Commencement Ceremony at Allegheny College Celebrates the Class of 2024 and Two Distinguished Leaders

Today, Allegheny College honored 300 graduating students and presented honorary degrees to two distinguished leaders at Commencement ceremonies held inside the David V. Wise Center.

Elisabeth Smith, CEO at Acutec Precision Aerospace, Inc. in Meadville, PA delivered the commencement address. In her remarks, Elisabeth highlighted the power of a strong community and the difference a liberal arts education can make. She shared, “Graduates, your education here has equipped you with knowledge, skills, and a sense of purpose. But beyond the classroom, you’ve also embraced the values of collaboration, empathy, and service — the qualities that form strong communities. Each of you, as you step off this stage, carries a spark—a spark of possibility, of change. Remember that economic development isn’t just about numbers; it’s about lives transformed.”

Honorary doctorates of humane letters were conferred on Allegheny Professor Emerita Amara Geffen and Allegheny Board Member and Vice Chairman of the Board of Marquette Savings Bank, Doug Ziegler.

Amara Geffen, the Eila V. Bush Endowed Professor of Art Emerita, is a renowned community and environmentally focused public artist. For over 25 years, she has facilitated arts engagement, cultural planning, public art, and placemaking projects. Amara taught art at Allegheny from 1982 to 2019. Amara embodies the Allegheny values of Excellence, Innovation, Inclusion, Community and Sustainability. Her work transcends traditional boundaries.

Over the span of his 50 year career, Doug Ziegler has impacted community and economic development in innumerable ways. His influence extends far beyond our region. He’s traveled the globe on behalf of a range of institutions, applying his keen business acumen to grow assets for both business and nonprofit organizations. In his various roles, including his last as Senior Vice President, Treasurer and Chief Investment Officer for Erie Insurance Group, he’s had an enormous impact on the financial well-being of thousands of people.

Board of Trustees Chair Steven Levinsky, Professor Andrew Bloeser, ASG President Nicole Recio Bremer ’25, and President Ron Cole also addressed the crowd. President Cole shared, “You graduate with the tools to go out into the world with courage; you are equipped with multiple and diverse perspectives, with honed communication skills, with the ability to to appreciate the wonders of our world and the wonders of learning.” He charged the seniors “to employ the full measure of your promise and potential in the pursuit of excellence and the service of others.”

The ceremony concluded with the singing of the alma mater and a reception for faculty, staff, students, and parents, where they could say goodbyes and share future plans. Graduates are headed to a variety of opportunities, just a few of which are included here:

  • Becky Pechmann ’24, joining a graduate program in Speech Pathology/Audiology a Western Carolina University
  • Alexa Isaguirre Portillo ’24, operational analyst position with BNY Mellon in Pittsburgh
  • Evelyn Griffith ’24, pursuing a creative writing MFA at Old Dominion University and was granted an assistantship
  • Sarah Thorman ’24, pursuing a Master’s in forensic and legal psychology at Marymount University
  • Simon Jones ’24, pursuing a doctoral degree in electrical, computer, and energy engineering from the University of Colorado at Boulder

On Friday the College held the AYA Rite of Passage Ceremony, which celebrates first-generation and historically underrepresented graduates of Allegheny College. The celebration was represented by the AYA, an andinkra symbol that represents endurance, resilience and the ability to overcome. Dean for Institutional Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Heather Moore Roberson addressed the students, “It’s important for you to leave this place knowing that we, here at Allegheny, have been lucky, blessed, and privileged to have had you here as students. So when you are asked ‘how does it feel to have attended Allegheny?,’ please tell them, ‘the honor, I assure you, was Allegheny’s.’ ”