Honorary Degrees Awarded at Mount Union

ALLIANCE, Ohio – During the University of Mount Union’s 169th Commencement ceremony held earlier this month, honorary Doctor of Humane Letters degrees were presented to Mount Union President Dr. Richard F. Giese and Sandra Giese and board president Randall C. Hunt ‘75.

Honorary degrees were presented to the Gieses by Dr. Harold Kolenbrander, president emeritus, who led Mount Union from 1986 to 2000.

“Dr. and Mrs. Giese have led with vision at Mount Union, benefitting the Alliance community by further advancing an already-strong University during their 10-year tenure at the helm,” Kolenbrander said. “Since their return to campus in 2005, Mount Union has celebrated record enrollment, added strategic undergraduate majors, launched its first graduate programs in nearly a century, overhauled the general education curriculum, enhanced diversity and changed the designation of the institution from college to university.”

In addition, Kolenbrander noted, more than $100 million has been invested in campus over the past decade including the addition of new apartment-style housing options, renovation of traditional residence halls, expansion of the recreation and wellness center and the dining commons and completion of new facilities for the health and medical sciences and the performing arts.

Prior to leading Mount Union, Giese served as president of Monmouth College in Illinois for eight years, but his first job in higher education was as a faculty member and basketball coach at Averett College in Danville, Virginia. In the summer of 1978, Dr. Giese came to Mount Union as a faculty member and head men's basketball and tennis coach. He then served in increasingly responsible administrative positions for Mount Union, including vice president for enrollment services and vice president for advancement. Giese currently serves as the past president of the Alliance Economic Development Committee, member of the Economic Development Committee of the Chamber of Commerce, member of the Stark Development Board and member of the executive committee of the United Way.

Mrs. Giese is a former elementary school principal in the Alliance City School system. She began her career in Alliance, teaching science to third, fourth, fifth and eighth graders. As principal of Liberty Elementary, she was responsible for the educational growth of approximately 400 students in kindergarten through fifth grade; curriculum, assessment and social service integration; supervision of over 30 professional and classified staff; and coordination of special services. During her time at Liberty, she established a multiage organizational system of educational delivery. Since returning to Mount Union, she has been an active member of the campus community, serving as a member of the Sustainability Management Advisory Committee and Campus Events Committee and working with architects and designers on new building projects. She serves as past vice president of the Alliance YMCA Board of Directors, a member of the boards of Rodman Library and The Alliance for Children and Families, a committee member of the adult career training assistance program and a member of Alliance’s “One Book One Community” group.

“At Mount Union, it is our mission to prepare students for fulfilling lives, meaningful work and responsible citizenship, a credo that the Gieses have wholeheartedly embraced,” Kolenbrander said. “They have truly ‘walked the walk,’ living out this mission and leading by example. Their good works on campus are undeniable, and their commitment to the University is equally matched by their desire to serve as active members of Alliance and the surrounding communities.”

Dr. Ray Posey, associate academic dean and professor in residence of management and finance, presented Hunt with an honorary degree during the Commencement festivities.

Hunt has served as chair of the Mount Union Board of Trustees since 2010 and has been on the board since 1995. He serves as director at the law firm of Krugliak, Wilkins, Griffiths & Dougherty Co., L.P.A, where he has served as the firm’s managing partner for 14 years and has been instrumental in the firm’s steady growth. His professional experience includes various business fields, mergers and acquisitions, closely held corporations, commercial real estate and healthcare law.

In addition, Hunt has held leadership positions with the the boards of Stark County Development, Pro Football Hall of Fame, Alliance Community Hospital, Alliance Citizens Health Association, Greater Alliance Development Corporation, Stark State College and the Society of Ohio Hospital Attorneys. He has been recognized for his contributions to the community with honors such as the Alliance High School Distinguished Alumni Award, Alliance Area Chamber of Commerce’s Spirit of Enterprise Award and the AV Preeminent Rating by Martindale-Hubbell.

Hunt’s continual generosity has been marked by membership in the University’s 1846 Society and Forever Mount Society, and his contributions helped to make the Drive for Distinction and Health and Medical Sciences facility campaigns successful. He also established an endowed scholarship in memory of his parents, Ralph and Gunhild Hunt. For his commitment to his alma mater, Hunt was the recipient of the Dodie Davis Alumni Service Award in 2014.

“His tireless work as chair of the Board of Trustees for the past 10 years and his collaborative efforts for the betterment of life for all Alliance residents, is more than commendable,” Posey said.

Dr. Giese conferred the degree to Hunt.

“You have served your alma mater nobly over the years, and your service as chair of the Board of Trustees has been remarkable,” Giese said. “It has been my pleasure to work alongside you over the course of the past decade. There is no doubt that Mount Union is a better institution as a result of your dedication and work.”


Mount Union Students and Faculty Present at MEHA Conference

ALLIANCE, Ohio – University of Mount Union Honors students and faculty members presented at the Mid-East Honors Association (MEHA) Conference from April 10 to April 12 at Kent State University.

All Mount Union Honors students were invited to submit a proposal to the conference. All students and faculty who attended had their proposals accepted for presentation.

“The presentations represented research and scholarship completed across the Honors program curriculum, including work done in Honors in the Major theses and projects and work done in University Honors courses, including the Honors FYS and the Honors theme course,” said Dr. Nicole L. Johnson, assistant professor of philosophy and religious studies and interdisciplinary and liberal studies and co-director of the Honors program at the University of Mount Union.

Research presentations given by students and faculty members included:

Dr. Nicole Johnson and Dr. Susan Haddox: “Reinventing the Wheel? Evolution of an Honors Program at a Small University”

Dr. David Thiele, Gaston Marion, and Nick Thomas: “Brave New Worlds: Visions of Utopia in Fact and Fiction”

Dr. Jennifer Martin and Jacob Ward: “BaFa BaFa: A Cross-Cultural Simulation”

Emily Quandt: “The Alien Trilogy and the Societal Fear of Rape”

Natalie Ricciutti: “Moral Development and Moral Reasoning in Adolescents”

Courtney Wachal: “No Governing Body…No Enforcement System…Yet Still They Obey?”

Gabriella Pishotti and Kate O’Neil: “Is Healing Possible? An Exploration of Solutions to the Israel-Palestine Conflict”

MEHA is a regional affiliate of the National Collegiate Honors Council, which encourages and supports honors programs in the region. Institutions of higher education from Illinois, Indiana, Kentucky, Michigan, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Tennessee and West Virginia are welcome to participate. Approximately 300 students, faculty and administrators were present at the event.

Mount Union Retirees Honored

ALLIANCE, Ohio – The University of Mount Union honored six retiring faculty and staff members at a retirement reception on Wednesday, May 6.

Faculty retirees honored included the following:

Sandra Ekstrand retired as associate professor of economics, accounting and business administration. Ekstrand joined the faculty at Mount Union in 2002. She earned a Bachelor of Arts degree from Malone University and a Master of Science degree from Case Western Reserve University. She was honored with the Great Teacher Award in 2007. Before coming to Mount Union, Ekstrand held positions at Northeastern Ohio Universities College of Medicine and Orange City Schools. Ekstrand is a member of the College and University Personnel Association (CUPA) and American Society for Training and Development (ASTD).

Dr. Patricia (Foley ’73) Matthews retired as professor of economics, accounting and business administration. Matthews earned a Bachelor of Science degree from Mount Union and Master of Arts and Doctor of Business Administration degrees from Kent State University. She was honored with the Great Teacher Award in 1982. Matthews is a member of Omicron Delta Epsilon, Beta Gamma Sigma, International Business and Economics Association, Midwest Economics Association, Midwest Applied Business Association and Financial Management Association.

Dr. Kathleen Piker-King retired as professor of sociology and criminal justice. Piker-King joined the faculty at Mount Union in 1978. She earned a Bachelor of Arts degree from Indiana State University and Master of Arts and Doctor of Philosophy degrees from Kent State University. Piker-King was honored with the Great Teacher Award in 1996. She is a member of the North Central Sociological Association and American Sociological Association.

Staff retirees include the following:

Dotty Baia retired as mail center clerk. She joined the staff at Mount Union in 1986 as an assistant in the Service Center. Baia served in a dual capacity in the Service Center with responsibilities for both mail and printing through 2005, before concentrating full-time on the mail operation. She is a graduate of Sebring McKinley and served in the U.S. Navy.

Rod Peterson retired as director of auxiliary services. He joined the staff at Mount Union in 1989 as associate director of food services, later serving as director of food services. Peterson is a member of the National Association of College Auxiliary Services and the National Association of College and University Food Services.

Dave Wolpert ’69 retired as director of advancement for gift planning. Wolpert joined the staff at Mount Union in 2004. He earned a Bachelor of Arts degree from Mount Union. Prior to coming to the University, he held positions at Charter One Bank, First American Savings Bank, Midland Buckeye and Loan and United Local Schools.

Students Benefit from Networking Opportunities in D.C.

ALLIANCE, Ohio – Nine University of Mount Union Pre-Law students traveled to Washington, D.C. over spring break in March in order to expand their connections and experience D.C.’s lawmakers in action.

The trip, organized by Dr. Jack DeSario, professor of Political Science and Director of the Pre-Law Professional Program, was open to members of Mount Union’s Pre-Law Society. The trip to D.C. included siteseeing, visiting Georgetown Law School, getting library cards from the Library of Congress and being “snowed in” in the capital.

Students also got the opportunity to tour the Federal Coordination and Compliance Division of the U.S. Department of Justice. There they met with attorneys from the office, who shared advice and experiences. 

Student attendees included senior political science major Terika Callier of Austintown, Ohio; sophomore political science major Bridget Dennis of Mount Vernon, Ohio; sophomore political science major Dalton Dennis of Mount Vernon, Ohio; senior accounting and management major Allie Johnston of Massillon, Ohio; junior psychology major Abigail Riffee of Mineral Ridge, Ohio; junior international affairs and diplomacy and political science major Clinton Simmons of Lorain, Ohio; senior criminal justice and sociology major Kelsey Tillis of Canton, Ohio; senior French and international studies major Courtney Wachal of Bettendorf, Iowa and sophomore political science major Laura Willis of Louisville, Ohio.

“I really liked this because I was able to hear how they got to where they are today and the struggles they have faced along the way,” said Riffee. “What is very unique and helpful about their advice is that it was all so realistic.”

Arguably another favorite part about the trip was witnessing a hearing of an Affordable Care Act case at the U.S. Supreme Court. Students stood in line for hours in order to watch the Justices question the attorneys about the legality of the Act.

“My favorite experience was having the opportunity to briefly sit in on a Supreme Court case,” said Wachal. “I had never done that before and it was a once in a lifetime experience.”

“We always talk about the justices and their ideologies, and how the outcomes of their cases affect every day life,” Riffee said. “Being there, seeing how the justices interacted with the attorneys and listening to how the outcome of an Affordable Care Act case would affect the nation made everything we have learned in class so much more realistic.”

“I would compare my experience to someone who follows pop culture and has the opportunity to attend an award show, like the Grammy’s. You hear about all of these famous people in the media, and now you actually get to see them in person,” said Riffee.

Overall, the trip provided invaluable networking opportunities for students.

“The biggest thing I took away from this trip is the importance of networking,” Riffee said. “I made so many great connections in the five days I was in D.C. I have already obtained an internship from one of the connections and I have another one pending.”

“I also met a lot of great people who were able to give me very helpful advice for law school and for the legal profession,” Riffee said.


Mount Union Holds 169th Baccalaureate Service

By Abigail Esposito

ALLIANCE, Ohio – Amidst the awe, excitement and celebration on Saturday, May 9, the Peterson Field House of the McPherson Academic and Athletic Complex was serene as the University of Mount Union held its 169th Baccalaureate service. The service preceded the University’s Commencement ceremony.

The student-organized worship service featured scripture readings, hymns and performances by the University’s concert choir. Rev. Dr. Kenneth W. Chalker, who serves as senior pastor at the University Circle United Methodist Church in downtown Cleveland, gave the sermon, “Woven into Fire.”

“In our wildest dreams we are here.”

Chalker began by emphasizing the importance of cultivating one’s soul.

“A soul is the essence of your personality, passions and everything that makes you uniquely you,” Chalker said. “I believe that it is absolutely essential to cultivate that soul, that you always have a sense of self and a regard for the fire of your life and for the fire in others.”

Then he illustrated how everyone is woven into the fire of their passions, talents and paths of others in the world.

“The fire within us warms the world; we have to cultivate this belief so that we do not burn the world down and do not leave yourself vulnerable to the idea that only you matter.”

Sharing how he was inspired by a story from one of the graduates, he explained how significant it is to care for yourself and to be the answer to others’ prayers throughout your life.

“It is imperative that you are an answer to a desperate prayer in addition to your own achievements,” Chalker said. “You have purpose, never let the world sap you out of your gift because you are an answer to someone’s desperate prayer with your hopes and talent and you are right at the center of God’s wildest dream.”

A graduate of Garrett-ETS at Northwestern University, Duke University Divinity School and Mount Union, Chalker resides in Westlake, Ohio with his wife Grace. They have two grown children, Laura and Wayne, and a grandson and granddaughter.

Twice named one of Cleveland’s most interesting people by Cleveland Magazine, Chalker is an active participant in the life of the City of Cleveland. He serves on the boards of several community organizations including University Circle Inc., the Cleveland Orchestra Community Relations Committee, NCCJ (National Conference for the Community Justice) and the Board of Trustees of the University of Mount Union. A graduate of Leadership Cleveland, Chalker is deeply committed to the welfare of the community as a whole and specifically to the needs of the city’s children.

An enthusiastic and inspirational public speaker, Chalker is also an accomplished and published writer, former radio and television commentator and recipient of the Cleveland Advertising Club’s “Outstanding Communication Achievement of the Year” award.

During the worship service, the Mount Union Concert Choir, under the direction of Dr. Grant Cook, associate professor of music and director of choral activities, performed several numbers. The invocation was given by Joshua Scott, a senior physical education major of Hamilton, Ohio. The Old Testament reading was given by senior art and religious studies major Wilma Levengood of New Philadelphia, Ohio and the prayer was given by Brad Linerode, a senior civil engineering major of Uniontown, Ohio. The scripture reading was given by Megan Clevenger, senior history and religious studies major of Uniontown, Ohio and Adam Lundberg, senior middle childhood education major of Louisville, Ohio. The song leader for Baccalaureate was Taylor Nervo, senior biology major of Louisville, Ohio.

Following the sermon, Dr. Richard F. Giese, president of the University, led the Seniors’ Prayer and university chaplain Marty Cashburless gave the Benediction.

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