Ripon, Modesto students receive top Commencement Awards

Students move their tassels and celebrate at the close of Friday’s commencement.Sean Newland, an Economics major from Ripon, and Jake Wheeler, a history major who emigrated from England to Modesto, received the top student awards during the first day of the 48th Annual California State University, Stanislaus Commencement ceremonies on Friday, May 30.

Highlighting the Saturday, May 31 Commencement was the presentation by CSU Stanislaus President Hamid Shirvani of an Honorary Degree of the Doctor of Humane Letters to Harry J. Pappas, the Modesto native who has established a network of television and radio stations all over the United States. Pappas is Chairman and Chief Executive Officer of Pappas Telecasting Companies, the largest privately held commercial television group in the United States.

Newland, who has balanced outstanding academic achievements with a number of student and community service activities, received the J. Burton Vasche Award which recognizes a student who displays the highest standards of leadership, cooperation, participation, service, and scholarship. The Lee Metzger Award for the University€™s highest academic achiever went to Wheeler who was cited for exceptional academic achievement, intellectual acumen, and his facility for critical analysis that has distinguished his undergraduate years at CSU Stanislaus. Both received their awards at the May 30 program.

Graduating magna cum laude, Newland has served as Chair of the University Student Union Board of Directors and a number of campus committees during the 2007-08 academic year while maintaining involvement in community service through his fraternity, working in the Tutoring Center, and as a childcare worker at Creative Alternatives in Turlock. He is also a member of the Economics Honor Society.

Wheeler, who attended high school in London before emigrating from England and graduating from East Berkeley High School, has commuted to the Bay Area to work as a photographer while earning his degree and supporting his family. He was named one of the History Department's Outstanding Undergraduates and plans to continue in the History graduate studies program this fall.

CSU Stanislaus awarded bachelor's and master's degrees to more than 2,100 students from its six colleges during the two programs.

Student speakers made the feature presentations at both programs. Jean deGrassi, a Communication Studies Degree recipient who is an administrative support coordinator at the University's Stockton Center and resumed her college studies five years ago, spoke on Friday. Saturday's student speaker was Elizabeth Hodge, an Operations Management major and Speech Communications minor from Turlock. Singing the national anthem and University alma mater were Music majors Marcio De Oliveira of Turlock on Friday and Lauren Hosmer of Modesto on Saturday.

On Saturday, President Shirvani honored retired Professor of Botany Dr. Steve Grillos with a Presidential Medal of Distinction for his 56 years of distinguished teaching and volunteer work. Grillos served as a full-time faculty member in the Department of Biological Sciences for 27 years and was named the University's Outstanding Professor in 1992-93 before he retired. He took on a voluntary teaching role after that and has taught a Biological Illustration class each semester while also helping to maintain Biological Sciences Department microscopic archives. Grillos also enjoys serving as an adviser to students.