Pennsylvania Governor Josh Shapiro and Indiana Native Ellen Ruddock to Present Commencement Addresses, Receive Honorary Doctor of Public Service Degrees

Students celebrating at commencementIndiana University of Pennsylvania will honor 1,566 graduates during commencement ceremonies on May 10 and 11 at the Kovalchick Convention and Athletic Complex and will honor Pennsylvania Governor Josh Shapiro and Indiana resident Ellen Sylves Ruddock, a 1966 graduate of IUP, with honorary doctor of public services degrees.

IUP will offer three ceremonies: students receiving graduate degrees will be honored during a ceremony at 7:00 p.m. on May 10; undergraduate degree recipients from the John J. and Char Kopchick College of Natural Sciences and Mathematics and the College of Health and Human Services will receive degrees on May 11 at 9:00 a.m.; and undergraduate degree recipients from the College of Education and Communications, the College of Arts and Humanities, the Eberly College of Business, and the University College will receive degrees during the May 11 2:00 p.m. ceremony.

Ruddock will deliver the commencement address for the May 10 ceremony and the 9:00 a.m. ceremony on May 11, and will receive her honorary degree at all three ceremonies. Governor Shapiro will offer his commencement remarks at the May 11 2:00 p.m. ceremony and will receive his honorary degree at that time.

Tickets are required for admission to the ceremonies and are distributed to graduates and their families; no tickets are available for purchase. All three ceremonies will be live streamed on the IUP YouTube channel.

A total of 379 students will receive master’s degrees and 77 students will receive doctoral degrees at the May 10 ceremony. Students completing requirements for graduation in May and August are eligible to participate in the May ceremonies.

A total of 1,100 bachelor’s degree recipients and 10 associate degree recipients will be honored during the May 11 ceremonies. A total of 48 undergraduates are completing undergraduate studies with a perfect 4.0 grade point average, and 692 qualify for honors (3.25 or above cumulative grade point average). 

The total number of graduates by college are: 175 from the College of Arts and Humanities; 197 from the Eberly College of Business; 134 from the College of Education and Communications; 361 from the College of Health and Human Services; 222 from the John J. and Char Kopchick College of Natural Sciences and Mathematics; 21 from the University College, and 456 from the School of Graduate Studies and Research.

IUP President Michael Driscoll will preside over all of the ceremonies. All students participating in the commencement ceremonies will be recognized by name and congratulated on stage.

In addition to remarks from Governor Shapiro and Ruddock, IUP’s 2023–24 Distinguished University Professor Ben Ford, professor of anthropology, will present remarks at the graduate and at both undergraduate ceremonies.

Oksana Moroz, who is receiving her PhD in English, Composition and Applied Linguistics, will be the student speaker for the graduate ceremony.

Moroz is a native of Ukraine and a daughter of Nataliia and Oleh Moroz. She came to IUP in 2015 on a Fulbright scholarship to obtain a master’s degree in teaching english to speakers of other languages (TESOL) before pursuing her doctorate in composition and applied linguistics.

At IUP, she has held several positions, including associate director of the Kathleen Jones White Writing Center, teaching associate in the Department of English, Writing Center first-year writing coordinator, and a tutor, graduate assistant, and assessment specialist for the Big Ideas program.

Moroz's research interests span a wide range of topics, including multilingual students’ digital identities, narrative methods of inquiry, gender identities of teacher-educators, language ideologies, and writing assessment. She has also been a strong advocate for graduate students and student mothers, as an immediate past chair of the American Association of Applied Linguistics Graduate Student Council and a member of the International Association of Maternal Action and Scholarship.

She received the IUP Women’s Leadership Award in 2020, Award for Exemplary Teaching of Literacy and Language in 2021, and Promising Future Interdisciplinary Research in Literacy Award in 2022. She was selected for the Institute of International Education Emergency Student Fund Award in 2022; this national competitive grant requires nomination from the host institution and is designed to provide financial support to international students facing hardships due to situations in their home countries.

Additionally, she brings her cultural heritage to the forefront of her work, proudly representing Ukraine in rural western Pennsylvania. She has given a number of media interviews about the war in Ukraine, including with Pittsburgh’s KDKA radio, and has held informational sessions at Conemaugh Township, United, Marion Center, and Homer-Center high schools. She has also initiated programs to collect donations of monetary funds, clothes, diapers, and military protective gear from IUP and from the community, including the YMCA of Indiana County, Revelry Church, and United Methodist Church.

Moroz has accepted a tenure-track assistant professor of English and director of writing position at Messiah University, where she will oversee writing across curriculum initiatives.

She and her husband, Taras, are the parents of two children, Emma and Mark.

Abigail Arhart, a master of arts music/music performance major from Berwick, will be the vocalist for the graduate ceremony. Originally from Pierre, South Dakota, she is a 2018 graduate of Stanley County High School.

At IUP, she received a graduate assistantship in vocal studies, and she participates in the Indiana Community Music School, is president of the Student National Association of Singing, is a graduate student representative of the music theater organization, and is an IUP Operas assistant to the director. She will sing the National Anthem and lead the Alma Mater.

A total of 180 undergraduates, wearing crimson and gray philanthropy cords, upheld a tradition dating back to 1888 by contributing to the senior class gift. Each made a gift of $20.24 or more in honor of their graduation year.

Ben Lawton is the Senior Class Gift presenter for the 9:00 a.m. undergraduate ceremony, and Milady Lagunas, from Nottingham, is the Senior Class Gift presenter for the 2:00 p.m. undergraduate ceremony.

Lawton, from Port Allegany, McKean Township, will receive his bachelor’s degree in mathematics-actuary science.

Son of Matthew Lawton and Daneille Lawton, he is a graduate of Port Allegany Junior-Senior High School and is the recipient of the IUP S-COAM Scholarship (Scholarships Creating Opportunities for Applying Mathematics). He is a student worker in the Office of Alumni and Constituent Engagement.

Lagunas will receive her bachelor’s degree in political science with a minor in sustainability.

A member of IUP’s Cook Honors College, Lagunas is a 2020 graduate of Kennett High School. She was born in Mexico and raised in Kennett Square. A dean’s list student and provost scholar, she received the Inclusion and Advocacy Award in 2022, the Outstanding Leadership Award in 2023, and the 2024 Award for Excellence in Volunteer Leadership-Aspiring Alumni category from the IUP Alumni Association.

She has been active with the Latino Student Organization and was a co-organizer for the IUP Unity Ball in 2022. She is a member of the IUP Ambassadors student-alumni group and is a past president of the organization; is a Crimson Guide (admissions tour guide); was selected for the Promising Scholars program; and is a member of the Latino Exploration Committee, serving as a Latino Exploration Day coordinator, which included hosting more than 50 prospective Latino students from the Pittsburgh and Philadelphia areas. She is the founder of the Para La Cultura Series (For the Culture).

She is a member of the Cook Honors College executive board, and in 2022, she was an invited participant for the National Collegiate Honors Council Conference held in Dallas, Texas, where in addition to traditional conference activities, she participated in a conference service project, painting a mural around the theme of immigration and belonging at Kirkpatrick Middle School in Fort Worth; she was interviewed by a Fort Worth television station about the project.

Makenna Konchan, a music education major from Windber, will be the vocalist for the 9:00 a.m. undergraduate ceremony.

A 2023 graduate of Forest Hills Junior-Senior High School, she is a dean’s list student and recipient of the Sutton Scholarship and the Vyrle Hayley Troxell Memorial Scholarship. She is a member of the IUP Marching Band, the University Chorale, and the Chamber Singers, and is the vice president of the Student National Association of Teachers of Singing. She will sing the National Anthem and lead the Alma Mater.

Lilian Westhafer, who will receive her bachelor’s degree in marketing, is the student speaker for the 2:00 p.m. ceremony.

From Lebanon, PA, she is a 2020 graduate of Cedar Crest High School. A dean’s list student and provost scholar, she was the 2023 Crimson Court Homecoming representative for the Eberly College of Business. She was a leader in the Eberly College of Business, including as president of the Women in Business club, which was nominated for Outstanding Student Organization for the 2024 Leadership Awards; served as both internal and external vice president of Phi Gamma Nu business honor fraternity; served as vice president of publicity for the Eberly College of Business Student Advisory Council; and was an active member of the American Marketing Association. She was a student worker for IUP’s Lively Arts Department. She will be continuing her studies at IUP in the MBA program.

Jennifer Struth, from McDonald, who will receive a dual degree in music education and music performance, is the vocalist for the 2:00 p.m. undergraduate ceremony.

A 2023 graduate of Forest Hills Junior-Senior High School, Struth is a 2020 graduate of South Fayette High School. She is a dean’s list student and provost scholar and is the recipient of the Sutton Scholarship, the Kenneth Sell Memorial Scholarship for Music, the Wagner Scholarship for Trombone and voice, and the Joan Frey Boytim Scholarship for Vocal Performance. She is a member of Sigma Alpha Iota honor society, Phi Eta Sigma honor society, the Pennsylvania Collegiate Music Educators Association, the Campus Interfraternity Music Council, the Crimson Chords, University Chorale, and Chamber Singers. She participated in the Cavalcade of Choirs, the summer music camp, the “Music Major for a Day” event, the Music Theater Workshop, and was in the IUP Theater-by-the-Grove and Music Theater’s production of Rodgers and Hammerstein’s Carousel.

President of the IUP Alumni Association Board of Directors Leslie Miller Purser, a 1988 graduate of IUP and a 2018 Distinguished Alumni Award recipient, will bring greetings from the IUP Alumni Association Board of Directors at all three ceremonies.

Major General Purser, a studio art graduate of IUP, earned her Army commission as a second lieutenant at her 1988 graduation from IUP and was recognized as a Distinguished Military Graduate. Major General Purser is retired from the US Army after 37 years of service. Her last assignment was as principal deputy assistant secretary of the Army for Manpower and Reserve Affairs. In that post, she oversaw Army manpower, training readiness, mobilization, recruitment, marketing, and diversity issues. Among her decorations are two Distinguished Service Medals, four Legions of Merit, the Bronze Star, and the Iraqi Campaign Medal. Born in Bellefonte and raised in Towanda, she has held command and staff positions in the US, Europe, and Iraq. She now lives in Dandridge, Tennessee, with her husband, Joseph, also a retired Army officer. They have two children, Jennifer and Justin, both of whom are Army captains.

Governor Josh Shapiro

About Governor Shapiro

Governor Josh Shapiro grew up in Pennsylvania, watching his parents serve their community—his father was a pediatrician, and his mother was an educator. Their example inspired him to enter into public service, and from a young age, he recognized that standing up for others was how he wanted to spend his career.

After marrying his high-school sweetheart Lori and welcoming their first child, he returned to his hometown and successfully ran for state representative. As Representative, he helped write and pass some of the toughest ethics laws in state history. His work earned him a reputation as a rare public servant willing to take on the status quo—“a blast of oxygen in the smoke-choked back rooms of quid-pro-quo Harrisburg.” 

Then, as chairman of the Board of Commissioners in Montgomery County, Pennsylvania’s third-largest county, he led a fiscal and ethical turnaround. Before he took office, Montgomery County had a $10 million budget deficit and an underfunded pension for county employees. He put the county back on solid financial footing, took early steps to combat the heroin epidemic, helped the first LGBTQ+ couples in Pennsylvania marry, and fired Wall Street money managers to save taxpayers and retirees millions. 

In 2016, he successfully ran to be Pennsylvania’s Attorney General. As Attorney General, he has restored integrity to an office badly in need of reform and taken on big fights for the people. He has proven to Pennsylvanians he can bring people together to solve tough problems and is unafraid to enforce the law without fear or favor. 

He exposed the Catholic Church’s decades-long cover up of child sexual abuse, identifying 301 predator priests and thousands of victims—and spurring investigations across the United States. He forced an agreement between two of the commonwealth’s largest insurance companies, protecting health care access for nearly 2 million Pennsylvanians, and he has repeatedly gone to court to defend Pennsylvanians’ reproductive rights and a woman’s right to choose.

He has held more than 100 corrupt officials, Republicans and Democrats alike, accountable for breaking the law. Working with law enforcement partners at the local, state, and federal level, he’s arrested thousands of mid- and high-level drug dealers while getting thousands of illegal guns off our streets.

During the 2020 presidential election, he protected the right to vote and defended Pennsylvania’s election result, winning in court dozens of times before and after Election Day. He continues to call out the dangerous lies that undermine our democracy and provide steady, strong, and competent leadership to protect voting rights in Pennsylvania. 

In January 2021, he was sworn in for his second term as attorney general. He arrested more than 8,000 drug dealers while investigating and suing pharmaceutical companies and the CEOs who knowingly perpetuated the opioid crisis to line their own pockets. He stood up for everyday consumers, seniors who’ve been scammed, and students preyed upon by private lenders by obtaining over $328 million in relief to Pennsylvanians who have been ripped off. He led on criminal justice reform, bringing activists and law enforcement together to launch a new statewide police misconduct database, taking on employers who steal from Pennsylvania workers. 

In November 2022, he made history as the highest vote-getter in Pennsylvania gubernatorial history. Alongside his running mate Austin Davis, Governor Shapiro is working with every Pennsylvanian to move the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania forward. 

Governor and Mrs. Shapiro are the proud parents of Sophia, Jonah, Max, and Reuben.

Ellen Sylves Ruddock

About Ellen Sylves Ruddock

Long-time Indiana resident Ellen Sylves Ruddock is a respected community advocate and entrepreneur who continues to blaze trails for leadership opportunities, especially for women.

IUP’s Council of Trustees approved Ruddock’s selection for an honorary degree at its meeting in March.

Ruddock, a native of Swissvale, graduated from IUP in 1966 with a bachelor of science in business education degree.

Ruddock has given more than five decades of service to IUP, including serving on the IUP Alumni Board of Directors for two terms, as a consultant for the Gateways to Opportunity $34-million capital campaign at IUP, as a volunteer with the Division of University Advancement, and as the director of the IUP Center for Family Business from 2008 to 2017. She also served as an advisor to the IUP Sigma Sigma Sigma sorority, facilitating many student leadership events.

IUP honored Ruddock and her husband, IUP alumni Major General Rodney Ruddock, with the Distinguished Alumni Award in 2011—the highest award given by IUP and the Alumni Association—and with the 2008 President’s Medal of Distinction for dedication and support reflecting service to both the university and the community.

The President’s Medal of Distinction is the highest nondegree award presented by IUP, established in 1985 to honor citizens of the state and region whose contributions in the areas of professional achievement or public service are of national significance or whose contribution is of special significance to the university.

Ruddock and her husband have established three scholarships at IUP: the Rodney D. and Ellen Sylves Ruddock Mathematics Scholarship, the Rodney D. and Ellen Sylves Ruddock Business Scholarship, and the Rod Ruddock Baseball Scholarship.

After her IUP graduation, Ruddock worked as a teacher at Penn Hills High School. The Ruddocks left western Pennsylvania as Rod Ruddock, who enlisted in the Reserve Officers Training Corps while attending IUP, accepted active-duty overseas military assignments; the couple lived abroad for several years.

She served as an administrative assistant to the project manager at Utah-Martin-Day, an American Joint Venture in Bangkok, Thailand, then for another year at the Joint US Military Assistance Group/COMUSMACTHAI in Bangkok and was active in supporting military families of deployed solders. For her work with military family groups, the Army awarded her the Civilian Medal of Distinction in 1997 and 2001.

Ruddock has been a lifelong entrepreneur. After returning to the Indiana community, she became a downtown Indiana retail business owner, recognized as “Retailer of the Year” by Kid’s Magazine in 1978 for her business, the Swing Set, a children’s fashion store. Her business was destroyed by fire in 1980.

For the next decade, she worked at RMS Media Management (WDAD-AM and WQMU-FM radio stations), where she was a top producing account executive.

In 1989, she started Career Dynamics, a consultancy that taught personal productivity, personal leadership, and motivational management for management teams at companies in organizational development throughout western Pennsylvania. She sold Career Dynamics after 13 years, and then joined the IUP community as a consultant for the Gateways to Opportunity campaign.

She is a director emerita of Pittsburgh PowerLink and led the board of this business owners’ advisory program to foundation funding that allowed the staff to grow the organization.

She was selected as one of Pennsylvania’s 50 Best Women in Business and one of Pennsylvania’s Most Influential People by Pennsylvania Business Central magazine.

Now retired, she has done private consulting in strategic planning, completing projects for the YMCA of Indiana County, Chevy Chase Community Center, US Army Reserve Family Readiness Program, and the City of Johnstown, Borough of Indiana, and Borough of Wilkinsburg.

Ruddock has a number of “firsts” to her credit. She was the first woman elected to the Indiana Borough Council in 1991; the first woman appointed to the advisory board for Farmer’s Bank-PNC Bank in Indiana, serving in that role from 1986 to 2000; and the first recipient of the Athena Leadership Award in Pennsylvania (1987).

With the late Chuck Spadafora of Indiana, Ruddock is responsible for bringing the Athena leadership program to Indiana County. A total of 37 women and men have been honored with the Athena leadership award in Indiana since her award, and the program has expanded to include the Athena Young Professional Award and the development of Athena clubs at high schools in the region, the first community to offer Athena clubs to middle and high school students. She is also a leader for the Indiana County Athena recipients.

Ruddock is a director emerita for Athena International, having served two terms on the international board of directors. She has traveled internationally to promote the Athena program, including visits to China and Nepal to present the first Athena Awards.

She continues to contribute to the downtown Indiana business community, holding the title of director emerita on the organization’s board of directors. She led the organization’s work with the Renaissance Indiana project. She has been an active member of the Indiana Arts Council and twice served as chairperson of the New Growth Arts Festival.

She is a former director and life member of the Indiana County Chamber of Commerce. She was selected for the Indiana County Civic Leader of the Year in 2000 in recognition of her decades of service to the community.

In addition to her degree from IUP, she completed the entrepreneurial management program at Carnegie Mellon University's Tepper School of Business in 1995 and IUP’s MBA certificate program in 2009.

She and her husband are the parents of two sons, four grandchildren, and two great-grandchildren.

IUP has granted only 57 honorary degrees in its history; Governor Shapiro and Ruddock bring that total to 59. Recipients are leaders in fields ranging from the arts to business to public service and have included the late US Rep. John P. Murtha, Andre Previn, James “Jimmy” Stewart, Fred Rogers, retired Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O’Connor, and Glenn Cannon.

In 2023, IUP honored Bonnie Harbison Anderson, a 1980 graduate of IUP and 2012 Distinguished Alumni Award recipient, with an honorary doctor of science degree during the university’s spring commencement ceremonies. Anderson, a native of Indiana, is a pioneer in the field of transformative and strategic global healthcare.

The IUP University Senate Academic Committee makes the nomination and recommends the nominee to the IUP Commencement Committee and the president. The nominee must be approved by the IUP Council of Trustees with notification given to the chancellor of the State System of Higher Education.

Faculty Emeriti

Members of the IUP community who have been honored with emeritus status also are recognized in the commencement program.

Each year, the university confers the title “emeritus” on qualified academic and administrative faculty who have been recommended through a department-based process. Emeritus status is designed to show respect for a distinguished career upon an employee’s retirement or departure from the university.

Emeritus status was approved for the following faculty. The departments from which they retired or last worked follow the names:

  • Ibrahim J. Affaneh, Finance and Economics, 31 years
  • Kim L. Anderson, Accounting and Information Systems, 32 years
  • Pearl S. Berman, Psychology, 37 years
  • Patricia Hockensmith, Nursing and Allied Health Professions, 12 years
  • Steven F. Jackson, Political Science, 29 years
  • Anne E. Kondo, Madia Department of Chemistry, Biochemistry, Physics, and Engineering, 25 years
  • Jean Nienkamp, English, 21 years
  • David M. Piper, Employment Relations and Health Services Administration, 20 years
  • Janet M. Walker, Mathematical and Computer Sciences, 27 years
  • Veronica T. Watson, English, 26 years

University Senate Awards

Recipients of the University Senate Awards also will be recognized during the commencement ceremonies.

Distinguished Faculty Award for Research
Julie Ankrum, professor, Department of Professional Studies in Education

A member of the IUP faculty since 2016, Ankrum serves as director of the Literacy Center and as program coordinator for the MEd in Literacy/Reading Specialist program. She takes great pleasure in mentoring graduate students through writing for publication and presenting their research at conferences, and she is chairing several dissertation committees. Her research, which focuses on exemplary practices in literacy instruction, adaptive teaching, and effective professional development, has been published in numerous research and practitioner journals. In addition, she has coauthored several book chapters and has published a book, Differentiated Literacy Instruction: Assessing, Grouping, Teaching. For her research manuscripts, she has received numerous awards, including the American Educational Research Association’s Classroom Observation Special Interest Group Exemplary Paper Award (2018), an honorable mention for Childhood Education International’s 2017 Distinguished Education Research Article award, and the Association of Literacy Educators and Researchers’ Betty G. Sturtevant Exemplary Article Award (2021). She is also a past recipient of the College of Education and Communication’s Teacher Scholar Award, Faculty Research Award, and Dean’s Outstanding Researcher Award. She is currently serving as coprincipal investigator of the Innovative Teacher Prep2Practice grant, awarded by the Pennsylvania Department of Education in 2023.

Distinguished Faculty Award for Service
Mimi Benjamin, professor, Department of Student Affairs in Higher Education

After 19 years as a student affairs administrator, Benjamin joined the IUP faculty in fall 2013. Examples of her service to the university include participation on the University-Wide Promotion Committee, University Senate, Strategic Plan Implementation Committee, Working Group IV for Middle States Commission on Higher Education reaccreditation, Center for Teaching Excellence Leadership Team, Living-Learning Executive Team, and multiple search and awards committees. She chairs the Senate Committee on Student Affairs and the faculty union’s Newer Faculty Committee and serves as co-coordinator of her department’s Alumni Connect Mentoring Program Committee. She has published extensively on living-learning communities, including as coauthor of two books, editor of another, and coeditor of a special issue of Learning Communities Research and Practice. She also was coeditor of two editions of a book on case studies in ethics for student affairs professionals. She is active in the two leading student affairs professional associations, NASPA: Student Affairs Administrators in Higher Education and ACPA: College Student Educators International. For NASPA, she has served as a faculty mentor and graduate student case study judge. For ACPA, she has coedited books and has been a Diamond Honoree and recipient of the Annuit Coeptis Award for senior professionals.

Distinguished Faculty Award for Teaching
Gloria Park, professor, Department of English

Director of the Graduate Studies in Composition and Applied Linguistics program, Park began her IUP journey in 2008 as a teacher education specialist in the Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages program. Her teaching and scholarship focus on the areas of language teacher identities, agency, and practices, as well as issues of race, gender, and class connected to language education. Her work has appeared in internationally recognized journals, and for some, she has coedited special-themed issues. Her monograph, Narratives of East Asian Women Teachers of English: Where Privilege Meets Marginalization, was published in 2017 by Multilingual Matters. She has also served as a section editor for TESOL Journal and as a series associate editor for the Teacher Education and Professional Development volume of TESOL-Wiley English Language Teaching Encyclopedia (2017). Just last year, she coedited Routledge’s Critical Pedagogy in Language and Writing Classroom. For the Fulbright English Teaching Assistant program, she serves as a national screener for applications to South Korea. She also recently facilitated a teacher-preparation workshop for English faculty at the University of Taiwan and a workshop sponsored by the Fulbright office and Institute of International Education for more than 300 foreign language teaching associates.