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Spring 2011 Commencement: address and list of grads; 14 earn honors designation

Sitting atop the Lion: A tradition like no other.
5/16/2011 —



Chancellor Kevin Snider conferred degrees to 103 graduates on May 14 at the 52nd spring commencement exercises at Penn State New Kensington.

David Ciesinski, group vice president and chief marketing officer for Heinz U.S. Consumer Products, a business unit of the H.J. Heinz Company, delivered the commencement address, "The Journey Ahead," and Lorri Wildi, president of the Alle-Kiski Society, inducted the new graduates into the Penn State Alumni Association.

Fourteen undergraduate students were awarded degrees with highest distinction, high distinction, and distinction, based on their cumulative grade point average. Graduates with highest distinction were Timothy P. Baxter, Alecia V. Denillo, Melissa A. Gemballa, Elizabeth A. Koebler, Katie L. Shoemaker and Erika L. Watson. Those with high distinction included Michelle L. Flaherty, Karen R. Kohut, Andrew J. Tsou, Olga Zinkovsky and Terri L. Zulawinski. Degrees with distinction were awarded to Jaclyn M. Burkett, Maxim Pascal and Joshua L. Vogel.

With a blend of personal anecdotes and timeless advice, Ciesinski prepared the new Penn Staters for life after college, what he called their journey ahead. He shared observations from his journey that started upon graduation from the United States Military Academy at West Point, and dispensed four pieces of advice that are indispensable for their journey.

Ciesinski stressed the value of defining your guiding principles, pursuing your dreams, gaining the courage to confront challenges, and preparing for the unexpected. He presented his advice on courage in the context of the challenges that face the country, the commonwealth and the community.

According to Ciesinski, some of the Penn State grads will have the opportunity to work on the diverse challenges that afflict our country as whole, "such as bolstering up our national security or wrangling down our national debt," while others will work on challenges that afflict our commonwealth, "such as fighting crime or providing affordable health care." 

"All of you will be presented with opportunities to work on challenges that afflict our communities, such as feeding the hungry and helping to provide shelter to the homeless," said Ciesinski, a resident of Sewickley, Pennsylvania. "Independent of whether you’re serving our country, our commonwealth, or your community, seek to be a courageous beacon of strength in the pursuit of justice and equality. For this courage will give your life purpose and make our world a better place."

The class of 2011 is the 52nd graduating class at the New Kensington campus. What began in 1960 with 28 men earning associate degrees has evolved into 105 men and women receiving master's, bachelor's and associate degrees. Since that inaugural class, more than 10,000 alumni have attended Penn State New Kensington and earned a Penn State degree.


"The Journey Ahead"
By Dave Ciesinski

Thank You Doctor Snider, and Doctor Hall, Doctor Orris, and GOOD MORNING!  Good Morning to the Parents, Faculty, Families, Friends, and to YOU, the Penn State New Kensington Class of 2011.  

This is YOUR Day! 

This is the day that you’ve dreamed about.  The culmination of countless hours of studying, of laughs, of tears, of sacrifice by loved ones, and if you’re like me, some cramming, a couple of all nighters, and when everything else failed some prayers as well!  YOU FINALLY MADE IT!

Today marks a major milestone in your life and in a sense a new beginning.  From this day forward you will ALWAYS be a Graduate of Penn State New Kensington.  YOU will always represent the finest that our Commonwealth has to offer.  I pray that you never forget the hard work and sacrifice that brought you to this beautiful day.  Moreover, I pray that the same hard work and sacrifice, will hereafter serve as a launch pad for your successes and a rallying point for any potential setbacks that you may encounter along the Journey Ahead.

In order to prepare for this address I spent some time with Dr. Arlene Hall, the Director of Academic Affairs and Dave Murray, the Athletic Director to gain a better contextual understanding of your campus, your curriculum, and the composition of the student body.  Through those conversations, I learned about the interdisciplinary nature of your curriculum, the rigorous research projects, and the diverse and hard working composition of the student body. 

I also heard about a unique fighting spirit captured best in Joe Mandak, a junior who is apparently 125 pounds of twisted steel and who, in this field house three weeks ago, defeated a professional wrestler weighing 300 pounds.  Those conversations and the earnest smiles on your faces today, give me perfect confidence that the faculty and staff have prepared you for what comes next, your Journey Ahead.   

Now I’d like to shift our focus and talk about that Journey Ahead.  In particular, I’d like to share with you some observations and advice from my journey in hope that they will help you find happiness and success on your journey. 

The first piece of advice is to Prepare for the Unexpected because things are not always going to go as planned.  Twenty one years ago, on a day just like today, I sat where you are, in a stadium just like this, next to my friends, waving to my family, and soaking up the pomp and circumstance of the moment.  I was graduating from United States Military Academy at West Point and about to be commissioned as a Second Lieutenant in the United States Army. 

I was situated on the 50 yard line, which in my case was an appropriate metaphor, as I graduated roughly in the middle of my class.  The Cold War had recently ended, the Berlin Wall had come down, and peace was breaking out all over the world.  Government leaders and political pundits were already debating how they wanted to spend the Post Cold War “Peace Dividend.”

However, an obscure mad man by the name of Sadamn Hussein had other plans.  In August 1990, within three short months of that sunny day, he invaded Kuwait and promised the “Mother of All Wars.”  By December 1990, I was attached to Charlie Company, 5th Battalion 16th Infantry Regiment and living in Bedouin tent in the Saudi Arabian desert.  I had written a Will, said goodbye and turned over Power of Attorney to my parents, received a half a dozen shots, and my single biggest challenge was trying to figure out how to dig a hole and make a bath tub out of a poncho. 

In total, I spent 6 months in Saudi Arabia and Iraq.  They’re fleeting memories now that seem like a lifetime away, the fear and anxiety that I felt at the beginning of the air war, the surprising calm that I felt the night before the ground war, the relief that I felt when enemy soldiers quickly surrendered, the pride that I felt when US soldiers treated the enemy POWs with dignity and respect.  Each day seemed to reinforce the need to Prepare for the Unexpected.

Ironically, preparing for the unexpected and specifically being the resourceful and flexible helped me to be a better parent as well.  At times, having six kids can feel like X-Games of parenthood.  As any parent here in attendance can attest, you have to be flexible because you never know when you’re going to hear, “you stuck what in the toilet,” or “your brother stuck what in his ear.”  You have to Prepare for the Unexpected because things are not always going to go as planned.

The second piece advice I’d like to share with you is to Be Courageous.  To seek and find the courage to confront the challenges that face our Country, our Commonwealth, and our Communities.  Some of you will be presented with the opportunity to work on the diverse challenges that afflict our Country as whole, such as bolstering up our National Security or wrangling down our National Debt.  Be Courageous. 

Others will be presented with opportunities to work on challenges that afflict our Commonwealth such as fighting crime or providing affordable health care.  Be Courageous. 

Finally, all of you will be presented with opportunities to work on challenges that afflict our communities, such as feeding the hungry and helping to provide shelter to the homeless.  Be Courageous.

Independent of whether you’re serving our Country, our Commonwealth, or your Community, seek to be a courageous beacon of strength in the pursuit of justice and equality.  For this courage will give your life purpose and make our world a better place.

The third piece of advice I’d like to share with you is to passionately Pursue Your Dreams.  Whether you dream about being a soldier, a nurse, an engineer, or an entrepreneur pursue it with passion.  

While in pursuit of your dreams, each of you will encounter success.  Each promotion, a new patent, or a pay raise, will boost your strength and bolster your self confidence.  You’ll channel the success, double it down, and pursue even bigger dreams.  You’ll experience a strong sense of positive momentum in your life.    You’ll be in a virtuous cycle. 

But as you learned in economics, virtuous cycles end.  Each of you will encounter setbacks as well.  As disappointing as that may sound, if you’re willing to embrace them, each setback will impart deep wisdom and broad perspective that will guide your journey ahead. 

When I left the Army, I was full of confidence and dreamed of being a physician.  Given that I didn’t have the necessary academic prerequisites, I took a job as a sales representative with Scott Paper Company.  I was a toilet paper and paper towel salesman during the day and I planned to go to school in the evening to round out the necessary course work to go apply to medical school.  Within a few months of starting, our division was awarded the contract for the entire University of Pittsburgh Medical Center.  As part of the contract we agreed to replace every toilet paper and towel dispenser in the UPMC system, which, parenthetically felt like all of Oakland.  My boss, the consummate planner, arranged for a half a dozen employees from our Winslow, Maine paper factory to travel to Pittsburgh to perform the installation work.  He asked me to supervise the installation and serve as an onsite liaison in the event there were any issues and I happily agreed.   

Within a few days the crew from Maine brought it to my attention that we were falling behind.  When I asked for their recommendation, they smiled and quickly suggested that I drive to Home Depot, buy a good Makita cordless drill, and start hanging toilet paper dispensers.

The next thing I knew, I was on my hands and knees in public bathrooms hanging toilet paper dispensers.  One by one, we completed the hospitals.  Next up was the Medical School.  We started just as the new class of students was arriving.  Bathroom after bathroom, we installed toilet paper dispensers.  Hour by hour, I watch longingly as the new students, marched around with their new books and materials.  Finally, outside of the Admissions Office the irony of the situation hit me, “Oh my God, I had arrived at Medical School…but only to hang toilet paper dispensers.”   This felt like a setback.

That night I went home and shared the experience with my wife Trish.  I told her that although I loved working with the team from Maine, I didn’t think that I could do this any longer.  She offered sage advice.  Don’t let the crew from Maine down.  Embrace the work, lead the team, complete the job, work through the fall, and if I wanted to quit and go back to school full time, she would support me.

I took her advice and pressed on.  Once the job of installing the paper dispensers was over, something clicked.  I discovered that I liked the world of selling and marketing; moreover, I was pretty good at it.  I actually really enjoyed leading the team from the paper factory.

I also spent a fair amount of time thinking about why I wanted to be a physician.  Upon reflection, I realized that I wasn’t even interested in the nuts and bolts of medicine.  I realized that my true passion in life was leading.  Instead of seeking to be a doctor, I channeled my passion for leading into my job. 

As for my career at Scott Paper, each small success generated a resurgent confidence.  I was back in the virtuous cycle.  After two years I indeed decided to go back to school.  But this time to get an MBA, to prepare me for my chosen path, a leader in business.

Although painful at the time, the disappointment I felt was providential.  Without it I wouldn’t have gained the wisdom to pursue my true dream of being a leader in business. 

Like me, you will experience setbacks and success.  Be prepared for both.  Never give up and never give in.  Your successes will provide you with self-confidence; the failures will provide you with wisdom.  Regardless, my advice to you is to Pursue Your Dreams.

The fourth piece of advice I’d like to share with you is to Define What you Personally and Professionally Stand For and Stick To it.  Identify your guiding stars…things that define who you are.  Choose stars that have true meaning and give you deep intrinsic satisfaction.  Your guiding stars will be the launch points for your successes and your rallying points in times of trouble.  As you pursue your dreams and progress farther into your career they will manifest themselves in the form of a career with continuity and meaning rather than a succession of unrelated jobs.  Finally, always strive to ensure that your moral and ethical compass is pointing to “True North.”   These are things you can’t be flexible on.

During my journey, I have discovered that my guiding stars are Leading, Learning, and Earning, in that order.  As I described earlier my true passion is leading.  Big teams, small teams, it doesn’t matter.  What gives me the deepest satisfaction in life is coming together as a member/ leader of a team, setting a goal, working side by side to accomplish it, succeeding, celebrating, and moving onto to the next goal.  When I’m leading I’m passionate and having fun.  Often it doesn’t even feel like work. 

My second guiding star is learning: learning to address new business situations, new competitors, new categories, and new team dynamics.  When I’m learning, I’m energized and engaged and likely performing well. 

The third and final guiding star is earning.  Like many of you, I need to be able to provide for my family.  With 6 kids, I have a lot of shoes to buy and a lot of college tuition to plan for.  However, by making “earning” the third of star I am making a conscious choice.  If I’m leading, I’m passionate and having fun; if I’m learning, I’m likely performing well; consequently, the positive results will drive the earning, the pay and promotions.

As you begin your journey ahead seek to find your guiding stars, the things that define who you are.  Choose stars that have true meaning and give you deep intrinsic satisfaction.

Finally, a closing thought.  Congratulations to you; and congratulations to your families, and your friends.  Thank you for inviting me to be a part of this important milestone.  As you by now are well aware, Trish and I have six wonderful kids.  The youngest Frances just turned three.  Roughly 20 years from now she will be graduating from college…maybe Penn State New Kensington.  I hope that twenty years from now one of you will be able to give her commencement address and share your observations and advice for her journey ahead.

Thank You and May God Bless Each and Every One of You.     




Advanced DegRees

Capital College
Penn State Harrisburg, a campus of the Capital College, in collaboration with Penn State New Kensington, and with the approval of the University's Graduate Council, offers the Master of Education in Teaching and Curriculum to qualified graduate students, in service as K-12 educators.  At commencement, we are pleased to recognize the graduate students who completed the requirements for the master's degree. Conferral of graduate degrees is by The Graduate School, and the formal presentation of degrees occurs at the Penn State Harrisburg commencement ceremony on Saturday, May 14. The individuals who have completed their degree work at Penn State New Kensington include the following:

Master of Education Teaching and Curriculum
Kristin M. Blakelock; Martin R. Connolly; Margaret A. Frank; Alma Gumbosky;
Jennifer S. Salem; Suzanne P. Sigler; Melissa A. Sleppy; Danielle R. Stemen


College of Engineering
Bachelor of Science Electro-Mechanical Engineering Technology
Timothy P. Baxter *; Bradley D. Harrold; Jeffrey C. Hessom; Maxim Pascal ***; Robert A. Patton;
Gregory A. Savinda; Jonathan M. Skaggs; Adam E. Tokar; Brad P. Transue; Joshua L. Vogel ***

College of Health and Human Development
Bachelor of Science Nursing
Misty G. Baer; Meredith L. Carabin; Dana M. Veatch

College of Information Sciences and Technology
Bachelor of Science Information Sciences and Technology
Andrew R. Garraux; Justin A. George; Joshua A. George; John F. Mackowick;
Matthew D. McPherson;
Eric J. Parker; Jeffrey A. Pennington; Jesse L. Schindley;
Ronald C. St. Laurent; Olga   Zinkovsky **

College of Liberal Arts
Bachelor of Science Organizational Leadership
Michelle L. Clark; Brandon J. Dewosky; Lori A. Hickman; Matthew S. Hindman; Karen R. Kohut ** 

Bachelor of Arts Spanish
Richard A. Urbanski

The Behrend College
Bachelor of Science Biology
Stephanie M. Hughes

Bachelor of Arts Economics
Dustin D. Walker

University College
Bachelor of Arts Applied Psychology
Jaclyn M. Burkett ***; Alecia V. Denillo *; Michelle L. Flaherty **; Cari D. Hochbein;
Morgan M. Mundro; Kelly Marie Sieja; Michael T. Sotace; Sonya M. Urmann

Bachelor of Arts Psychology
Edward R. Pokusa; Ryan R. Schempp

Bachelor of Science Psychology
Calyn M. Rosfeld

Bachelor of Science Business
Amy L. Bakaj; Brent N. Bongartz; Patrick W. Bracco; Stephen J. Breznican III;
Melissa A. Gemballa *
; Shane H. Hall #; Reyshahn E. Holliday; Nickolas J. Kohley;
Deanna M. Mazur; Joseph D. Nicoletti #;
Brandon T. Rogozinski; Katie L. Shoemaker *;
Joshua R. Smallwood; Chrissy M. Spehar; Valerie M.  Ziegler

Bachelor of Arts Communications
Elisa M. Anderson; Alyssa R. Blystone; Christopher A. Gizzi; Megan L. Karl;
Brittany L. Sackett; Brandi N. Staton; Felicia L. Stone; Andrew J. Tsou **; Erika L. Watson *


College of Engineering
Biomedical Engineering Technology
James A. Burlingame #; Jesse D. Cooley #; Frank A. Hogan; Evan L. Jackson #;
Zachary A. Kalina #; Gabriel D. Rindosh #; Michael W. Soukup #

Mechanical Engineering Technology
Ethan J. Fortuna; Brett A. Kymer

University College
Business Administration
Elizabeth A. Koebler *; Terri L. Zulawinski **

Letters, Arts, and Sciences
Hope A. Shoneck

Radiological Science
Melissa L. Burcin #; Christopher A. Davis #; Alexis C. Chubeck #; Kristen N. Faieta #;
Erika L. Fritz #; Chelsea E. Grigg #; Amberlyn F. King #; Melissa A. Kobert #;
Samantha N. Kurtz #; Colin I. Lischy #; Katie N. Malobicky

* Highest Distinction                          ** High Distinction                            *** Distinction
# Intends to fulfill degree requirements during summer 2011


"Each fresh generation of students brings in a new fresh life.

The young men and young women who are going out today not only carry

 with them a new flood of life… but they will carry with them recollections of the

 men and women who have led them forward with the hope and promise to this occasion.

It is a scene that is always full of inspiration…that no time can wither nor custom stale."

Commencement Address, 1897, George W. Atherton,
President, The Pennsylvania State University, 1882-1906

The campus was born in 1958 as the New Kensington Center, which opened in the First Ward School Building in the heart of the city of New Kensington with 79 students enrolled in the electrical and mechanical engineering associate degree programs. In 1963, the center moved to the former Parnassus Junior High School and began offering the first two years of baccalaureate programs in education, liberal arts, business administration, and human development. In the same year, Alcoa offered to give the University a 35-acre tract of land in Upper Burrell Township, four miles east of the city. Three years later, the current campus was born and classes convened in the Engineering Building. Today, nearly 900 students matriculate on campus and are studying in 15 associate, bachelor's, and master’s degree programs.

As the campus and student body evolved, the mission of Penn State New Kensington also has evolved. The campus was founded as a response to a local need for higher education opportunities in the Alle-Kiski Valley, and it remains committed to fulfilling that responsibility. But the campus also plays an important role in the development of the region, and actively promotes partnerships with local and national businesses. With the establishment of programs such as STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) and WEDIG (Westmoreland Economic and Development Initiative for Growth), the campus seeks to bridge the gap between education and industry.

Penn State New Kensington continues to evolve as it enters its sixth decade of service to the citizens of the Alle-Kiski Valley. It is relentless in expanding course offerings to meet industry’s changing needs. This greatly enhances Penn State’s historic mission of teaching, research and service.

David Ciesinski is group vice president and chief marketing officer for Heinz U.S. Consumer Products, a business unit of the H.J. Heinz Company.

Ciesinski heads the Ketchup, Condiments and Sauces division that includes the brands Heinz Ketchup, Heinz Heritage Sauces, Heinz 57 Sauce, Lea and Perrins, and Jack Daniel’s barbeque sauce. Heinz is one of the world's leading processors and marketers of high-quality ketchup, condiments, sauces, meals, soups, snacks and infant foods through all retail and foodservice channels.

Prior to assuming the current position in 2010, Ciesinski led the U.S. Ketchup business where his key accomplishments included the launch of the "Grown Not Made" and “Heinz Top This TV” marketing campaigns.

Ciesinski holds an MBA from Carnegie Mellon University and is a graduate of United States Military Academy at West Point. As a 2nd Lieutenant in the U.S. Army, he served during Operation Desert Shield/Storm and was awarded the Bronze Star Medal and the Kuwaiti Liberation Medal.

Mr. Ciesinski, his wife, Trish, and their six children reside in Sewickley, Pennsylnavia.

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