More than 600 people received bachelor’s and master’s degrees and a retiring president, the Frederick mayor and a renowned scientist were honored at Hood College’s Commencement ceremonies Saturday.
President Ronald J. Volpe, who will complete his 14th year at the helm of Hood July 1, and Mayor Randy McClement received honorary doctorates at the undergraduate Commencement ceremony where 352 bachelor’s degrees were awarded. Thomas Geisbert, a 1988 Hood graduate whose recent research into the Ebola virus has earned him international notoriety, received an honorary doctorate at the graduate ceremony where 239 master’s degrees were awarded.
The 118th undergraduate Commencement ceremony was held in the residential quadrangle in front of the College’s largest-ever undergraduate Commencement audience.
Paula Miller Dennis, a nursing major from Hagerstown, Md., and Alisha Marie Dunkle, an early childhood education major from Watertown, N.Y., were awarded the Hood College Academic Achievement Prize for the highest academic records in the Class of 2015.
Members of the undergraduate Class of 2015 hailed from 16 states, the District of Columbia and six countries. One hundred twenty-nine completed internships at research facilities, government agencies, media outlets, nonprofit associations, businesses and private organizations including the United Way of Frederick County, the Maryland state police, the Baltimore Aquarium, the Weinberg Center of the Arts, the Brunswick Citizen and the Maryland University of Integrative Health.
Many will continue their education at universities including the Johns Hopkins University, the Maryland University of Integrative Health and the Denver Publishing Institute. Others are beginning careers with the Frederick News-Post, the Way Station, the McCain Institute for International Leadership, the National Institute of Standards and Technology, Morgan-Keller Construction and BKP Productions.
Twenty-five members of the 2015 graduating class participated in study abroad experiences, which took them to Argentina, Australia, Costa Rica, England, Ireland, Italy, Haiti, France, Germany, Greece, Mexico, Palestine, Israel, Russia, South Korea and Spain.
In addition, Philip Roedig, Nancy Madkour, Khyle Ball, Kristen Geatz and Oritsegbubemi Edawa Isaac Ndze-Williams completed community scholar work this year. At least 13 graduates are veterans.
President Volpe told students he considers himself a part of the Class of 2015 and that they are graduating together. He encouraged each graduate to dream and continue to achieve and bear in mind “great expectations and awesome responsibility.”
Senior Class President Jada Burton asked that the 2015 class “please continue to take care of each other” and recognized that Hood students made lifelong friends and learned important life lessons in addition to their academics.
Mayor McClement delivered the Commencement address and called on graduates to “determine what interests you and turn those interests into opportunities to give back to your community.”
President Volpe awarded presidential excellence awards to Purnima Bhatt, Gary Gillard and Al Weinberg, who all retired after a combined 91 years of service.
Bhatt, professor of history, anthropology and interdisciplinary studies, taught her first course at Hood in 1977. She has participated in seminars and workshops on behalf of the College, attended international conferences, lead lecture and film series and served on multiple committees. She helped establish a minor in global studies, developed new courses for the honors program and facilitated studies with students through Hood’s Summer Research Institute.
Bhatt earned her bachelor’s degree in history and master’s degree in ancient Indian history with minors in East Asian studies, British Constitutional history and modern political thought from Delhi University in India. She conducted graduate work in East Asian studies at Harvard University and earned her doctorate in African history from Howard University.
Gillard, assistant professor of information technology, began his career at Hood in 1991. He has taught students about the ethical and social issues associated with computing technology in his Impact of Computers on Society course for 23 years, and he has served on the computer and information technology advisory council. Fluent in American Sign Language, he has also volunteered his time to interpret for students in their extracurricular activities.
Prior to teaching at Hood College, Gillard taught English and computer applications for 25 years at the Maryland School for the Deaf. He also served as an adjunct instructor at Frederick Community College. Gillard earned a bachelor’s degree in English from Westminster College, a bachelor’s degree in special education from State College of Victoria in Australia, a master’s degree in divinity from the Virginia Theological Seminary and a master’s degree in computer science from Hood College.
Weinberg, professor of journalism, director of the communication arts program and coordinator of the journalism minor, got his start at Hood in 1971 as the first full-time male student in the history of the College. He is the first male graduate of Hood College, and he is retiring after 30 years of teaching.
Two years into his undergraduate work at Hood, Weinberg began working as a full-time overnight police reporter at the Frederick News-Post. After 14 years in newspapers, working as a reporter, copy editor, news editor and managing editor, he came back to teach at Hood. He has served as adviser of The Blue and Grey student newspaper and Blazer radio, which he worked to establish at the College. During his tenure, Weinberg has taught courses in news writing and advanced reporting and a senior seminar in communications. After graduating with a bachelor’s degree in English from Hood in 1975, he earned a master’s degree in journalism at the University of Missouri-Columbia.
Philip Berkheimer, chair of the board of trustees, surprised President Volpe with an honorary Doctor of Humane Letters in recognition of his 14 outstanding years of service.
The graduate Commencement exercises took place in the Ronald J. Volpe Athletic Center.
The graduate school awarded 48 master of business administration degrees, 163 master of science degrees, 27 master of arts degrees and one master of fine arts degree. At least eight graduates are veterans.
Tony Miller, a social studies teacher at Linganore High, was presented with the annual Charles E. Tressler Distinguished Teacher Award. Given jointly by Hood and Frederick County Public Schools, the award acknowledged his passion for teaching in the classroom as well as on the field as a lacrosse, softball and field hockey coach. Miller has taught at Linganore High since 1979. He earned a bachelor’s degree in secondary social studies from Shepherd College in 1979 and completed his master’s degree in secondary education curriculum and instruction at Hood in 1987. He has also earned 30 credits beyond his master’s degree at Hood.
Thomas W. Geisbert, professor in the department of microbiology and immunology at the University of Texas Medical Branch at Galveston and the Galveston National Laboratory, gave the graduate Commencement address. Geisbert has more than 26 years of experience working in Biosafety Level 4 containment. His research focuses on emerging viruses with a particular emphasis on viruses causing hemorrhagic fever, including Ebola virus, Marburg virus and Lassa virus.
He grew up in western Maryland, worked at the U.S. Army Medical Research Institute of Infectious Diseases and earned a master’s degree from Hood in 1988. He earned his doctorate in molecular pathobiology from the Uniformed Services University of the Health Sciences in Bethesda, Md. Geisbert was one of the Ebola fighters named collectively as Time magazine’s “Person of the Year” for 2014.
President Volpe awarded his final Hood College degree, making for a grand total of 6,705 academic degrees in his 14 years at Hood College. Berkheimer presented President Volpe the status of president emeritus.