EMU at Lancaster honored its graduates at Commencement on Friday, May 10, 2024.

EMU Lancaster celebrates Class of 2024 graduates

Perseverance. It’s a word frequently used to describe the graduates of EMU at Lancaster. Many of them earn their degrees while raising families, working full-time jobs and caring for aging parents and loved ones. And, last week, they reached a milestone on their nontraditional learning journeys.

EMU at Lancaster celebrated the accomplishments of its graduates at a Commencement ceremony on Friday, May 10, 2024, at Forest Hills Mennonite Church in Leola, Pennsylvania. Walking in the ceremony were 21 undergraduates and 7 graduate students.

Commencement address

EMU Provost Dr. Tynisha Willingham delivered the Commencement address.

During one particularly challenging semester in her sophomore year at Pennsylvania State University, Willingham felt like giving up. The first-generation college grad struggled to balance two jobs, her responsibilities as a Resident Assistant and an 18-credit course load. She called home to tell her family how difficult things were and that she felt like returning home.

Her grandfather picked up the phone and told her, “I want you to remember, we’re so proud of you. Keep working hard,” Willingham recounted in her address. And, in that moment, she said, she could not find the words to tell him how overwhelmed she was or how she wanted to give up.

“For some of you, you’ve had those moments where you wanted to call it quits, where you wanted to send that text or make that call because it was hard, but you persevered nonetheless,” Willingham told the graduates. “I want you to know that, whether it was two years or four years, those long nights and early mornings were well worth it.”

Graduate speakers

Three graduates shared experiences from their journeys at EMU at Lancaster.

Erica Gordon, a graduate of the Leadership and Organizational Management (LOM) program, described a group activity during the final night of her Team Dynamics course. Tasked with finding an object and telling the rest of the group why it was important to her, Gordon shared a photo from her daughter’s wedding. She held back tears as she recounted telling the group that “completing this degree wasn’t just for me, but it was to show my daughters they could do it, too.”

“For far too long, I believed I wasn’t smart enough to be where I am tonight,” she told her fellow graduates. “After class that night, I received many encouraging texts that helped carry me through that program. It meant the world to me that they believed in me.”

Julie Landis, an MA in education graduate, said that when first starting out on their journeys, the path ahead seemed exciting and daunting. Together, they faced challenges and triumphs, moments of doubt and confidence-boosting successes. She left her fellow education graduates with words of encouragement.

“Remember why you chose this path,” she said. “Whether it was a deep-seated passion for shaping young minds, a desire to make a positive impact on society, or a commitment to lifelong learning, hold on to that purpose. Let it be your guide on the challenging days and a source of inspiration on the victorious ones.”

Samr Morcos, a graduate of the aviation program, reflected on the bonds formed with his classmates and expressed gratitude for the flight instructors who guided them and inspired them to reach new heights. He encouraged the graduates to carry forward the lessons of adaptability, resilience and effective communication they’ve learned at EMU. He said the aviation program has not only equipped them with knowledge, but also with the practical skills needed to lead and thrive in a dynamic environment.

“As we spread our wings on our individual journeys, let us remember that the sky is not the limit, it’s just the beginning,” he said.

Tribute to Capt. Clemmensen

The ceremony featured a tribute to Capt. Karl Clemmensen, an EMU aviation instructor who passed away suddenly on April 11, 2024. Clemmensen began serving as an aviation instructor at EMU at Lancaster in 2021. You can read his obituary here. Aviation student Will Stover read the tribute.

Clemmensen was a driving force behind the excellence of the aviation program, nurturing its growth and maturity, Stover said. As a dedicated faculty member, he imparted his expertise in meteorology, aviation safety and air transport advanced subjects while also serving as an aviation industry liaison.

“Capt. Karl leaves behind a legacy of passion, dedication, and a lasting impact on our aviation community,” Stover said. “Though he may be gone, his spirit will forever soar among us.”

Other highlights

EMU President Dr. Susan Schultz Huxman presented welcoming remarks and the conferring of degrees. Shannon Dycus, vice president of student affairs and dean of students at EMU, presented the graduates and provided the Commencement blessing. Dr. Christine Sharp, Dr. Daniel Lebo, David Martin and John Sibole assisted with the presentation of graduates. EMU Board of Trustees members Janet Lind and James Rosenberger were in attendance.

EMU at Lancaster offers undergraduate and graduate academic programs tailored to the needs of its nonresidential and post-traditional learners. The school collaborates closely with local civic and business organizations to ensure that its curriculum aligns with the evolving educational and workforce landscape.

It will relocate to a state-of-the-art facility at the Listrak building in Lititz, Pennsylvania, in July. Read more about that move here.

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