❮   all STORIES

Wisdom from the Diamond

Major League Baseball professional pitches teamwork, effort

Jack Zduriencik '74, a former general manager for the Seattle Mariners of Major League Baseball, brought lessons from the field of play to graduates at Cal U's 185th Commencement.

Be difference-makers. Be good teammates. Work hard every day to make your organization better.

"Every single one of you has been given a talent, and the responsibility to yourself is to make the very most of that talent," said Zduriencik, a standout catcher for the Vulcans baseball team who enjoyed a 35-year MLB career.

In all, University President Geraldine M. Jones conferred more than 600 graduate and nearly 600 undergraduate degrees during ceremonies Dec. 14 and 15.

"Please know that I am very proud of you for your hard work and the sacrifices you have made to reach this point," she told the newly minted alumni.

President Jones confers degrees at the University's 185th Commencement.

It's all about attitude

Zduriencik's baseball career has taken him across the country. Before his eight-year stint as Seattle's general manager, he was the first non-GM to be named Baseball America's Executive of the Year. That honor came while he was the Milwaukee Brewers' vice president and special assistant to the general manager.

Since 2016, Pittsburgh Pirates fans have heard Zduriencik's commentary during pre- and post-game shows on AT&T SportsNet and KDKA-FM.

"The longer I live, the more I realize the impact of attitude on life. It will make or break you," he told the graduates.

"What's important is what you are doing today. You have no control of the future except to give it your very best."

Many in the graduating class already are following that advice. Take Ryan Kaufman '17, who earned his bachelor's degree in liberal studies with a concentration in radio and television.

Theatre faculty greet Maya Tomlin, of Bowie, Md., who received her bachelor's degree in liberal arts.

A former news anchor for CUTV's NewsCenter, Kaufman found his passion in producing shows. Now he's the morning news producer for WTAP, an NBC-affiliated TV station in Parkersburg, W.Va.

"Cal U was a great experience because it was a maturity moment in my timeline," says Kaufman.

"I was actually offered a higher position at WTAP than I applied for, because of my experience with CUTV. When I think about graduating from Cal U I do get a bit emotional, because it has been such an important part of my life."

Global Online student Connor Borowski, of Bradford, Pa., lines up to receive his master's degree in exercise science and health promotion.

Next stop: Grad school

Laken Ganoe '17, an Honors Program graduate with a degree in environmental studies, moved directly into a graduate assistantship at Penn State University. She's continuing her research with fishers, small carnivorous mammals in the weasel family.

"I chose Cal U because it was one of the few schools in Pennsylvania that offered a major in wildlife and fisheries and had a student chapter of The Wildlife Society," she says.

"Every faculty member that I had the opportunity to work with was extremely helpful. I am so grateful for the many opportunities I've had."

Laura Cook '17 believes the connections she made at Cal U, especially with the Delta Zeta Sorority, Cal U Dance Ensemble and the Psychology Department, paved her path to success.

Cook earned her degree in psychology and held leadership roles with the Psi Chi international honor society. She's starting her career as a therapeutic staff support specialist at Community Alternatives Inc.

"Cal U offered me so much more than just an education," she says. "It offered me lifelong friendships, leadership, education, connections, and a work ethic that I will always have with me."

Hugs are in order for new graduate Louis Stamerra Jr., of Pittsburgh, Pa. His degree is in sport management studies.

Lifelong bonds

The tradition of paying it forward continued during the undergraduate ceremony when Briana Hendricksen '17, chair of the Senior Gift Drive Committee, presented a check for more than $18,000 contributed by graduating seniors and their families.

More than $120,000 has been raised for an endowed scholarship since the first senior class donation was delivered at the Spring 2010 Commencement.

"Those of us who worked on the 2017 Senior Class Gift Drive certainly embrace the idea of a lifelong relationship with Cal U," Hendrickson says.

President Jones acknowledged Natalie Barrick and Rachel Elizabeth Hanzes for earning bachelor's degrees with a perfect 4.0 grade-point average. Eight other students earned two degrees simultaneously.

The President also acknowledged veterans and service members, as well as Global Online graduates who traveled to attend Commencement.

Among them was Skye Sankey '11, '17, of Tampa, Fla., a master trainer and gymnastics instructor who added a master's degree in exercise science and health promotion to her Cal U bachelor's degree in sport management.

"It was the convenience and awesome instructors that made an impact," says Sankey, who also is a marketing director for a nutrition company.

"I'm very busy, but I didn't have to quit my life to earn my master's degree."

About the Author