TRENTON, N.J. – Thomas Edison State University will be reaching several firsts at its 44th Annual Commencement on Saturday, Sept. 24 at the Sun National Bank Center, where more than 550 graduates from 33 states as well as Canada and Puerto Rico are expected to attend to celebrate their academic achievements.
This year's ceremony is the institution's first commencement since it was granted university status in December 2015. At the event, the university will recognize its 50,000th graduate, Marcie C. Jannetti, of Lakewood, N.J., who received a Master of Science in Nursing degree in 2015. The school will also debut its new alma mater at the 44th Commencement, "Hail Our University," which was composed by Patrick Valentino.
The class of 2016 includes 3,059 graduates and approximately 555 of those graduates are expected to attend Saturday’s ceremony. The Honors Convocation for students who earned academic awards and are being inducted into an honor society is scheduled to begin at 10:30 a.m. The main Commencement ceremony is scheduled to begin at 2 p.m.
Ashley Pianko, of Kenilworth, N.J., is giving the response for graduates. Pianko, a 2016 recipient of a Master of Science in Nursing degree from the university, was born and raised in New Jersey and graduated from Trinitas School of Nursing with a Diploma in Nursing and from Union County College with an Associate in Science in May 2011. She went on to obtain a Bachelor of Science in Nursing degree from Thomas Edison State College in March 2013. Pianko works as a nurse educator at RWJ Barnabas Health Jersey City Medical Center, and is one of 15 students accepted into the university’s first cohort of the Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP) degree program beginning in October.
The university will award an honorary degree to Secretary Rochelle R. Hendricks, who was named the first secretary of Higher Education for the state of New Jersey in 2011. She has more than 20 years of experience working on complex education issues in the Garden State and engaged the Department of Higher Education in the national higher education reform agenda while advancing the blueprint for higher education reform as recommended by the Governor’s Higher Education Task Force. Hendricks graduated from Temple University, garnering the Emma Jean Johnson Scholarship for “outstanding potential in the field of education,” and Princeton Theological Seminary with the Edler Hawkins Prize for Academic Excellence. She is an alumna of Princeton University’s Graduate Teacher Program and Bryn Mawr University’s Institute for Women in Higher Education.
The university will also award an honorary degree to Professor Mandla S. Makhanya, principal and vice chancellor for the University of South Africa (UNISA). He leads one of the largest universities in the world and continues to make significant contributions serving the educational needs of adult learners.
Makhanya holds a BA and a BA (Hons) in sociology from the University of Fort Hare, a master’s degree in industrial sociology from the University of Natal (now the University of KwaZulu Natal), a PhD from the University of Pretoria and a DTE from UNISA. In 2007, the University of Athabasca in Canada conferred upon him a PhD (Honoris Causa) in recognition of his outstanding leadership at UNISA and his contribution as a distinguished scholar in distance education.
The university has awarded approximately 56,460 degrees to more than 50,000 graduates since it began providing flexible, high-quality, collegiate learning opportunities for self-directed adults in 1972.