GREENVILLE, Pa.—Founder and Executive Chairman of the Manchester Bidwell Corporation William Strickland Jr. addressed graduates and their friends and family, along with Thiel College faculty and staff attending the 145th Commencement Exercises in the William A. Passavant Center on Sunday, May 5.
During the ceremony, Strickland was awarded an honorary degree by the College for his commitment to academic achievement, expansion of arts, business and science appreciation and support of the western Pennsylvania region. University of Pittsburgh Chancellor Emeritus Mark Nordenberg, J.D. ’70, H’97 introduced Strickland. Nordenberg is a trustee emeritus at Thiel College and is on Manchester Bidwell Corporation’s Board of Directors.
“I am really here on a recruitment campaign,” Strickland said. “(I have come) to appeal to the education and social science graduates to join Mark and us in rebuilding Pennsylvania and create many more opportunities to help those most in distress… I believe the education you have received means you are now well equipped to assist in this endeavor.”
Four students were awarded valedictorian status, and one was awarded salutatorian status. Fifty-six members of the Class of 2019 were awarded graduation or departmental honors during the ceremony.
“This graduation ceremony is one summit of many that we will experience in our lives. This is the highest point in college education and academic perseverance to date. We have conquered a mountain of work that seemed daunting just four years ago,’” senior speaker Elizabeth Grasso ’19 said. “The person you were before you came to college gave you a great foundation for developing who you are now. Tomcats, I ask you, what will you make of your nine lives.”
The Manchester Bidwell Corporation is a non-profit organization based in Pittsburgh that works with disadvantaged and at-risk youth through involvement with the arts, and also provides job training for adults. In 1968, Strickland established Manchester Craftsmen’s Guild to fight the socio-economic challenges facing his predominantly African-American neighbors. Today, MCG Youth & Arts provides free arts programming to more than 300 high- and middle-school students. Similar centers have been formed around the country and in Israel, including Hope Center for Arts and Technology in Sharon, Pa. Strickland has been granted a MacArthur Foundation Genius Grant and his strategy for creating economic and academic opportunity has been used as a Harvard Business School case study four times.
Prior to Commencement, a baccalaureate service was held at 10 a.m. in the David Johnson Memorial Chapel on campus. Bishop of the ELCA Southwestern Pennsylvania Synod Rev. Kurt Kusserow ’85 presided over the service, Bishop of the ELCA Northwestern Pennsylvania Synod Rev. Dr. Ralph Jones H’05 preached, and Thiel College Interim Campus Pastor Rev. Brian Riddle ’07 served as cantor. After the service, the Class of 2019 dedicated a tree along Brother Martin’s Walk, a tradition on each Commencement day.
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