The keynote speaker, a member of the class of 1973, will address more than 1,000 graduates at the 53rd annual ceremony on Thursday
Bucks County Community College will celebrate its 53rd annual commencement on Thursday, May 23, by welcoming alumnus Brian Delate, an actor, director and playwright, as commencement speaker. The ceremony begins at 6 p.m. in the gymnasium on the campus at 275 Swamp Road, Newtown.
Delate, a member of the college’s seventh graduating class of 1973, overcame being told he “just wasn’t college material” to earning two college degrees and becoming a successful actor, director and playwright. After serving in combat in Vietnam, Delate enrolled at Bucks, where professors helped him address a long-time reading problem, and he discovered his passion for acting.
“Bucks was the best thing that happened to me as far as making a transition from the war and into the world,” Delate said. “The teachers I had were terrific.”
He went on to Rider University, launched his stage and television acting career in New York City, and then moved to Hollywood for more movie and directing roles. He’s worked on such notable films as Jacknife, The Truman Show and The Shawshank Redemption.
The college will recognize Delate’s achievements by granting him an honorary Doctor of Public Service degree, to be presented by college president Dr. Stephanie Shanblatt and board of trustees chair Elizabeth Fineberg.
The class of 2019, which totals 1,051, will also hear from one of its own. Sylvia Salas was selected to address her classmates in recognition of her outstanding achievements.
Salas is graduating with an associate degree in psychology and plans to transfer to Chestnut Hill College in Philadelphia. A first-generation American from Levittown, Salas came to Bucks County after graduating from Bucks County Technical High School in Fairless Hills, and immediately became a leader on the Newtown Campus. She served as vice president of the Psychology Club, a Student Government officer, was active in two honor societies and volunteered as a Student Success Advocate, all while working and maintaining a 3.9 grade-point-average.
In addition, the Bucks County Community College Alumni Association will present its Alumni Achievement Awards during the ceremony to the following people: Lynne Kelleher (’81, realtor), President’s Distinguished Service Award; Erica J. Hellerstein (’14, occupational therapist, community healthcare outreach volunteer), Community Service Award; Jo Ciavaglia (’89, award-winning investigative reporter), Professional Achievement Award; and Donna Wilkoski (’80, director, financial aid), Centurion Award.
The ceremony will feature live music from the Bucks County Community College Madrigal Singers performing the national anthem and the college’s alma mater. In addition, Professor Jeff Baumeister will lead the Bucks Graduation Ensemble in performing his own jazzy arrangement of “Pomp and Circumstance.” Dr. Maureen McCreadie, a professor who is retiring after more than 40 years of service to Bucks, will serve as commencement marshal. McCreadie and two other retiring professors, Earl Arrowood and Linda Lynch-McKenna, will be named Professors Emeriti during the ceremony.