Allegheny College to Honor Three Distinguished Leaders at Commencement Ceremonies

In its 206th year, Allegheny College will award honorary degrees to three distinguished leaders at the College’s Commencement ceremonies for the Class of 2021 on Saturday, May 22. Commencement will be held in person and in three separate ceremonies on the Allegheny campus.

Receiving honorary degrees will be Emily Graslie, a science communicator, video host and educational media producer; Dr. Denise Johnson, acting physician general of Pennsylvania and formerly chief medical officer of Meadville Medical Center; and Douglas Lodge, Allegheny Class of 1975, an expert in sustainable slate roofing and lead volunteer at Common Roots, an organization dedicated to creating affordable housing in Meadville.

“I am very excited for the opportunity to honor the remarkable achievements — in spite of the past year’s notable challenges — of the Class of 2021 and of these three community and national thought leaders who set such a remarkable example for our students,” said Allegheny College President Hilary L. Link. “Through their professional achievements, civic engagement, and multidisciplinary approach to their work and the world, Emily Graslie, Denise Johnson and Douglas Lodge have contributed immensely to the betterment of society.”

Emily Graslie
Emily Graslie (photo by Aubrey Jane Photo)

Emily Graslie is a science communicator, video host and educational media producer. From 2013 to 2020, she worked as the first-ever Chief Curiosity Correspondent for the Field Museum in Chicago, creating more than 200 episodes for “The Brain Scoop,” a natural history-themed YouTube channel whose videos have been viewed tens of millions of times by curious learners around the world. Her video productions and storytelling adventures have taken her through both space and time, from deep into the bat caves of Kenya, to the remote Peruvian Amazon jungle — and from the Cambrian through the Cretaceous by means of geologic and fossil formations across the United States. In 2020 she made her broadcast television debut on PBS in “Prehistoric Road Trip,” an original three-part series exploring the paleontology and natural history of the Dakotas, Montana and Wyoming.

Graslie has received numerous awards and recognitions for her work, including the American Alliance of Museum’s Nancy Hanks Award for Professional Excellence. In recognition of her outreach efforts, scientists at the University of Florida and the University of Paraná in Brazil named a new species of butterfly in her honor: Wahydra graslieae. Graslie will receive her honorary degree from Allegheny virtually.

Dr. Denise Johnson
Dr. Denise Johnson

Dr. Denise Johnson is acting physician general of Pennsylvania, a position she has held since March 2021 when she was nominated by Gov. Tom Wolf. A member of the Pennsylvania Department of Health’s executive leadership team, she serves with the secretary of health to advise the governor and the agency on all issues related to healthcare delivery and regulation in the state.

Johnson, who will also deliver the Commencement address to graduates, was previously chief medical officer at Meadville Medical Center. She had oversight of the health system’s quality management program, family medicine residency, physician recruiting and population health departments. Prior to joining the health system’s leadership team in 2008, Johnson spent 13 years in private practice in Meadville. She is board certified in obstetrics and gynecology by the American Board of Obstetricians and Gynecologists and is a fellow of the American College of Healthcare Executives. Johnson has been involved in various community and regional groups focusing on diversity and inclusion and the needs of women. She has also partnered closely with Allegheny College, working with students on many initiatives, including mission work with Remote Area Medical, the Meadville Area Free Clinic and medical job shadowing and preceptorships.

Douglas Lodge
Douglas Lodge

Douglas Lodge is the owner of Lodge Slate Restoration in Cochranton, Pennsylvania. He has spent 45 years as a roofer with an emphasis on the sustainable nature of slate roofing. Lodge has been maintaining the slate roofs on the Allegheny campus for the past 25 years and has consulted on the installation of a new slate roof on historic Bentley Hall, which is currently being renovated.

Lodge supports a wide range of local arts and nonprofit groups. An avid dancer for more than 45 years, he has performed on the Allegheny campus and in other venues in northwestern Pennsylvania and beyond. He is also involved with Common Roots, an organization dedicated to creating access to safe, affordable and dignified housing in Meadville. As a board member and lead volunteer, he is currently involved with transforming a house on South Main Street in Meadville. He and his partner, Charmaine Koehler-Lodge, Allegheny Class of 1974, support sustainability and have been subsistence gardening on their 10 acres for 40 years. They built their home with materials they salvaged by dismantling houses that were slated for demolition.

Attendance at the Commencement ceremonies will be limited to protect the health and safety of guests. Tickets are required for all guests. The three ceremonies will be held on the College’s Bicentennial Plaza or, in the event of inclement weather, in the David V. Wise Sport & Fitness Center. The ceremonies will be live-streamed, and graduates were provided with the option to participate in Commencement remotely.