Ninety bachelor's, associate degrees conferred at New Kensington commencement

Chancellor Kevin Snider conferred degrees to 90 graduates May 4 at the 54th spring commencement exercises at Penn State New Kensington.

Ned Laubacher, executive vice president of the eastern corridor and chief executive officer for Allegheny Valley Hospital and Forbes Regional Hospital of the West Penn Allegheny Health System, delivered the commencement address, "Your Future is Seeking a Team Player."

Kerry Kelly, president of the Alle-Kiski Society, inducted the new alumni into the Penn State Alumni Association. Jordan Miller, president of the Student Government Association, addressed the graduates. Danielle Dortenzo, who received her bachelor of science in psychology degree at the exercises, sang the national anthem and the alma mater. 

Four undergraduate students were awarded degrees with highest distinction, high distinction and distinction, based on their cumulative grade-point averages. The graduate with highest distinction was Samantha L. Polons, who was awarded a bachelor’s degree in electro-mechanical engineering technology. Polons, a resident of Plum Borough, graduated in three years with a 3.99 GPA. Those with high distinction were Justin D. Brown, of Vandergrift, (bachelor of science, electro-mechanical engineering technology), Brian J. Ferraccio, of Apollo, (bachelor of science, psychology) and Shana L. Williams, of Apollo, (bachelor of arts, applied psychology).

Among the graduates were two adult learners: Pamela Jo Lang, of New Kensington, and Randall Frain, of Springdale. As youngsters, Lang and Frain were classmates at the former Ridge Avenue Junior High School in New Kensington. After Frain moved to Lower Burrell, the two went to different high schools and lost contact with each other. Marriage, children and grandchildren followed before they reunited in 2011 in the race, gender and employment course.

“Randall and I were in homeroom together for a few years because my maiden name was Ferma,” said Lang, who earned a bachelor’s degree in information sciences and technology. “When I saw him in my class two years ago, I remembered his name was Frain. We both remembered each other and shared information about our health, families, work and school experience at the campus.”

“We sat across from each other in homeroom and talked each morning,” recalled Frain, who holds a bachelor’s degree in organizational leadership. “When Pam sat down beside me in the employment course and said, ‘Hello, do I know you?’ my mind seemed to go into slow motion, and then I remembered her. Seeing Pam again is like pulling on your favorite sweater and going out the door on a cool, crisp, spring morning.”

Both returned to college to enhance their careers. Lang is the staff technician, and data management and precious metals coordinator at the Alcoa Technical Center in Upper Burrell, four miles from the campus. Her IST degree complements her job responsibilities. The IST major gives graduates a background in the core technical areas of networking, databases, programming and system integration.

Frain is looking to start a second career in management. He retired from the U.S. Postal Service and enrolled in the OLEAD program, which is geared to adult students and serves as a foundation of communication skills with strong attention to workplace-specific courses such as organizational leadership, industrial relations, employment relations and ethics. Frain finished at the top of his OLEAD senior class and was recognized in April at the annual Academic and Student Achievement Awards ceremony. He also earned a minor in labor and employer relations.

The Penn State New Kensington class of 2013 is a continuation of a tradition that began in 1960 with 28 men earning associate degrees. It has evolved into men and women receiving bachelor's and associate degrees. Since that inaugural class, more than 10,000 alumni have attended Penn State New Kensington and earned a Penn State degree.

For a list of graduates and photos, visit


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Last Updated May 09, 2013