and their families.
When they graduate at three ceremonies on May 19 and 20, the 1,022 students in the Mercyhurst class of 2012 will be the first graduates with degrees that say "university," because Mercyhurst changed its status in January. At Penn State Behrend's ceremony May 4, 624 new graduates heard from Christopher S. Coulston, Ph.D., associate professor of electrical and computer engineer. At Edinboro, 925 graduates received their degrees in two ceremonies Saturday. Kathy Dahlkemper, an Edinboro alumna, spoke at the undergraduate ceremony and received an honorary degree.
Speakers inspire graduates to hold fast to their ideals and go forth to change the world. That's what Erie Catholic Bishop Donald Trautman did on May 5 at Tullio Arena, when he urged Gannon University's 769 graduates to "share your gifts and talents with others that others may benefit from what God has given you."
On Saturday, Allegheny College in Meadville hosted one of the most intriguing lineups of graduation guests. Washington Post columnist E.J. Dionne gave the commencement address and received an honorary degree. Dionne, who advises Allegheny on nominees for its Civility in Public Life Awards, spoke about the heightened need for civility in our culture.
Allegheny also awarded honorary degrees to Tom Ridge, former Pennsylvania governor and secretary of Homeland Security, who is proud to call Erie home; to golfing legend Arnold Palmer, from Latrobe; and to Carol Glazer, president of the National Organization on Disability.
Society benefits when we listen to new ideas and allow our own conventional wisdom to be challenged. With its diverse slate of honorary degree candidates, Allegheny recognizes that expertise comes in a wide range of fields and backgrounds.
That's what a college education should do - produce new graduates who are also civil citizens.
- Erie Times-News