University awarded more than 1,200 degrees to Fall 2021 graduates; honored 500 graduates from 2020
CLEVELAND (December 12, 2021) – For the first time since Fall 2019, Cleveland State University (CSU) celebrated graduates with in-person commencement ceremonies at the university’s Wolstein Center arena.
CSU conferred more than 1,200 degrees at the Fall 2021 ceremony, which began at 9:30 a.m., with the following CSU colleges participating: College of Graduate Studies, Monte Ahuja College of Business, College of Education and Human Services, Washkewicz College of Engineering, School of Nursing, College of Sciences and Health Professions and Maxine Goodman Levin College of Urban Affairs.
The afternoon ceremony began at 2:30 p.m., honoring nearly 500 graduates from 2020 who returned to campus for the event. Afternoon participants included the aforementioned colleges, along with the CSU Cleveland-Marshall College of Law.
CSU president Harlan Sands expressed excitement at the opportunity to convene to “honor the hard work, accomplishments and resilience” of the graduates.
“To be able to celebrate in person together almost feels like old times,” Sands said, referring to the pandemic. “Today is a day of promise and attention, a day where we reflect on where we are, where we’ve been and where we’re going.”
Sands recounted the accomplishments of three Fall 2021 graduates during his address: Francis Zunt, CSU Police Captain Beverly Jo Pettrey and Megann Rosecrans during his address, pointing out fortitude during their educational journeys and relating them to all graduates and supporters in attendance.
Mayor Frank G. Jackson addressed 2021 graduates as keynote speaker during the morning ceremonies. A lifelong Clevelander who received his bachelor's, master's and law degrees from CSU, he has served four consecutive terms as mayor – the longest tenure for the office in the city’s 225-year history.
Jackson said if the next steps after graduation seem elusive, using “education as a tool” and “to be of service and purpose” are the most critical things graduates can do going forward.
Scott C. Mueller, CEO of Cleveland-based Dealer Tire, was conferred the honorary degree of Doctor of Humane Letters, Honoris Causa during the morning ceremony. Recognized for his business acumen, altruism and commitment to the arts and community, Mueller said the giving of time, finding of mentors and learning to be an effective leader were the important things all graduates should train focus on moving forward.
Mueller also recalled life advice he gleaned from German visual artist Gerhardt Richter. “It’ll be a tough, journey. You’ll often sacrifice yourself; you’ll have to give up many of your hobbies, you might lose friends, and you might not ever succeed. But for those of you who can stick it out, it will be an incredible journey.”
University valedictorian Rachel Jablonski, who was nominated by both the Monte Ahuja College of Business and the College of Liberal Arts and Social Sciences as college valedictorian, asked graduates to avoid being tempted to frame time with experiences.
“The question is not so much what we will do in that time, but what we will do with time,” Jablonski said, referring to Ephesians 5:15.
David Reynolds, chair, CSU Board of Trustees, served as keynote speaker for the 2020 graduates in the afternoon ceremony. Reynolds, who leads the strategic development and national implementation of wealth management for Key Private Bank, said that the last 18 months for 2020 graduates were, in all ways, “outside the box.”
After reinforcing the importance of kindness, respect and building trusting relationships, he recounted the delay in 2020 graduation and asked the graduates to remember to stay oriented to the times.
“We are expecting great things from you,” said Reynolds, who has served on CSU’s Board of Trustees since 2017. “You are the first class to live outside the box.”
Samantha Paskert, Spring 2020 co-university valedictorian who earned a Bachelor of Arts in Anthropology and Comparative Religion with a minor in Native American Studies, shared Reynolds’ sentiments about flowing with nature in her afternoon remarks.
“Life is messy, but also intentional,” Paskert said. “When we are embracing change, embracing ourselves and finding beauty in our differences, the universe helps us flow through the chaos.”
Ellen Rea, Spring 2020 co-university valedictorian, who graduated with a Bachelor of Mechanical Engineering and a Bachelor of Arts in Physics, agreed with Paskert in her comments that followed.
“Each one of us finished our degrees and walked into a world very different from the one we expected,” Rea said. “But in the face of unprecedented challenge, we are all nothing short of exceptional.”
For a complete news rundown on CSU Fall 2021 and 2020 Commencement events, please visit www.csuohio.edu/commencement.
About Cleveland State University
Founded in 1964, Cleveland State University is a public research institution that provides a dynamic setting for Engaged Learning. With nearly 16,000 students, ten colleges and schools and more than 175 academic programs, CSU was again chosen for 2021 as one of America’s best universities by U.S. News & World Report, including the #1 public university in Ohio for social mobility. Find more information at www.csuohio.edu.