Cal U to Hold 194th Commencement

Apr 22, 2022

Combined ceremonies will be held May 7 at the Convocation Center and will include honorary doctorates for former President Geraldine Jones and Karen Rutledge.

  • - Geraldine Jones

  • - Karen Rutledge

Two women each with decades of service and contributions to California University of Pennsylvania will receive honorary doctorates on May 7 as the university celebrates its 194th Commencement.

Geraldine Jones, former University President, and Karen Rutledge, who co-founded the Rutledge Institute for Early Childhood Education at Cal U, both will receive their Honorary Doctorate of Humane Letters, honoris causa at Commencement.

For the first time, doctoral, master's and undergraduate students will receive their degrees in the same ceremony, organized by college. The combined ceremony for students from the Eberly College of Science and Technology will begin at 10 a.m. May 7, and the combined ceremony for graduates from the College of Education and Liberal Arts will begin at 2 p.m.

Both ceremonies will take place at the Convocation Center on campus.

“We will have students in one ceremony, from associate to doctorate,” said Dr. Daniel Engstrom, associate provost for curriculum management. “It is very valuable, and even inspirational, for undergraduate students to see master’s and doctoral students with their academic hoods.”

Rutledge will address the Eberly College graduates, and Jones will speak to the Education and Liberal Arts graduates.

Anthony Mauro, California campus administrator, will preside at both ceremonies.

Approximately 1,000 students who earned their degrees from Cal U in either January or May 2022 are expected to graduate from the University, although not all of them will choose to participate in the ceremonies.

For those who cannot attend in person, a livestream of both ceremonies will be available. For Commencement details, visit

About Karen Rutledge

Originally from McMurray, Pa., Karen Rutledge is the co-founder of the Rutledge Institute, a state-of-the-art, on-campus early childhood education program.

A fierce advocate for early childhood education, the Washington County native lived in an off-campus apartment with her husband, Tom ’77, while he was a student, and they raised their first child on and around the California campus.

Rutledge never forgets the experience as a young family and the important difference a Cal U education made in their lives, striving to “give back to the place where we created ourselves.”

Her interests in helping young families developed into the idea for the Rutledge Institute for Early Childhood Education.  The institute uses an innovative curriculum that focuses on learning experiences in science, technology, reading, engineering, arts and math (STREAM), with an emphasis on emerging literacy in an information age. The institute funds annual scholarships for 40 local children, ages 3-4, to attend the accredited preschool program.

The Rutledge Institute also provides exceptional learning opportunities for selected Cal U students enrolled as Rutledge Institute Scholars. This highly competitive program builds experience and leadership skills for students in our bachelor’s degree program in pre-K to grade 4 education.

In addition to the Rutledge Institute, the Rutledge family has provided hundreds of scholarship and internship awards for our students, including the Rutledge Family Scholarships, The Rutledge Family Scholarships in Economics, and The Rutledge Family Internship Awards. 

These scholarship programs have been transformative. They have allowed nontraditional students, especially those with children, to earn a college degree. They have bolstered the economics program and made it possible for numerous students to experience a wider world by accepting internships outside the region.

Rutledge’s philanthropic and community work extends beyond Cal U. 

She is a board member of The Village, in California, Pa., and is active in You Gotta Believe, an organization in the New York City metro area that works to find permanent, loving families for young adults, teens and preteens in the foster care system.

She also has served as a board member for VIP Community Services, an organization that offers integrated medical, behavioral health, housing and wrap-around services to improve the health and well-being of adults dealing with substance abuse, AIDS and homelessness from the Bronx and surrounding communities.

Rutledge has been married for 47 years to her husband, Tom Rutledge, and they reside in Greenwich, CT.  They have two married children, Tom and Alisha, and six grandchildren.

About Geraldine M. Jones

Geraldine M. Jones ’72, ’80, former president of California University of Pennsylvania, retired in January 2021 after a 46-year career at the university.

Under her leadership, Cal U established its first doctoral programs; created the Center for Undergraduate Research; began offering Winter College courses between the fall and spring semesters; launched nine new academic programs in high-demand fields; and received the largest philanthropic gift in the school’s history, which established the Rutledge Institute for Early Childhood Education.

Jones graduated from California State College in 1972 with a Bachelor of Education and earned her master’s degree in education at California in 1980.

After beginning her career as a second-grade teacher in the Albert Gallatin School District, Jones returned to California in 1974 to serve as program director for Upward Bound, a post she held for 20 years. She also was chair of the Department of Academic Development Services for 11 years; associate dean of the College of Education and Human Services for two years; and dean of the college for eight years. She was named provost/vice president for academic affairs in 2008, a position she held until being appointed as acting, and then interim, university president.

She was named California’s seventh president on April 7, 2016.

Jones has received numerous university honors, including the Jennie A. Carter Award, the Alumni Association’s John R. Gregg Award for Loyalty and Service, and the Black Alumni Association’s Outstanding Service Award. Among many community honors, she was named one of 50 Women of Excellence by the Pittsburgh Courier, received the ATHENA Leadership Award from the Washington County Chamber of Commerce, and accepted the Human Rights Award from the Washington County branch of the NAACP.

Jones continues to serve as a board member for numerous community organizations, including the Washington County Community Foundation, ADAGIO Health, TRIPL (Transitional Paths to Independent Living), LeMoyne Community Center, Brownsville Area Education Foundation, and The Village of FPC. She is a former member of the Washington County Chamber of Commerce, where she was a board member and chair; the African American Chamber of Commerce of Western Pa.; and the host committee for the Pittsburgh chapter of Women on Boards.

A lifelong member of Mt Zion AME Church of Brownsville, Pa., she has been married to Jeffrey B. Jones for 47 years. They have two adult daughters and three grandchildren.