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 SRU prepares for largest commencement in 119-year history 



April 25, 2008
Contact: K.E. Schwab


SRU prepares for largest commencement in 119-year history


SLIPPERY ROCK, Pa. - More than 1,200 diplomas will be awarded May 10 when Slippery Rock University graduates its largest class ever in spring commencement ceremonies. Helen C. Sobehart, a 1972 SRU graduate and recently named president at Cardinal Stritch University, will be the speaker. 

           Undergraduate, master's and doctoral degree diplomas will be presented at 11 a.m. in N. Kerr Thompson Stadium. No tickets are required for the outdoor event. In event of rain, the ceremony will be moved to Morrow Field House and a remote video site will be available in the Robert N. Aebersold Student Recreation Center to handle overflow. 

           Sobehart, a lifelong educator, was named the first lay president of Cardinal Stritch, the largest of the 21 Franciscan universities in the U.S., earlier this year. She takes over the post July 1.

           Until then, she continues as associate provost/academic vice president at Duquesne University. She formerly directed the Duquesne University School of Education Leadership Institute and the Interdisciplinary Doctoral Program for Educational Leaders.  

           In the 1990s Sobehart was superintendent at Fox Chapel Area School District where all of her schools received National Blue Ribbon status. She was the district's only superintendent to have a scholarship created in her name.

           Sobehart earned her bachelor of arts in psychology/sociology at SRU, her masters of science in special education from Duquesne University and her doctor of arts degree in history from Carnegie-Mellon University. She is certified as a teacher, principal, special education supervisor and superintendent. 

           She has successfully written more than $2 million in grant proposals during her career. At Duquesne, she led the successful application process for the university's membership in the University Council for Educational Administration and attracted the 30th annual International Conference on the Improvement of University Teaching to the campus, only the third time in conference history it was conducted in the U.S.

           In 2008, Sobehart was awarded the national Dr. Effie Jones Humanitarian Award by the American Association of School Administrators. In 2002, she received the Gold Star Award for Special Achievement in Mentoring of School Leaders by the Pittsburgh Council on Public Education. She's received numerous awards for leadership, special needs and women's issues. Sobehart was appointed to the board of the Pennsylvania Leadership Development Center, to the Education Policy & Issues Center board of directors and was a Pittsburgh Chamber of Commerce Athena Award nominee. She was appointed by Governor Robert Casey to the Pennsylvania Advisory Panel for Special Education in 1990, re-appointed in 1994, and was a member of the United States Department of Education Joint Committee on Integration of Categorical Programs into the Regular Education System. 

                       In 1992, she was recognized by the Pennsylvania Senate for "her immeasurable contribution to educational progress." She has provided statewide professional leadership on school equity issues, co-president of the Association of School Districts in Support of Excellence and Equity, and served as a statewide Distinguished Educator in Delaware.

           Sobehart has served on the boards of directors of the Bradley Center for Children and Youth, the Teacher Excellence Program, the Homeless Children Emergency Fund, and Leadership Pittsburgh.  

           She chaired the first scholarly international conference on women in educational leadership in Rome during summer 2007. Her more recent state, national and international presentations include:  International Conference on University Teaching, University of Bern, Switzerland, and University of Vaxjo, Sweden; Conference on Women's Leadership Issues at the University of Augsburg, Germany; American Association of School Administrators; American Education Research Association; and the International Leadership Conference at Oxford University. 

           She has published nationally and internationally and has several entries in the new SAGE Encyclopedia of Educational Leadership.

           Candidates for degrees will be presented by SRU President Robert Smith. 

           Suzanne Vessella, chair of the SRU Council of Trustees, will welcome the graduates.

           Richard Manning, a 1975 graduate and president of the SRU Alumni Association, will induct the spring graduates into the association. 

           Eight SRU graduates and a graduating senior from Grove City College will be commissioned as second lieutenants at an 8 a.m. ceremony in the Advanced Technology and Science Hall. The cadets will take the oath of office at the commencement ceremonies. SRU's Army ROTC program is open to students at Grove City College.

           Music will be provided by the SRU Brass Quintet and the SRU Quartet

           A reception in the University Union immediately follows the ceremony. 


Slippery Rock University is Pennsylvania's premier public residential university. Slippery Rock University provides students with a comprehensive learning experience that intentionally combines academic instruction with enhanced educational and learning opportunities that make a positive difference in their lives.

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