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Wheeling University Class of 2024 Receives Degrees

WHEELING, W.Va., May 4 – Jennifer Hornyak ’00, superintendent of Catholic Schools for the Diocese of Wheeling-Charleston told the Wheeling University Class of 2024 “to let God lead your choices and direction.”

During the Wheeling University’s 66th Commencement exercises, Dianna M. Vargo, Ed.D., chief operations officer of the institution, presented degrees to undergraduate, graduate and doctoral students. Additionally, Hornyak, the Commencement speaker, was awarded an Honorary Doctorate of Humane Letters by her alma mater.

A member of the University’s Class of 2000, Hornyak said, “My biggest advice to all of you is to be open to all opportunities that come your way … every opportunity could serve as a path to something you never would have dreamed could ever happen in your life. Trust in God that your life journey is purposefully designed and meant to be. God will place opportunities right in front of you – many of those opportunities will be unexpected. Pray about those opportunities … let God lead your choices and direction.”

Hornyak said the graduates have spent the past four years making many memories. 

She added, “As you move forward, never forget the memories, and most of all the support system that has brought you to this moment. Cherish the friendships you have made, the professors, instructors and coaches who have all guided you … the families who have cheered you on every step of the way. In line with the mission of this great university …. please leave here today remembering how important it is to share this gift of a Catholic college education with others, to give back to your communities, to mentor those who come after you, and to always strive for excellence in everything you do.”

Hornyak ended, “We are all rooting for you, and excited to see what great things you will accomplish throughout your lifetimes – the impact you will make in the world. May God bless you as you begin your next chapter of your life. Trust in the unfolding of the plan and embrace all of the ups and downs, twists and turns that will come your way.” 

In her welcome, Dr. Vargo told the graduates, Wheeling University provided them with opportunity — an opportunity to learn, to grow, to lead, and to serve others. 

“Today marks the continuance – not the end – of this opportunity for our Graduates. Graduates, you have worked hard for your degree at this great University. Now, you will live up, to the spirit of your education and use your degree for all that is good. Your timing is perfect. The world needs you now. Go strong with confidence, and determination, from this day forward. Be, our proud example, of Wheeling University,” Vargo said.

Class Valedictorian Natalie Stoner of Bellaire, Ohio, offered a special thank you to the faculty “who have enlightened and shaped our educational experience. You have equipped us to take our knowledge and change the world.”

She reminded her fellow graduates that the University’s mission educates students to be men and women for life, leadership and service – a mission that Stoner now lives daily, specifically leadership. “As a future teacher … I hope to take the leadership skills that Wheeling has taught me and implement them in my future. A good leader fosters a collaborative culture, and wherever necessary, leads by example … Being a leader is challenging and it takes guts, but a leader is something I have learned at Wheeling University.” 

Stoner said whatever the future hold for her fellow classmates – careers in teaching, healthcare, the business world or restoring justice – they can take the skills and experiences they have encounters at the University to stand out as leaders now and in the future. 

“This (being a leader) is done by displaying integrity, helping others develop, valuing relationships, holding ourselves and others accountable. The world needs good leaders, and there are many good leaders in this room today. So, as we continue to embark on this new journey, I challenge you, the graduating class of 2024 to be your best self and a leader, because as Wheeling University students, that is what sets us apart from others. ‘Lead your life, don’t just live it.’ Take pride in how far you’ve come. Go into the world and do well, but more importantly, go into the world and do good,” the valedictorian added.

David Hendrickson, J.D., chair of the Wheeling University Board of Trustees, told the class that their time at the University has given them the tools necessary to continue to grow, learn and overcome the many life challenges that lie ahead. 

He called on the graduates to “do three things for me as you continue on life’s path.”

Hendrickson said, “Today, tonight, tomorrow thank those that helped you obtain you degree. Education doesn’t come easy or cheaply.” He said sacrifices were made by others for each graduate to have the opportunity to attend Wheeling University.

“Second, make it a goal to help someone each day … no matter how big or small, you will find in doing so, the blessings you give will be repaid many, many times over,” Hendrickson said. “Last, but certainly not least – give back (to Wheeling University).” Giving back to Wheeling University, the board chair noted, can be “acting as a tutor, teaching a class or just giving advice to those (students) who follow.”

The University honored Dr. Kristine Grubler, associate professor of Physical Therapy, by awarding him the Fr. Edward Gannon, S.J. Outstanding Teaching Award. Each year, Wheeling University gives two medals during Commencement to those graduates who have distinguished themselves both in service and in academics. The Mary Woomer Medal and Archbishop John J. Swint Medals, are given to the woman and man in the class who most exemplifies the ideals of Wheeling University. Keala McCurry was the recipient of the Woomer Medal, while Sverri Finsson was given the Swint Medal.