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Wayne State College Spring 2010 Commencement

Published Thursday, April 29th, 2010

Wayne State College held commencement for graduate students May 8, 2010, in the Willow Bowl.

Wayne State College held commencement for graduate students at 9:30 a.m. in Rice Auditorium and undergraduates at 2 p.m. May 8, 2010, in the Willow Bowl. A total of 429 degrees - 102 graduate degrees and 327 undergraduate degrees - were conferred at the ceremonies by Wayne State President Richard J. Collings. Congressman Jeff Fortenberry delivered the commencement address at the baccalaureate ceremony.

Graduate Invocation Speaker

Jessica Rachelle Helgren, daughter of Randy and the late Ava Helgren, delivered the graduate ceremony invocation. She graduated from Neligh-Oakdale Public Schools in 2004. While at Wayne State College for her undergraduate education, she served in several leadership roles including president of Theta Phi Alpha sorority, president of Greek Council, and Student Senate vice president. After graduating in August 2008 with a double major in sport management and mass communications, Helgren returned to WSC for her graduate education and took on a position as a graduate assistant. For two years, she taught classes while working on her master's degree in sport management. She served as the Theta Phi Alpha Northeast Nebraska Alumnae Association president and on the Chapter Advisory Board. Helgren is the new operations director of the Cox Classic golf tournament in Omaha. She enjoys being active and spending time with family and friends.

Graduate Commencement Speaker

Jeremy Francis, who received his master's degree in curriculum and instruction, delivered the graduate ceremony commencement address. He graduated from Midland College in Fremont, Neb., with a bachelor's degree in elementary education and was part of Wayne State's Fremont Learning Community. Francis teaches second grade at Hillrise Elementary in Elkhorn. He serves as part of the CORE team for developing, ordering for, and selecting staff for West Dodge Station Elementary in Elkhorn, which opened in the fall. Jeremy will be teaching second grade at West Dodge Station. Francis and his wife, Jill, both of Hooper, Neb., have two children, a son, Kayl, and a daughter, Keegan. Jeremy is the son of Wayne and Sharon Francis of Fremont.

Baccalaureate Invocation Speaker

Katherine Fitzgerald is the daughter of Mark and Jacqueline Fitzgerald of Norfolk, Neb. She is a double major in Spanish and speech communication with an emphasis in organizational leadership and public relations. While at Wayne State College, she has been involved as president of Lambda Pi Eta Communication Honor Society, president of Sigma Delta Pi Spanish Honor Society, member of Phi Kappa Phi, president of Navigators and a STRIDE tutor. She was a Neihardt Scholar and participated in the Honors Program. Fitzgerald studied abroad in Spain, was Homecoming queen and served on Student Senate for three years. After graduation, Kate began law school at the University of Nebraska.

Honored Retiring Faculty

Dr. Jay O'Leary came to Wayne State College 44 years ago in 1966, specializing in music and, specifically, woodwind instruments. He holds bachelor of music education and doctor of musical arts degrees from the University of Colorado. His master of music degree is from Boston University. He received the Wayne State Foundation Teaching Excellence Award in 1970. Before to coming to Wayne, he served as Associate Principal Clarinet and Soloist of the United States Army Field Band of Washington, D.C., during which time he played at the funeral of President John F. Kennedy and the later inauguration of Lyndon B. Johnson. O'Leary was Fine Arts division head at Wayne State for 20 years, and was the director of the Wayne State Summer Music Camp. He was Principal Oboe of the Sioux City Symphony for 40 years, and plays in the Sioux City Municipal Band and Siouxland All-America Band.

Dr. Linda Taber began her career as a Wayne State College professor in 1992. She earned her bachelor's degree in history at Penn State University in 1964, her master's degree in history at Rutgers University in 1966 and her doctorate in history at Stanford in 1983. She served as a visiting professor of history at the University of South Dakota and the University of Iowa before joining the Wayne State faculty full time. Taber taught Wayne State courses in World History, World Civilizations, Ethics and Values, Society and Gender, African History, the Renaissance and the Reformation, and Slavery in a Global Perspective. She noted in thoughts about her retirement that, "The college has undergone numerous changes in campus and curriculum, but some of the best things about teaching here have remained the same. Every semester I have had the opportunity to teach in fields that interest me, even when my interest took an unexpected turn into the history of slavery, ancient and modern. I appreciate the program flexibility which made it possible to develop and share new interests."

State National Bank Teaching Excellence Award

Dr. Doug Christensen, professor of biology, was presented with the State National Bank Teaching Excellence Award at the baccalaureate ceremony. This prestigious honor is awarded on the basis of rigorous standards that require a superior level of effective teaching. Christensen also was Wayne State's nominee for the Nebraska State College System George Rebensdorf Teaching Excellence Award. He began his career at Wayne State in 1998 after earning his bachelor of science and master of science degrees in Food Science and Technology and his Ph.D. in biological sciences from the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. Christensen's nomination materials for the award note his contributions to the Wayne State Life Science Department, such as challenging students to increase their critical thinking abilities and being instrumental in bringing undergraduate research opportunities to the college through a joint research program with the University of Nebraska Medical Center.

Alumni Achievement Award

George L. Shuck is the recipient of the 2010 Alumni Achievement Award. He enrolled at Wayne State in the fall of 1973 in the business school and completed his studies at Wayne State in 1976, graduating summa cum laude with a bachelor of science degree in business administration with a concentration in accounting and a minor in economics. While at Wayne State, Shuck was vice president of the Student Senate and was a member of the tennis team. After graduating from Wayne State, he attended the University of Kansas, graduating with a master of science degree in accounting in 1977.

Shuck began his career in public accounting with Arthur Andersen & Co. as a staff accountant in the auditing division in the company's Kansas City office in 1980. While at Arthur Andersen, Shuck's primary audit focus was on commercial business enterprises primarily in the manufacturing and retail sectors.

Shuck changed his career path from public accounting to private industry in 1985. He became chief financial officer for a computer hardware and software retailer in Kansas City. Another opportunity presented itself a year later and he became a shareholder and president of a T.J. Cinnamons franchise in Memphis, Tenn. Shuck temporarily relocated to Memphis and was actively involved in the entire business operations of the franchise.

After spending two years away from Kansas City, Shuck returned and joined Ferrellgas, Inc., a national propane retailer in Liberty, Mo., as manager of financial accounting and reporting. He was promoted to director of administration services in 1992. In this position, Shuck's responsibilities included the tax, audit and administrative services departments.

Shuck left Ferrellgas and became president and sole stockholder of a custom metal fabricating company in Kansas City in 1995. He sold the business in 2004 after receiving an offer from a local strategic competitor. Shuck assumed the position of vice president and chief financial officer of Clearwater Natural Resources in 2005 where he continues his employment today. Clearwater was founded in 2005 as a private MLP to acquire coal mining businesses in eastern Kentucky.

George and his wife, Deb, make their home in Kansas City, Missouri. They enjoy golf and supporting their alma maters (Deb is a graduate of Kansas State University). Shuck has been a Trustee of the Wayne State Foundation since 1993 and has hosted two Kansas City alumni reunions.

Baccalaureate Guest Speaker

U.S. Congressman Jeff Fortenberry delivered the commencement address at Wayne State's baccalaureate ceremony. Fortenberry was elected to the United States House of Representatives to serve Nebraska's First Congressional District in November 2004.

Congressman Fortenberry has an extensive background in economics and public policy. Prior to serving in Congress, he worked as a publishing industry executive in Lincoln, where he also served on the Lincoln City Council from 1997 to 2001. In Congress, Fortenberry serves on the House Foreign Affairs Committee with significant responsibilities for Middle Eastern affairs; the Agriculture Committee, where he helped write the House Farm Bill; and the Oversight and Government Reform Committee, with a focus on ensuring effective governmental operations.

He also has significant personal experience in small business, and early in his career he worked as a policy analyst for the United States Senate Subcommittee on Intergovernmental Relations. He earned a bachelor's degree in economics at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln and two master's degrees, one in public policy at Georgetown University, and the other from Franciscan University in Ohio.

He and his wife, Celeste, live in Lincoln and have five daughters.