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West Chester University Honors Civil Rights Activist Posthumously

Bayard Rustin to be awarded Honorary Doctor of Public Service

May 8, 2014

picture of commencement program

WEST CHESTER, Pa. --- During its commencement ceremonies on Saturday, May 10, West Chester University is awarding an honorary doctor of public service, posthumously, to civil rights activist Bayard Rustin. Walter Naegle, Rustin’s partner from 1977 until Rustin’s death in 1987, will accept the degree during the University’s morning ceremonies, which begin at 10 a.m. in Farrell Stadium on S. New St.

Approximately 2,377 undergraduate and graduate students are expected to receive degrees on May 10, when students in the University’s five colleges participate in graduation ceremonies. Students in the College of Arts and Sciences and the College of Visual and Performing Arts will be awarded their degrees during a morning ceremony beginning at 10 a.m. Students in the Colleges of Business and Public Affairs, Education and Health Sciences will receive their degrees during afternoon ceremonies, starting at 3 p.m. Both ceremonies will take place in Farrell Stadium on S. New St.

Ceremonies for the University’s graduate students will take place on Monday, May 12 at 7 p.m. in Hollinger Field House on University Ave.

BAYARD RUSTIN, receiving an Honorary Doctor of Public Service, posthumously
A native of West Chester, Bayard Rustin was a key adviser to Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., and the primary organizer of the 1963 march on Washington. Rustin also helped to organize other pivotal civil rights events, such as the 1947 Freedom Ride, challenging racial segregation on interstate buses.

Rustin, whose grandmother was a Quaker, incorporated the pacifism of Quakerism and the nonviolent resistance taught by Mahatma Gandhi, which he witnessed while working with Gandhi’s movement in India. Called an “agitator for justice,” he was arrested several times for civil disobedience. Despite his many achievements, he was forced, at times, to serve behind the scenes for civil rights organizations because he was an openly gay man. In the latter part of his career, Rustin became an advocate on behalf of gay and lesbian causes. Last August, President Obama posthumously awarded him with the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the high civilian honor the United States bestows.

BRIGADIER GENERAL CAROL EGGERT, speaker at the undergraduate ceremonies
Speaking at both undergraduate ceremonies will be Brigadier General and 1987 West Chester alumna, Carol Eggert. The recipient of multiple military awards, including the Bronze Star, Purple Heart, Combat Action Badge and Meritorious Service Medal with 4 Oak Leaf Clusters, Eggert currently serves as assistant adjutant general of the Pennsylvania National Guard and as deputy commanding general for reserve affairs of the U.S. Army War College in Carlisle, Pa.

Prior to serving on the faculty at the U.S. Army War College, Eggert completed a 15-month deployment in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom as the liaison to the U.S. Embassy in Baghdad, responsible for integrating women’s programs of the State Department, the Iraqi Ministry and U.S. Forces in Iraq.

Other assignments in her career have included commander of the 3622nd Maintenance Company, commandant of the Pennsylvania National Guard Officer Candidate School and commander of the 328th Brigade Support Battalion. She also has participated in several overseas deployments in Germany, Italy, Nicaragua and Lithuania.

In addition to earning her bachelor’s degree from West Chester, Eggert received master’s degrees from Penn State and the U.S. Army War College, and is currently completing her Ph.D. in organizational leadership.

CLAUDIA HELLEBUSH, speaker at the graduate student ceremony
President and CEO of the United Way of Chester County Claudia Hellebush will be giving the commencement address at the University’s graduate student ceremonies. As CEO of the organization for the past ten years (and for eight years prior, as its vice president for operations, Hellebush directs and executes all phases of United Way fund development and distribution, community engagement, and public policy within public, private and voluntary sectors.

Under her leadership, Hellebush transitioned the United Way of Chester County as a fund raising operation to a full-service, community-development organization with services and initiatives in education, financial independence, and health. She was instrumental in the creation of the United Way Volunteer Center, Leadership Chester County, Early Education initiatives, and the United Way Financial Stability Center. From 2004 to 2007, she chaired the United Ways of the Delaware Valley, a consortium of 13 United Ways with combined fund raising of $110 million. A member of the University’s external advisory board for the master’s of public administration program, she also serves on the board of directors of Citadel Federal Credit Union.

In 2009, Hellebush received the March of Dimes’ woman of Achievement Award for Public Service.

Hellebush earned her undergraduate degree in psychology and a master of science degree in administration from West Chester.

MILLIE C. CASSIDY, recipient of the President’s Medallion for Service

In addition to nearly four decades of experience as a pension fund adviser specializing in real estate investments and in the development of residential communities, Millie Cassidy serves on the West Chester University Foundation Board of Trustees and the board's student housing committee, which she has chaired. She has played a key role in the development, financing and construction of the University's new student housing facilities.

She has supported numerous campus projects including the Madeleine Wing Adler Theatre, the Business and Public Affairs Center, and the Sandra F. Pritchard Mather Planetarium renovation.

Most important, Cassidy has been a regular and generous supporter of scholarships for students in financial need as well as those requiring additional academic assistance to ensure a successful college experience.

From 1975 to 1980, she was vice president of management and acquisitions for residential properties for the Envicon Corporation after which she became vice president of acquisitions, in charge of residential and commercial transactions, for Drexel Burnham & Company.

Cassidy joined New York City-based Sentinel Real Estate Corporation in 1982. She became the company's first female president in 2004, and has helped build Sentinel into one of the largest owners of apartment rental properties in America.

Cassidy joined New York City-based Sentinel Real Estate Corporation in 1982. She became the company's first female president in 2004, and has helped build Sentinel into one of the largest owners of apartment rental properties in America.

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