Honorary doctorates were awarded to two longtime supporters of the university as degrees were granted to more than 1,000 graduates.
Two women who have made enormous contributions to California University of Pennsylvania received honorary doctorates May 7 as the University held its 194th Commencement ceremony.
In all, 1,062 students earned associate, bachelor’s, master’s and doctoral degrees in January and May 2022.
Karen Rutledge and former university President Geraldine Jones ’72, ’80 received their Doctor of Humane Letters, honoris causa, before addressing graduates. Rutledge spoke to the Eberly College of Science and Technology, and Jones addressed the College of Education and Liberal Arts.
Rutledge is the co-founder of the Rutledge Institute for Early Childhood Education, a state-of-the-art, on campus program. The institute also provides exceptional learning opportunities for selected Cal U students enrolled as Rutledge Institute Scholars. Together with her husband, Tom Rutledge, the family has provide hundreds of scholarship and internship awards for students, including the Rutledge Family Scholarships, the Rutledge Family Scholarships in Economics and The Rutledge Family Internships Awards.
“Watch and follow happy people,” Rutledge advised the graduates. “Find out what makes them happy. I’m sure that you will see that they are happy because they take on responsibility for themselves and others.
Jones retired in January 2021 after a 46-year career at the university. She graduated from California State College in 1972 with a bachelor’s degree in education and earned her master’s degree in education at California in 1980.
In 1974, she came to California to serve as program director for Upward Bound. She also served as the chair of the Department of Academic Development Services, associate dean and dean of the College of Education and Human Services, and provost/vice president for academic affairs. She was named California’s seventh president in 2016.
“I am proud to be part of California’s story,” Jones said. “And graduates, you are part of that amazing story, too. So when times get tough – as they occasionally do for us all – call on your Vulcan pride. Have faith in yourself, and in all the important lessons you learned on this campus. Know that you can, and will make a difference, not only in your life, but in the lives of the people you meet along the way.”
Dr. Dale-Elizabeth Pehrsson, interim Cal U president, addressed the graduates at both ceremonies via video. Dr. Dale is president at Clarion University and interim president of Edinboro University, which also held commencement ceremonies May 7.
“Discover yourself,” she urged graduates. “As you leave here today, you’ll begin a new journey. Go out and discover what you’re good at and what you like. Never stop learning. You need to be adaptable and learn as you go forward.”
The afternoon ceremony included the first cohort of Rutledge Scholars to earn their degrees: Erin Sassak, Grace Pinto, Aamaria Hall, Eli Gilbert, Alexis Glena and Maria Anslinger.
Each Rutledge Institute Scholar receives an annual scholarship that covers the full cost of tuition, academic fees and on-campus housing at Cal U, so long as program requirements continue to be met. Over four years, the award is valued at more than $70,000.
In addition to their studies in the Department of Childhood Education, Rutledge Institute Scholars will gain professional experience working alongside certified teachers in the preschool program on California’s campus, as well as in public school classrooms.
I have a drive to change education from traditional to modern teaching,” said Pinto, who was vice president of Kappa Delta Pi, the international education honor society, committee chair for the Student Pennsylvania State Education Association, and the lead professional and academic development ambassador for the Rutledge Institute Advisory Board.
“I will shift the worksheet paradigm to a classroom full of creation, gamified learning, collaboration, discovery, student-centered projects, etc. My passion for education derives from my love for learning. I am motivated to create learning experiences that will ignite the love for learning in young children!”