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More than 100 students will officially graduate from Gratz College during a virtual commencement program August 30. The virtual commencement program, the first in Gratz’s 125-year history, will honor the college’s 120th graduating class. Graduates, families, friends, alumni, donors and partners all are invited to be part of this historic occasion.
“This commencement will be a milestone in the history of Gratz College as it marks the 120th graduating class in its 125th anniversary year,” said Dr. Honour Moore, dean of the college. “This is also the first time commencement will be virtual, which allows the entire Gratz community to participate. We are an online school, so having a virtual commencement actually allows us to be more inclusive.”
Dr. Steve Piltch, school leadership program director at the University of Pennsylvania’s Graduate School of Education, will deliver the commencement address and receive an honorary doctorate from Gratz. Piltch served for 27 years as head of the Shipley School in Bryn Mawr, Pa., and successfully expanded the school’s diversity and accessibility, increasing the population of students of color from 6 percent to 27 percent over a 16-year period. In his commencement address, Piltch calls on Gratz graduates to respond to current events, including the COVID-19 pandemic, the associated economic crisis and the global fight for social justice that gained momentum after the deaths of George Floyd and Breonna Taylor. “When the pandemic hit, our worlds changed in ways we could never have anticipated,” he says. “It was almost as though it ripped off scabs and revealed scars to expose issues of inequality that had been there in almost every area of life, including but not limited to, healthcare, social justice, the economy, job security, and education.”
With a nod to Gratz’s mission of Tikkun Olam, or repairing the world through education, Piltch encourages all graduates to adopt this “ambitious goal.”
“Regardless of what you do for a living, who you are, or where you live, all of us must start with our families, move to friends, colleagues at work and then the world at large, acknowledging our own biases, pushing ourselves to learn and grow beyond them, and working to listen to all voices more and especially voices that American society has historically ignored,” he says. “We must hold ourselves and others accountable in a respectful and appropriate way for what we and they say and do. We must have those difficult discussions.”
Dr. Samantha Vinokor-Meinrath, who graduated with her EdD in Educational Leadership in August, will deliver the student address. Vinokor-Meinrath also will receive the L. Bernard Rabinowitz Memorial Award for demonstrating “unique leadership, commitment, and service to Jewish institutions, religious and secular.” Additional awards will be given to the following students: Judah Sussman, MA in Jewish Professional Studies, will receive the Rema Feinberg Award ;Philip Moore, EdD in Educational Leadership, will receive the Jonathan and Susan Rosenbaum Prize; Alexis Johnson-Sziy and Golda Retchkiman, both graduating from the MA in Holocaust and Genocide Studies program, will receive the Gratz College Award; Jennifer Wilson, MA in Holocaust and Genocide Studies, will receive the Samuel and Bessie Starr Memorial Prize. Finally, Maintenance Supervisor Ernest Collins will receive the Honorary Alumnus Award. Collins has worked at Gratz for 41 years.
The commencement program, recorded ahead of time, will stream online beginning at 6 p.m. EST on August 30. For more information, to register or to watch the commencement, visit https://www.gratz.edu/commencement2020