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Wittenberg’s School of Community Education Graduates Distinguished 2012 Class

May 11, 2012  
 Filed in Community

Springfield, Ohio – As more than 400 Wittenberg University students cross the stage in picturesque Commencement Hollow during the 167th annual Commencement exercises on May 12, 2012, some of the loudest cheers will come from family and friends of “non-traditional” students who earn their degrees through the School of Community Education (SCE).

SCE students often juggle family commitments, jobs and other life challenges as they work toward graduation, and their stories are frequently moving examples of perseverance and dedication. In 2012, this includes several veterans who studied at Wittenberg after returning from their military service to complete their degrees, including Dustin Krouse, who is following a family tradition by completing his degree in education, Derek Thompson, who will earn a bachelor’s degree in biochemistry/molecular biology, and Joseph Panstingel, who will compete his degree in English after writing about his life in the Navy and even blessing the campus community with his musings in the student-run newspaper The Torch with a column titled “Cuppa Joe.”

Many SCE students transfer to Wittenberg from one or more schools, and some endure lengthy commutes to attend classes. Despite the obstacles, 14 of the 19 SCE graduates in 2012 have also gained membership in Wittenberg’s Eta Sigma chapter of Alpha Sigma Lambda (ASL), the national adult honorary.

Among them is Deb Stooksberry, a longtime employee in Wittenberg’s Office of the Registrar, who has shown tremendous persistence en route to her degree in geography, an odyssey that began in 2005 and included numerous lunch hours spent in classes only offered during the day. Similarly, Chrissy Phelps will achieve a lifelong dream when she completes her degree in sociology. Her experience has even inspired her sister to enroll in the SCE program.

Each year, numerous SCE graduates earn Latin honors cum laude, magna cum laude or summa cum laude, which signify students with grade point averages of 3.5 or higher while studying in a wide range of majors. Their stories are often similar to that of Joseph Fugate, who transferred from Clark State Community College in 2010.

As a child growing up in Springfield, Joe never thought he would be able to attend Wittenberg. But after completing and then going to work in an unfulfilling job, Fugate had a revelation.

“I never want to have to drag myself out of bed in the morning to go to work in a factory again,” he said. “I do not want to mindlessly go through my day because there is nothing to challenge me mentally, and I do not ever want to feel like my brain is slowly dying from ignorance.”

He decided to attend Wittenberg and major in geology. Fugate hasn’t simply attended classes – he has excelled academically, attaining a 3.97 grade point with just one semester completed with less than a perfect 4.0. He was inducted into membership in Phi Beta Kappa, the oldest and most prestigious of the national honorary societies, which is an unusual honor for “non-traditional” students, and his next goal is to complete graduate school and eventually be called “Dr. Fugate.”

Commencement is the final day of an academic journey for SCE graduates, the culmination of years of determination, diligence and dedication. And for that, much applause is warranted.

Written By: Ryan Maurer
Photo By: Erin Pence

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