ALLIANCE, Ohio – More than 520 graduate and undergraduate students participated in the University of Mount Union’s 172nd Commencement Ceremony held Saturday, May 12 in the Peterson Field House of the McPherson Academic and Athletic Complex.
“It’s pretty cool to be standing up here, because there really is no place like home.”
Those were the words of this year’s Commencement speaker, Susan (Pelini ’86) McGalla, former public company CEO and business owner.
McGalla spent 14 years with American Eagle Outfitters, Inc. She began as a merchandise buyer and advanced through the company to become the president and chief merchandising officer in 2003. She led the growth of the company from $300 million to $3 billion in revenue with industry leading profits and four brands. She has since served as the CEO of The Wet Seal, Inc., and most recently the vice president of business strategy for the Pittsburgh Steelers, until her departure in March 2018.
Her speech, titled “#BeYou,” was a reflection on the impact Mount Union had on her life and career, yet also a call for individuality to lead graduates of the Class of 2018 to success.
McGalla had plans to attend Southern Methodist University in Dallas, Texas, until a family emergency caused her to remain in the area. She emphatically spoke about how Mount Union welcomed her with open arms when she did not expect to spend her undergraduate career in Alliance, citing the University as a, “critical and somewhat unlikely pillar.”
She continued onto three main points she hoped the graduates would take away: passion, process and #BeYou.
“Fall in love where you go every day, the people you are with and with what you’re doing,” McGalla said. “Dreams and goals are critical to success, but being rigid to those goals will not get you anywhere. Be ready for the unexpected in your lives because there will be a lot of it.”
Being one of the few women in the NFL holding a vice president-level position meant McGalla had to make herself stand out, but she was defiant in not letting her gender define her.
“I do not have a glass ceiling story to tell,” she said. “But do not be afraid to stand alone or stand out differently to the world around you.”
Following McGalla’s address, Dr. Jeffrey Breese, vice president for academic affairs and dean of the university, began the presentation of the candidates for degrees.
Senior class president Emma Wilson ’18, a national security and foreign intelligence analysis and Spanish double major of Salem, Ohio, and graduate student representative Elise Baldarelli M ’18, a physician assistant studies student of Hermitage, Pennsylvania, also spoke to those sitting in the crowded Peterson Field House.
“Today, we not only leave with our diploma, but also a passport filled with stamps from the various activities that we have participated in and the challenges that we have overcome throughout our time at Mount,” Wilson said. “Although we all come from different areas of study, we all have one thing in common - our key to unlocking the world.”
“It’s funny how much of an impact a small town like Alliance, Ohio, with one busy road, can have on a person, and I believe all the graduates sitting here today can attest to that,” said Baldarelli.
Thomas Mason ’18, a biochemistry major of Alliance, and Stephen Dages ’18, a religious studies and school social work double major of Uniontown, Ohio, were also honored with the Heaton W. Harris and Corinne Harris Smith Prize and the Good Citizenship Award, respectively.