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Misericordia University Commencement is a Homerun

Misericordia University Commencement is a Homerun

Misericordia University Commencement is a Homerun

Misericordia University (MU) recognized the achievements of 208 bachelor’s degree recipients and 90 master’s and graduate degree recipients during separate undergraduate and graduate commencement ceremonies on May 11 held at the Anderson Sports and Health Center on the university’s scenic campus in Dallas, PA. Simultaneous with the commencement ceremonies, the Misericordia baseball team played on Tambur Field in the MAC Freedom Championship series against Arcadia, just a few hundred yards away.

From left to right, Coach Pete Egbert, Justin Calvarese, Matthew Lanzendorfer and Dr. David Gargone.

Earlier in the morning, a special ceremony was held for two graduating baseball players since the championship games would overlap with Commencement ceremonies. Justin Andrew Calvarese of Oaks, PA is a pitcher on the baseball team, and graduated earning a Bachelor of Science in Sports Management degree. Matthew James Lanzendorfer of Pittston, PA is also a pitcher on the baseball team and earned a Bachelor of Science in Nursing degree. The special ceremony was held at the Metz Field House right before batting practice began before their doubleheader with Arcadia University. David Gargone, Ed.D., associate professor, chair of the Business Department, and former assistant baseball coach, officiated the early morning ceremony prior to the first game of the championship series. Lanzendorfer earned the win with two innings of relief work in that first game. Misericordia won the second game against Arcadia as well to clinch the MAC title and advance to the NCAA DIII tournament next weekend.



The Commencement ceremonies further amplified the celebratory mood on the Dallas campus. Former Misericordia President Thomas J. Botzman, Ph.D., and his wife, Vanessa, were honored during the graduate ceremony with Doctor of Humane Letters degrees. They were presented their degrees by President Daniel Myers, Ph.D. and Board Chair Deborah Smith-Mileski, Ed.D.

“Dr. Thomas and Vanessa Botzman, you both contributed greatly to the ongoing success of our university through personal interactions, strategic thinking, fiscal responsibility, and fundraising driven by our Mercy charisms,” said Smith-Mileski.

Local community leader Mary Cummings, Esq. executive vice president and general counsel at FNCB Bank was the featured speaker at the graduate ceremony, where she also received an honorary degree. “Seek out opportunities to give back, to make a difference and to leave a lasting impact on the world around you. Remember, no act of kindness is ever too small, no gesture of compassion ever goes unnoticed. Each of you has the power to change lives, to overcome obstacles, to inspire hope and to shape the future for generations to come. And in accomplishing all of this, please remember to have fun. Laugh with friends, laugh at yourself, participate in exciting and adventurous activities that bring about feelings of happiness, excitement, positivity, and satisfaction,” said Cummings.

Misericordia’s undergraduate commencement ceremony was held at 2:00 p.m., and featured remarks from Mary Haddad, RSM, president and chief executive officer of Catholic Health Association. “You will learn more about yourself in the coming months and be drawn into many new experiences.  So, get ready, take it all in, and relish every step of the life that seeks you.  And don’t ever forget that the journey is always more important than the destination,” said Haddad.

Local attorney and former Misericordia Trustee Thomas P. Brennan, Esq., was honored during the undergraduate ceremony with the Catherine McAuley Medal, which is the university’s highest honor given in the spirit of the founder of the Sisters of Mercy. Trustee Cathy McGroarty, RSM presented the medal to Brennan. “You have distinguished yourself as a compassionate leader displaying decades of support for this university and the Sisters of Mercy,” said McGroarty.

Student speaker Isabel Anne Falguera of Hatboro, PA earned the honor of making remarks during the undergraduate ceremony. “No matter what field you are entering, greatness is in store for you. As you leave Misericordia, I ask that you continue to persist through challenging times and serve your communities, all the while emulating the four charisms (Mercy, Service, Justice, Hospitality) we learned on our very first day here.” Falguera graduated Summa Cum Laude, earning her Bachelor of Science degree in Health Science. She will continue on for graduate study at MU to earn her Speech-Language Pathology Degree.

The commencement ceremonies were the culmination of two days of events to recognize the achievements of the Class of 2024, including a baccalaureate mass, the “Toast to the Graduates” celebration, and the academic awards ceremony on Friday, May 10th.

Bios of Keynote Speakers:

Mary Griffin Cummings, Esq., is the daughter of the late John J. Griffin, Esq. and Agnes Hoffman Griffin. She graduated from Towanda High School and The Pennsylvania State University, where she earned a Bachelor of Science Degree in Accounting. After gaining experience at Masonite Corporation in Towanda, Mary pursued her Juris Doctor from the Dickinson School of Law. During law school, she engaged in various roles, including with the PA Department of Revenue Board of Appeals, Ernst & Young, and as a clerk for the Honorable Kenneth W. Seamans.

Post-graduation, Cummings embarked on her legal career, initially at Rosenn, Jenkins & Greenwald, where she ascended to the position of partner. She later transitioned to the Wyoming Valley Health

Care System, ultimately serving as general counsel. She is currently executive vice president and general counsel at FNCB Bank, showcasing her expertise in the legal and banking sectors.

Cummings volunteers at the Catherine McAuley House and serves as chair of the Board of Trustees of the Catherine McAuley Center. She also contributes to the McGlynn Learning Center and engages actively in the community through various organizations, including the American Red Cross and tecBridge’s Business Plan Competition.

She has received accolades such as the 2010 Mercy Woman of the Year, Women Making an Impact award from Dress For Success Lackawanna, and the Patricia A. Husic Woman of Influence Award. Cummings is a proud member of the Wilkes-Barre Law and Library Association, the Pennsylvania Bar Association, and holds leadership roles in several professional and community-based organizations.

Mary Haddad, RSM, a distinguished member of the Sisters of Mercy of the Americas, has served as the president and CEO of the Catholic Health Association of the United States (CHA) since July 2019.

At CHA, Sr. Mary spearheads the mission to uphold and advance the health ministry of the Catholic Church in the United States.With oversight of CHA’s operations in both Washington, D.C. and St. Louis, she guides strategic planning and develops initiatives to ensure high-quality, accessible healthcare for individuals of all backgrounds from conception to natural death.

Sr. Mary directs CHA’s national advocacy efforts, championing initiatives to protect life, promote community well-being, address disparities, and create a just health system. Her responsibilities encompass administration, program development, and fostering relationships with stakeholders, including bishops and other Catholic leaders.

Before her presidency, Sr. Mary served as CHA’s vice president of Sponsorship and Mission Services, driving critical areas of mission, ethics, and leadership development. She holds a master’s degree in Business Administration in Healthcare from the University of St. Thomas and a master’s degree in Social Work from Saint Louis University.

Sr. Mary’s commitment to service extends internationally, with experiences in Belize, Central America, and Trinidad and Tobago. She is actively engaged in various committees and boards, including the Dicastery for Promoting Integral Human Development and the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB).

With her unwavering dedication and breadth of experience, Sr. Mary Haddad exemplifies the embodiment of compassionate leadership in advancing healthcare and social justice within the Catholic community and beyond.

Bios of Honorees:

Thomas J. Botzman, Ph.D. was the 13th president of Misericordia University, serving from 2013 to 2020. During his presidency, Misericordia enhanced study abroad initiatives, increased the number and quality of faculty-student research and scholarship initiatives, replaced its student information system, renewed regional accreditation, launched a new strategic plan, and initiated a capital campaign through solicitation of the largest gift in the institution’s history. The campaign enabled the construction of the Frank M. and Dorothea Henry Science Center on campus, a state-of-the-art space that has enhanced learning for all students.

Dr. Botzman was a member of several nonprofit boards in Northeast Pennsylvania. He served as the Chair for Conference Presidents, Middle Atlantic Conference 2018-2019, as chair of the presidents’ council for the Conference on Mercy Higher Education, as a member of the Tax Policy Committee for the National Association of Independent Colleges and Universities, and as a member of the board for the Association of Independent Colleges and Universities of Pennsylvania. He served on the board of the Northeast Pennsylvania Council of the Boy Scouts of America, receiving the Eminent Eagle award in 2015. 

Before assuming the presidency at Misericordia, Dr. Botzman served as vice president for business and finance at St. Mary’s College of Maryland and on the faculty at Mount Union College in Ohio. He was a visiting professor and a Fulbright Scholar at the University of the Americas in Mexico City. Dr. Botzman also worked in private industry and is the inventor of 12 U.S. patents.

Upon leaving Misericordia in 2020, he returned to his Ohio roots and assumed the presidency of Mount Union before his retirement in 2022.

Vanessa Botzman actively supported both Misericordia University and local communities during the tenure of her husband as president of Misericordia University.

Mrs. Botzman’s professional and personal actions consistently demonstrated her empathy, care, and compassion for others in the Mercy tradition. She was a regular attendee and organizer of campus events, and she volunteered regularly for multiple regional charities and non-profits, such as the Care and Concern Clinic at St. John the Evangelist Parish in Pittston, Meals on Wheels Wyoming Valley, and the Catherine McAuley House.

She earned a designation as a Mercy Associate. Mrs. Botzman served as a member of the Board of Directors for the Osterhout Free Library system based in Wilkes-Barre and also for Meals on Wheels of Wyoming Valley. In 2020, Vanessa and Dr. Botzman were the recipients of the Osterhout Library’s Evergreen Award honoring their service and support of the library.

Thomas P. Brennan, Esq., recipient of the Catherine McAuley Medal, is recognized for his exceptional contributions to the Sisters of Mercy and Misericordia University. Born the sixth of eight children to Tom and Kitty Brennan, he attended St. John’s School in Pittston, PA, followed by Maryknoll College in Glen Ellyn, Illinois, before transferring to King’s College, graduating magna cum laude, and then attending Villanova Law School.

Drafted into the Army during law school, Thomas served in Okinawa, Japan, where he was assigned to a Joint Services committee dealing with labor relations issues involving civilians. For his efforts, Thomas was named Soldier of the Month for the Ryukyu Islands and was awarded the Joint Service Commendation Medal. In addition, while on Okinawa, Thomas’ future wife, Ann, set a record of mailing letters and carefully packed cookies from Massachusetts.

After his discharge, Brennan returned to law school, and he and Ann were married. Following law school, Brennan worked for a Philadelphia law firm. He and Ann later moved to Wilkes-Barre, working alongside Ann’s father, Joseph F. Gallagher, Esq. One of the firm’s clients was the Sisters of Mercy, and a lifelong relationship was formed. Brennan served on the College Misericordia Board of Trustees for nine years. His familial ties to the University include his aunt and several relatives who are Misericordia graduates.

Accepting the McAuley Medal, he acknowledges the collective efforts of those who support the Sisters of Mercy and dedicates the honor to them. Brennan’s journey reflects a life dedicated to service, embodying the spirit of Catherine McAuley.