Father and son will receive Penn State degrees together

May 13, 2009

For many parents, watching their son or daughter graduate from college is one of the proudest moments of their lives. For Breinigsville resident Ira Lerner, that will certainly be the case as his son, Edward, receives his bachelor's degree from University Park. But to Ira, that moment will be even more special because he, too, will have just walked across the same stage to accept his own Penn State degree.

Ira Lerner and his son, Edward, decided that, instead of choosing one graduation over the other, both will receive their diplomas at Penn State Lehigh Valley's Commencement Ceremony this at 11 a.m. Saturday, May 16, in the West Garden in Fogelsville, Pa.

"My son could have chosen to attend his own commencement ceremony at University Park, but he is walking at Penn State Lehigh Valley as a gift to me," said Ira. "To share that moment with my son is the best graduation gift I could ask for."

Prior to attending Penn State Lehigh Valley, Ira, who had previously received an associate's degree, spent more than 30 years working for the same company. When the family made the move to the Lehigh Valley, Ira began looking for a job and soon realized that he might be at a disadvantage.

"When you work for the same company for that long, they know who you are and what your experience is, so the fact that I only had a two-year degree didn't make much difference," said Lerner. "In today's job market, things are different. I needed that key, the bachelor's degree, to open doors."

He pursued a degree designed for adult learners, Penn State Lehigh Valley's Organizational Leadership (OLEAD) program.

"It offered a flexible schedule that allowed me to take most of my courses online and the affordability was definitely a factor. Even better, I didn't have to take any calculus classes," joked Lerner. "I'm so glad I pursued this degree at Penn State Lehigh Valley. My experience was made even more positive by the dedication of my faculty adviser."

Edward, having taken the traditional high school-to-college path to obtain his degree in physics, understands why his dad made the decision to go back to school.

"I'm excited for my dad. I think he felt held back by not having his degree," said Edward. "Now he can go out and pursue his next career with more confidence."

Though their higher education experiences were much different, both father and son did find time occasionally to commiserate about college life. Edward is quick to note that, at University Park, there is a constant 'college' atmosphere, while dad Ira took most of his classes through his computer. Still, both feel that Penn State has prepared them to take their next steps as job seekers.

As for future plans, Edward hopes to find a job in green energy, with a special interest in solar panel technology, while Ira is focusing on finding meaningful work that serves others.

"I often joked with Edward that I was going to transfer to University Park and we could be roommates. I don't think he appreciated it very much," Ira said, laughing. "But these years that we spent going through the same university at the same time have provided us with memories that not many other fathers and sons can say they shared. And that is pretty cool."


  • Ira Lerner will celebrate his son's, and his own, Penn State graduation.

    IMAGE: Kate Morgan

(Media Contacts)

Last Updated November 18, 2010