Commencement 2009: The Class of 2009 Begins Its New Journey

Chestnut Hill College Celebrates 82nd Commencement

Release Date: Saturday, May 9, 2009



Commencement Speaker Karen S. Kelly, J.D., chief counsel to the Treasurer of the State of Pennsylvania and Deputy State Treasurer urged graduates to “think about what “master” you truly serve in your life.”

Lakshmi Atchison, Ph.D., professor of biology was named the 2009 recipient of The Christian R. and Mary F. Lindback Award for Distinguished Teaching.

President Carol Jean Vale, SSJ, Ph.D., Gerald Straub, and Karen S. Kelly, J.D.

Karen Spencer Kelly, J.D., chief counsel to the Treasurer of the State of Pennsylvania and Deputy State Treasurer delivered the 82nd commencement address at Chestnut Hill College on Saturday, May 9, 2009. The College awarded 288 bachelor degrees and 239 graduate degrees as well as 21 doctoral degrees in clinical psychology during the ceremony. An Honorary Doctor of Laws degree was awarded to Gerald Straub, documentary filmmaker and award-winning author.


A co-founder and partner in the law firm of Kelly, Monaco and Naples located in the Chestnut Hill section of Philadelphia, Karen Spencer Kelly has concentrated her practice of law in all aspects of civil litigation at the trial and appellate levels. In addition to arguing before the Commonwealth, Superior and Supreme Courts of Pennsylvania, Ms. Kelly has served as Co-Bond Counsel and Co-Special Disclosure Counsel for the City of Philadelphia. Other clients have included the Redevelopment Authority of Philadelphia, Drexel University, Temple University and the Delaware River Port Authority.

Karen Spencer Kelly’s commendable public service is equally distinguished by her generous service to numerous educational institutions, charitable organizations, and pro bono work. In 2001, The Harvard Magazine featured her as the first African-American woman president of the Harvard Alumni Association, noting her service on one or more alumni committees every year since she graduated. She also serves on the Capital Campaign Steering Committee of Villanova University Law School, the Villanova Law Alumni Association Board of Advisors, and is co-chair of the Convocation Sub-Committee for the Villanova Law School 50th Anniversary celebration.

Gerald Straub started his career as a network television producer in New York and Hollywood; he produced dramatic television series that have aired on CBS, NBC and ABC, including the popular daytime soap opera “General Hospital.” Straub’s transformation into a documentary filmmaker bringing to light the plight of the poor occurred while in vacation in Rome, after being inspired from a passage of the bible. As a result of his experiences, Gerry, who became a Secular Franciscan, founded The San Damiano Foundation, which “strives to put the power of film at the service of the poor.” He has written and directed 13 documentary films and a photo essay, “When Did I See You Hungry?” featuring photography from 9 countries and cities.

Sister Carol Jean Vale, SSJ., Ph.D., president of Chestnut Hill College, honored four graduates for their scholastic achievement with the President’s Award for Outstanding Academic Achievement. The President’s Award for Outstanding Academic Achievement is awarded to graduates of the School of Undergraduate Studies who have completed eight consecutive semesters at Chestnut Hill College, earned a grade point average of 3.9 or better, and are graduating Summa Cum Laude.

Students honored were:
Alexandra Scheirer - English, minor in Communications and Technology-3.929 G.P.A
Samuel Little - English, minor in Communications and Information Technology, Information Management, and Environmental Science- 3.933 G.P.A
Rachel Hildebrandt - Psychology- 3.954 G.P.A.
Anne Pearsall - Elementary Education, minor in Special Education- 4.0 G.P.A

Rachel Hildebrandt was also recognized for making history at the College by being the first published graduate with her recent publication of “The Philadelphia Area Architecture of Horace Trumbauer” which she wrote in collaboration with the Old York Road Historical Society.

Susan Magee, M.F.A., adjunct professor of communications and Walter Ted Smith, Ph.D., instructor in the School of Continuing and Professional Studies received the Outstanding Adjunct Faculty Award during commencement. Selected from nominations from students, faculty, and staff, the Outstanding Adjunct Faculty Award recognizes the talents and dedication to teaching of an adjunct faculty member at Chestnut Hill College.

Susan Magee, who received the award for the School of Undergraduate Studies, received this year’s award for “inspiring students to think outside the box and approach difficult situations from fresh, marketable avenues,” and for “giving students the confidence they needed in themselves to not only succeed in class, but in life.” Dr. Smith, who received the award for the School of Continuing and Professional Studies, is recognized by his students as “an excellent teacher,” and as someone who “believes if he makes a difference in the life of one person, he has made a difference in the world because change comes one person at a time.”

Lakshmi Atchison, Ph.D., professor of biology received The Christian R. and Mary F. Lindback Award for Distinguished Teaching. The award is given to a distinguished teacher who is “committed to the life of the mind and spirit, is intellectually stimulating, challenging and accessible, and devoted to the temporal and eternal well-being of students.” The Lindback Award for Distinguished Teaching is selected from a committee of students, faculty and staff at the College. Dr. Atchison was honored as this years winner for “being a tireless advocate for students,” “initiating links between the world of learning and the world of work,” and “striving to live the mission and core values of the College by offering a rigorous and challenging academic program.”