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 SRU to Award 475 Diplomas at Winter Commencement: Auntie Anne's Founder to Speak 




Contact: K.E. Schwab  -- 724-738-2199;  e-mail:


     SLIPPERY ROCK, Pa. –  When Slippery Rock University awards nearly 475 diplomas on Dec. 17 all of them will be special, but one will be extra special, the one going to Burnell Smucker whose aunt, Anne F. Beiler, founder of Auntie Anne’s Inc., franchisor of the world’s largest mall-based pretzel franchise, is the commencement speaker.

     Commencement will be held at 1:30 p.m. in Morrow Field House. Tickets are required and all graduating seniors and graduating master’s degree candidates may pick up, up to five tickets when ordering their cap and gown at the SGA Bookstore located in the University Union.

     SRU President Robert M. Smith will confer the degrees, and Eric L. Holmes, a 1993 SRU graduate and president of the SRU Alumni Association, will induct the graduates as new alumni members. Music will be provided by SRU faculty Dr. Stephen Hawk and Dr. Nanette Kaplan Solomon, with Darcie Bell, a music education major from East Brady, leading  the “SRU Alma Mater.” The SRU Women’s Quartet, including Ashley Richards of Harmony, Lisa Cifrulak of Jefferson Hills, Amanda Minor of Johnstown and Jessica Brown of Ridgway, will present “The Star-Spangled Banner.”

     Smucker, a health and physical education from Gap, suggested his aunt to the commencement planning committee and the idea quickly took hold. Beiler personifies SRU’s rock-solid values, including “purpose” and “people.” Like, SRU, Beiler is dedicated to community service and developing programs to meet daily challenges. Beiler has said she believes the success of Auntie Anne’s “comes from three Ps: purpose, plus product, plus people,” adding “With each ‘P’ working together, you can profit.”

     The Lancaster County native launched her successful business in 1988 by selling fresh-baked pretzels at a farmers’ market in Dowingtown. The company has grown to support more than 250 franchisees and their 850-plus locations worldwide. Auntie Anne’s generated more than $250 million in sales in 2004 and provided more than $1 million to charitable organizations. The company has now expanded into a line of frozen drinks, frozen custard and a line of casual dining restaurants.

     Beiler traces her success to her Amish-Mennonite upbringing where she was the third of eight children. As a youngster, she was introduced to entrepreneurship by baking cakes and pies her family sold at markets.

     Named one of America’s 500 women entrepreneurs by Working Woman and named “Entrepreneur of the Year” by Inc. Magazine, Beiler has been featured on the Food Network’s “Unwrapped” and has appeared on “Oprah.” She is often quoted for saying, “If you want to be great, serve those around you.” She has also served as commencement speaker at Elizabethtown College.

     She originally entered the business world as a way of helping her husband, Jonas, and his efforts toward opening a counseling center in their community. His dream of helping others was realized with the opening of the Gap Family Center. In other public appearances she has said, "My purpose focused on three things: to give, to treat people with respect and dignity, and to make sure my customers get fresh hot pretzels,” adding, in life, "I focused on what I had, not what I didn’t have." Earlier this year, the company was sold to a second cousin Sam Beiler who now serves as president and chief executive officer.

     A reception for graduates and their guests will follow in Weisenfluh Dining Hall.




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