Misericordia awards 293 diplomas at winter commencement

Graduates celebrate at 2012 winter commencement
For John Spengler, Ph.D., Misericordia has always been his home away from home even though he never attended class at the Back Mountain institution of higher education. Misericordia’s mission, and the stories and lessons he and his four brothers learned from his mother, the late Margaret Husic Spengler ’36, continue to resonate with him and his family to this day.

Dr. Spengler, the Akira Yamaguchi Professor of Environmental Health and Human Habitation, and director of the Center for Health and the Global Environment, Department of Environmental Health, Harvard School of Public Health, and director of the Sustainability and Environmental Management Program at the Harvard Extension School, shared anecdotes about his mother’s alma mater, his mother, and the role Misericordia and the Sisters of Mercy played in her rearing a family, while delivering the keynote speech at Misericordia University’s second annual winter commencement ceremony on Sunday, Dec. 16.

He told the 293 graduates how the education and life lessons his mother received at the formerly small, private all-women’s college still influence his life and that of his brothers and family to this day.

“We like to say that Misericordia is one big family,’’ Misericordia University President Michael A. MacDowell said to the graduates in attendance. “While trite, in so many ways it is the truth. Misericordia’s faculty, staff, your classmates and the alumni are an extended family providing, in many ways, what you needed to achieve while a student here.

“One of Misericordia’s most accomplished graduates was Margaret Spengler, Class of 1937. In much the same way, she made a difference at Misericordia as the college’s newspaper editor, debate team member, class officer and so much more,’’ the president added. “Our commencement speaker today is one of Margaret’s five sons. Significantly accomplished in his own right, as are his brothers and other members of the Spengler family, they are hardly shy about telling how their family and particularly their mother touched their lives and how in turn she was significantly influenced by Misericordia and her beloved Sisters of Mercy.’’

Mrs. Spengler graduated in 1936 with a degree in home economics and was the first editor of the college newspaper, Miss Recordia. She served as president of the Alumni Association from 1980-84, and in 1985 became the first alumni representative to the Board of Trustees. Misericordia honored Mrs. Spengler in 1985 by presenting her with the Mother Catharine McGann Alumni Award for professional achievement. In 1988, she was awarded the McAuley Medal for compassion and service, the highest honor presented by Misericordia.

During the commencement ceremony, Misericordia University presented Dr. Spengler an honorary Doctor of Humane Letters degree. He earned his doctorate degree from the State University of New York, Albany. Dr. Spengler has conducted research in the areas of personal monitoring, air pollution health effects, indoor air pollution and a variety of environmental sustainability issues.

The University also honored Sister Therese Marie Marques, RSM, executive director of the Catherine McAuley Center, by presenting her with the esteemed Mother Catherine McAuley Medal. The McAuley Medal is the University’s highest honor. It recognizes significant service to the institution and to the values to which it aspires.

Leah Kaiser of Dallas, Pa., represented her classmates on stage for the winter commencement program. As the student speaker, she compared their time at MU to the statue, “Emerging,’’ in Rosenn Plaza, which represents the shaping, nurturing and mental growth that only four years of college life can produce.

“As freshman, we started out as unshaped minds, excited and nervous, some of us ready and others hesitant about the experiences we were to encounter which would shape us into who we are today,’’ she said. “The first day of classes we met the respected and knowledgeable sculptors, or professors, who would begin to shape our minds. Only an unexpected event occurred, they handed us the tools to shape ourselves and we began carving in as much information as we could.

“We sculpted the four charisms – Mercy, Service, Justice and Hospitality – not only into our academic lives, but our everyday lives. Without such charisms, I do to believe that the sense of community I experienced here on campus would exist,’’ Kaiser said, before adding, “As many of us will be leaving this outstanding university, the values, principles, and standards, which have been instilled in us, will never leave our hearts or minds.’’