The illuminated stage of the Kimmel Center for the Performing Arts was set with signature regalia for the newest graduates of Salus University. On the afternoon of May 23, degrees were conferred on 274 graduates, as they celebrated the University’s 118th Commencement.
Faculty, staff, family and friends gathered and watched proudly as their beloved hardworking students were presented with their professional degrees in: Optometry; Audiology; Biomedicine; Public Health; Occupational Therapy; Low Vision Rehabilitation; Vision Rehabilitation Teaching; Orientation and Mobility; Blindness and Visual Impairment; and Speech-Language Pathology.
This year, 17 graduates across programs were legacies – a student who is related to an alumnus of the institution; and 81 percent of all the graduates were female which is significantly different than the College’s inaugural commencement in 1922.
Commencement was also extra special as it commemorated the Centennial Anniversary of the Pennsylvania State College of Optometry
– now the Pennsylvania College of Optometry (PCO) - Salus University’s founding College.
President Michael H. Mittelman, OD ’80, MPH, FAAO, FACHE welcomed guests and provided insight into the commencement history and why this particular commencement was its 118th for the century-old institution: during the 1940s, both spring and fall ceremonies were held as a result of the war. Dual ceremonies also returned and have continued since 2007.
Referring to a famous Navy Admiral who once said during a commencement speech that, “the most important thing you can do to start your day is to make your bed,” Dr. Mittelman gave the following advice to the graduates. “Now, I’m not a famous Navy Admiral, but I’m not so sure I totally agree - I think the most important thing you can do when starting your day is to think about what you will do to make someone else’s life better,” he said. With that, he wished all best wishes for their new adventure.
Susan K. Barnes, OD ‘19, who attained the highest academic average in the Optometry Traditional Program, delivered the graduate commencement address. She remarked on how she loved the University’s interdisciplinary nature and proceeded to thank those in each program for working hard and choosing their careers to help others. She encouraged her fellow graduates to always strive to be excellent, innovative and make the healthcare profession of their choice better. At the end of her speech, she received a standing ovation from the audience.
Afterward, Louis J. Catania, OD ’69, FAAO, DSc (Hon.), took the stage as the commencement keynote speaker. Dr. Catania is an internationally acclaimed clinical educator; author of nine textbooks and over 200 journal articles; and a recognized expert in anterior segment disease and eye care technologies for more than 50 years. Dr. Catania spoke passionately to the graduates about being a primary health care provider. He also advised the University’s newest alumni to work hard on four characteristics to ensure success, which included being caring, finding their own passion, finding a role model and being a role model and being able to reinvent his/herself.
Prior to his address, Dr. Catania was presented with an Honorary Doctor of Science degree, the highest degree awarded by the University, in recognition for his many years of outstanding contributions to optometry, as well as his work to enhance global population health; higher education; and healthcare integration and engagement. The first honorary Doctor of Science degree was presented to Dr. Julius F. Neumueller, professor emeritus, physical and geometrical optics, in 1963. It has since been conferred in 43 different years to 58 individuals of note.
Commencement was the culmination of a celebratory week. The first pre-ceremony event was the celebration of graduates who not only completed the Optometry program at PCO, but also who successfully completed the Advanced Studies program
, which allows students to pursue certificates in distinct areas of practice or research in conjunction with the Traditional or Scholars Optometry curriculum. After the reception, which included commentary from both Dr. Melissa Trego, dean of PCO, and Dr. Byung Josh Kim, co-director of the program, the graduates received their certificates and a few presented their final Grand Rounds.
Commencements are always a time for awards and that was the exact purpose of the Graduate Luncheon held the day before the formal ceremony at Presidential Caterers in Norristown, Pa., where the students had one last chance to socialize and celebrate their accomplishments while acknowledging those who received awards across all programs.
The Occupational Therapy (OT) program
held their capstone projects in the Hafter Student Community Center the evening before graduation. Some of the topics included “Integrating the Healing Effects of Essential Oils” (Amy Cellucci, MSOT ‘19), “Promoting the Need for OT Home Modification in Home Health Care” (Kara Bogucki, MSOT ‘19), and “Cognitive Stimulation Therapy for People with Dementia” (Grace Peek, MSOT ‘19).
To each graduate, we congratulate you and wish you the very best.