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Mount St. Mary’s to Host Four Commencement Ceremonies

Donna Klinger

commencement feature

Mount St. Mary’s University’s 213th commencement exercises will be held outdoors with a limited number of guests in attendance.

fans-2.jpgTo comply with state mass gathering guidelines and ensure the health and safety of the Mount community, the Mount will host four ceremonies on May 15 and 16 at Waldron Family Stadium. Each graduate has chosen the ceremony that they wish to attend and received four tickets for family and friends.

The university looked at state and local COVID-19 conditions, vaccination progress, and health restrictions and guidelines, including Maryland and Frederick County’s limitations on outdoor gatherings, before deciding on how to honor and celebrate this year’s graduates.

jovita-carranza.jpgEach ceremony will have its own commencement and student speakers. The commencement speaker at the 10 a.m. ceremony on May 15 is Jovita Carranza, former administrator of the U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) from 2020-21 and treasurer of the United States from 2017-20. If conditions had allowed the traditional ceremony in Knott Arena, Carranza would have been the commencement speaker. She will receive an honorary doctorate of humane letters during the ceremony.

As a member of President Trump’s Cabinet, Carranza advocated on behalf of the 30 million small businesses in America. In her role as administrator, she led a team of professionals dedicated to ensuring entrepreneurs located across America have the support and resources they need to start, grow, and expand their small businesses, and recover in the event of a declared disaster. At the Treasury Department, in her role as a principal advisor to Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin, she focused on increasing participation in the economy by fostering financial capability and sustainability.

Prior to her government service, which also included a stint as deputy SBA administrator under President George W. Bush, Carranza had a distinguished 30-year career at United Parcel Service, where she was the highest-ranking Latina in the history of the company. She started as a part-time, night-shift box handler and worked her way up to president of Latin America and Caribbean operations.

The student speaker at this ceremony is Julia Baer, recipient of the 2021 Edward J. Flanagan Memorial Prize, awarded to the member of the senior class who best represents the tradition of the university in scholarship, conduct, and leadership. Baer, a resident of Emmitsburg, Maryland, is a double major in biology and chemistry.

richard-p.jpgAt the 4 p.m. ceremony on May 15, Richard P. Miller, C’74, retired president and CEO of Virtua and vice chair of the Mount’s board of trustees, is the commencement speaker. Miller led Virtua, southern New Jersey’s largest health care provider, in innovative directions by creating a values-based culture defined by the “Star Initiative,” adopting Six Sigma, a disciplined, data-driven approach and methodology for improving patient outcomes. Under his leadership the health care system transformed from a group of community-based hospitals into a technologically advanced set of regional medical centers. Miller previously gave the commencement address in 2017 and received an honorary doctorate of humane letters at that time.

Alejandra Piti-Mesa, a health sciences and nursing major, is the student speaker at the afternoon ceremony on May 15. Piti-Mesa, whose hometown is Adelphi, Maryland, is the recipient of the John N. Kolon Memorial Award, awarded to a member of the senior class who in his or her daily life has demonstrated outstanding courage and who has been an inspiration to his or her fellow classmates and the entire Mount community.

gracelyn-mcdermott_in-text.jpgGracelyn McDermott, C’93, chair of the university’s board of trustees, will present the commencement address at the 10 a.m. ceremony on May 16. The second woman and first African American to lead the 31-member board, McDermott is vice president for marketing, sales and business development at Kaiser Permanente of the Mid-Atlantic States. Her overall professional career includes sales, operations and information technology leadership in the health care field. Prior to joining Kaiser, McDermott served as vice president of accrediting and client services at URAC, an independent health care accrediting organization, and director, specimen administration for Ameritox, LLC., formerly a leader in pain medication monitoring.

The student speaker at the May 16 morning ceremony is Nathaniel Bald, recipient of the Rev. John B. Holley Memorial Prize, presented to a member of the senior class who has earned distinction in service to the church and community, Bald, whose hometown is Exeter, New Hampshire, is a triple major in French, German and economics.

nadja-west.jpgThe commencement speaker at the final ceremony, at 4 p.m. on May 16, is Lieutenant General (Retired) Nadja Y. West, the 44th surgeon general of the United States Army and commanding general of the U.S. Army Medical Command. She became the first Black surgeon general of the U.S. Army on December 11, 2015, and served in the position until her retirement in 2019. West oversaw the highest medical readiness of our forces and highest survival of battlefield wound rates in history.

As the principal medical advisor to the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, West provided recommendation for action well before the Ebola virus became a national issue, leading to the plan for U.S. military response to the Ebola crisis in Liberia in 2014. She held numerous other leadership positions in the Army, including service as commanding general of United States Army Europe and CEO of Womack Army Medical Center. In 2019-2020, she served as Hauser Leader for the Harvard Kennedy School Center for Public Leadership. She currently serves on the boards of Johnson & Johnson, Nucor Corporation, Tenet Healthcare Corporation, National Recreation Foundation and Americares.

Kristen Wachter Foreman, who is receiving a Master of Education with a 4.0 grade point average, is the student speaker at the Sunday afternoon ceremony. Foreman, a K-2 teacher at Ballenger Creek Elementary School and a resident of Tuscarora, is the school’s 2021 Teacher of the Year.

Donna Klinger