Contact: David Jwanier, media relations associate, 610-740-3790

For these Cedar Crest Graduates, Earning a Degree Was Far From a Sure Thing

Allentown, Pa. (May 13, 2010)—Cedar Crest College President Carmen Twillie Ambar will confer approximately 405 baccalaureate and graduate degrees during commencement exercises on campus this Saturday, May 15, at 11 a.m. Many of these grads have interesting stories to tell of overcoming challenges to reach this achievement, including:

Donna and Justine Klaassen of Allentown, a mother and daughter who are earning degrees in nursing and psychology, respectively. Justine began college at Lebanon Valley College in the fall of 2005 with high hopes of earning her bachelor’s degree in biopsychology. A few months later her mother Donna—a registered nurse—enrolled in the nursing program at Cedar Crest College to earn her bachelor’s degree.


After two years at Lebanon Valley College that yielded mediocre grades, Donna suggested that Justine move back home and try Cedar Crest College as a commuter student. Three years later, mom and daughter are just days away from earning nursing and psychology degrees, respectively, from Cedar Crest.

Michele Docchio of Barto, Pa., an adult student who overcame brain cancer in her 30s to return to the classroom and earn a degree in nutrition. Docchio had a successful career as an assistant chef, a loving husband and three-year-old daughter waiting for her at home, and was in the best shape of her life when one day, in the fall of 1999, she experienced a strange sensation that left her entire left side temporarily numb. Later, after additional health issues arose, doctors discovered she had a very large brain tumor. An innovative surgery to remove the tumor saved her life, but it didn’t do much for her psyche.

After extensive rehab and some time down time, Docchio’s husband suggested she either return to work, volunteer, or go to school. She opted to study nutrition and after much research, chose Cedar Crest College. She began taking courses in January 2003. “Cedar Crest College was basically my lifeline. It gave me a reason to re-engage in life, and I have never been around so many intelligent women,” she said.

Alexandra Edgington-Giordano of Montrose, Pa., who will earn her bachelor’s degree from Cedar Crest College in technical theatre and integrated art. Four years ago, forecasting such an achievement would’ve taken a great deal of faith. Back then, Edgington-Giordano was at another small college, partying too much and causing her type 1 diabetes to spiral out of control.

“I was a freshman and I just made one mistake after another,” she said. “My life just basically crumbled.” After landing in the hospital for a time and returning home to decide her future, she chose to make a fresh start at Cedar Crest College. This time, Edgington-Giordano said she felt immediate support the moment she stepped on campus.

Sally Wright of Orefield. When Sally Wright graduated from William Allen High School in Allentown in the late 1970s, the thought of going to college quickly faded as she got married and started a family digital imaging business. Three decades later, she’s not only graduating from Cedar Crest College this week, she’s doing so with her second bachelor’s degree in less than a year.

Last summer, Wright completed the nursing program at Cedar Crest and earned her degree. Nine months later, she is ready to collect another degree in art. The two degrees may seem worlds apart, but Wright insists they have more in common than meets the eye.

Commencement exercises will feature a keynote address from Suzanne Fisher Staples, a Cedar Crest graduate from the Class of 1967 and an award-winning author of novels for young adults. In addition, the College will bestow an honorary doctorate of humane letters in absentia to 1960 alumna Ruth Rohrbach Jurenko, a leader and humanitarian whose lifelong pursuits have benefitted women and children across the nation.

For information or to arrange an interview with one of the graduates, please call 610-740-3790 or 215-260-6504 (cell).


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Last Updated: 7/7/10