Wayne State College

Wayne State College Spring 2024 Commencement

Published Wednesday, April 17th, 2024


The graduate ceremony will be at 10 a.m. May 4 followed by the undergraduate ceremony at 1:30 p.m.

Wayne State College will hold commencement ceremonies for graduate and undergraduate students on May 4 in the college’s historic Willow Bowl amphitheater. The graduate student ceremony will be at 10 a.m. and the undergraduate ceremony will be at 1:30 p.m. In case of inclement weather, the ceremonies will be held in Rice Auditorium.

Update as of May 3: The graduate ceremony will be held in Rice Auditorium due to early morning weather concerns. The undergraduate ceremony will be held in the Willow Bowl.

The ceremonies will be livestreamed at www.wsc.edu/watch-live.

Download the Spring 2024 Commencement Program (PDF)

A total of 569 degrees will be conferred by Wayne State President Marysz Rames. Those students receiving their degrees include 424 undergraduates and 145 graduate students. Graduate students are earning their degrees from the college’s Master of Science in Education, Master of Science in Organizational Management, Master of Interdisciplinary Studies, Master of Business Administration, Master’s in Counseling, and Education Specialist programs.

The graduate ceremony will feature an invocation by master’s candidate Wiryoka Angela Maria Monte of Willemstad, Curaçao; Carter “Cap” Peterson, a member of the Board of Trustees of the Nebraska State College System, will bring greetings from the board; and master’s candidate Preston James Davis of Mondamin, Iowa, will deliver graduation remarks.

Alan Bruflat

Dr. Alan Bruflat

The undergraduate ceremony will feature an invocation by bachelor’s candidate Leah Rebekah Bennett of Johannesburg, South Africa; Carter “Cap” Peterson, a member of the Board of Trustees of the Nebraska State College System, will bring greetings from the board; seven retiring faculty will be recognized; Dr. Alan Bruflat, professor of language and literature, will receive the State Nebraska Bank & Trust Teaching Excellence Award; and Calie Rabbass of Pender, Neb., will deliver the undergraduate address.

Of special note for the undergraduate ceremony, Leslie and Tim Bebee, longtime supporters of Wayne State College, will be awarded Honorary Doctorates of Humane Letters for their unwavering commitment to the college and community.


Wiryoka Angela Maria Monte, Invocation Speaker

Wiryoka Angela Maria Monte of Willemstad, Curaçao, will deliver the graduate ceremony invocation. She is graduating with a Master of Science in Organizational Management (MSOM) degree with a focus on Public Relations.

Monte was an honor student (Cum Laude) in her undergraduate studies at Wayne State. Throughout the time earning her bachelor’s degree, she was involved in international student organizations and the Black Student Association. She also has served as a WSC Ambassador for prospective international students from Curaçao.

Monte aspires to work in the field of public relations/communications as an advisor or consultant. She also plans to continue providing support to WSC prospective students from Curaçao by guiding them through the admissions process.


Preston James Davis, Commencement Speaker

Preston James Davis of Mondamin, Iowa, will deliver the graduate commencement address. He is graduating with a Master of Science in Organizational Management degree with a focus on Sport and Recreational Management.

Davis served as the graduate assistant coach for the Wayne State Track and Field and Cross Country teams. He earned his bachelor’s degree in Sport Management and Exercise Science from Wayne State in 2021, earning Honorable Mention honors. As an undergraduate, he was a member of the Northern Sun Intercollegiate Conference (NSIC) Team of Excellence (academics) and a track and field athlete representing the Wildcats on the NSIC podium on nine occasions.

Davis plans to move to Des Moines, Iowa, to work at Drake University to produce one of the world's largest track meets, the Drake Relays.

Davis shared that because of his education and experiences at Wayne State, he has been able to work major sporting events, such as the World Athletics Track and Field Championships in Eugene, Ore., in 2022, which was the first time the world championships were held in the U.S.; the 2021 U.S. Olympic Swim Trials in Omaha; the 2023 Waste Management Open (PGA) in Scottsdale, Ariz.; and 2 Super Bowls (LVII in Phoenix and LVIII in Vegas).

Davis’s brother, Patrick, also graduated from Wayne State, earning his Sport Management degree in 2020.


Leah Rebekah Bennett, Invocation Speaker

Leah Rebekah Bennett of Johannesburg, South Africa, will deliver the undergraduate invocation. She is graduating with a bachelor’s degree in Mass Communication/Digital Film Production and Theory.

Bennett maintained a 4.0 grade-point average during all of her time at Wayne State and was named to the Edward Jones Presidential Scholar Athlete Honor Roll. In addition to an athletic scholarship to play soccer for Wayne State, she also received the Carrigg Family Endowed Scholarship.

She competed in the film department screenwriting competition three semesters in a row, coming in first place twice and second once and earning the opportunity to produce her films. Her first film, titled “This is He”, is currently competing in film festivals globally and she plans to submit her other two films for competition as well.

In addition to her work with film production, Bennett played for the WSC women's soccer team; served as a staff writer for the Wayne Stater student newspaper in Fall 2023; and worked as a supervisor in the WSC Rec Center.

Bennett says that after graduation she plans to pursue a career in media production and creative design in Dallas, Texas. She said she plans to one day obtain her master of fine arts in screenwriting to later become a film professor, while producing her own films concerning important social themes like race, gender, and sexuality. She also plans to create her own foundation in South Africa, with the help of her family, to help girls like her achieve their dreams of studying abroad in the U.S., providing them with financial solutions and information on how to be successful in their pursuit as well as guidance on how they can use sport to fund their education.


Calie Rabbass, Commencement Speaker

Calie Rabbass of Pender, Neb., will deliver the undergraduate commencement address. She is graduating with a bachelor’s degree in Criminal Justice, with a minor in Pre-law.

Rabbass is a member of the Alpha Phi Sigma Criminal Justice Honor Society and Pi Gamma Mu International Honor Society for Social Sciences. She received the Rural Law Opportunities Program scholarship and the Presidential scholarship. She was on the Dean's List during all of the semesters that she was a student at Wayne State.

Rabbass served as a Freshman Representative for Student Senate. She has been a member of the Criminal Justice Association for two years, serving as vice president this year. She also helped created the club, Legal Minds, this year and served as vice president. She has been involved with Pi Gamma Mu for three semesters, serving as a vice president this year. She has also been a member of Rotaract this past year.

Rabbass will be attending the University of Nebraska College of Law this fall.


Tim and Leslie BebeeLeslie and Tim Bebee, Honorary Doctorate in Humane Letters

Mr. and Mrs. Tim and Leslie Bebee join exclusive Wayne State College company with Honorary Doctorate of Humane Letters degrees from Wayne State College. The Bebee family has been a powerful transformative force for the Wayne State College campus during the past four decades.

Tim and Leslie Bebee were married in 1979 and shortly after began their lifelong involvement with Wayne State College, following in the footsteps of Leslie’s parents, Dan and Jeanne Gardner.

Tim and Leslie have been WSC Heritage Society Members since 1993 and were inducted into the WSC Wildcat Athletic Hall of Fame in 2003 as contributors. Both personal funds and Gardner Foundation donations to the WSC campus totaling $11.5 million have redefined the campus. These funds have supported athletic and academic scholarships, the Greatest Needs fund, and capital projects. Currently, Tim and Leslie serve the Wayne State College Foundation as trustees.

Tim and Leslie have been heavily involved in the Wakefield and Wayne communities, both financially and in service as volunteers. The Little Red Hen Theater, Wakefield Public Schools, Wakefield Daycare Center, Wakefield Senior Center, Wakefield Gardner Public Library, Wakefield Balloon Days, the Wayne County Fair, and local car shows have benefitted from the Bebees’ generosity. Tim and Leslie owned and operated a Wakefield restaurant as well as the Wakefield Golf Course. They were named the Outstanding Wakefield Community Supporters in 2010. As members of the Salem Evangelical Lutheran Church, Tim and Leslie have held leadership roles (Tim serving on the Church Council) along with being Sunday School teachers. The Bebees have three children and eight grandchildren.

Tim began his adult employment career with Gibson’s Inc., working in Nebraska, Iowa, Texas, and Colorado and becoming the youngest manager in the company. He then began his work with M.G. Waldbaum and Michael Foods, a career that lasted 35 years, retiring as the VP of Live Production. He served on the Governors Advisory Board of Agriculture, was the president of the Nebraska Egg Council, and served on various committees of the United Egg Producers. Tim was the 1999 Poultry Person of the Year and was later inducted into the Nebraska Poultry Hall of Fame.

Tim is the current owner of Wayne Motors and Winning Finish.

Tim served 16 years on the Wakefield School Board (six years as president), Wakefield Public School Football Stadium Construction Project Committee, Gardner Foundation vice president, Wayne State College Athletic Advisory Committee, Sons of the American Legion, Wakefield Community Foundation, Teammate mentor, and president of the Lake Association.

Leslie was also employed at M.G. Waldbaum. Over the years, she has owned and operated several businesses in the state including a Columbus radio station, an Omaha women’s clothing boutique, and an Omaha tortilla-making factory. She has ownership in Pioneer Bank (MN) and serves on its board along with serving as the president of the Gardner Foundation.

Leslie is a member of the Wayne State Foundation Executive Committee and Wayne State Foundation Nominating Committee.  She served as Honorary Chair of the Wayne State Foundation Invest-Empower-Transform Scholarship Committee (2019-2023) and the Wayne State Foundation Centennial Campaign Co-Chair (2005-2010). Leslie served as a committee member on the Nebraska State College System Strategic Planning Committee (2019) and the Ron Holt Civic Engagement Award Review Committee (2014-2018). She was honored as a Distinguished Association Member of the Sioux City Art Center (2006-2007). She currently serves as the vice president of the Wakefield Community Foundation and has continued involvement with Wakefield Community Club, Lions Club, Teammates, Girl Scouts and Boy Scouts, Sioux City Art Center, American Legion Auxiliary, Wakefield Family Housing, American Red Cross, Wakefield Athletic Boosters, Wakefield Community Center Steering Committee, Citizens Advisory Board, and the Wakefield Humpty Dumpty Daycare Center.


Honored Retiring Faculty


Joann Bondhus

Dr. Joann Bondhus, Professor of Business and Economics

Dr. Joann Bondhus began her career at Wayne State in the fall of 1979. She earned her bachelor’s and MBA degrees from Colorado State University; her Juris Doctorate from the University of Colorado School of Law; and a Master of Laws (L.L.M.) in Taxation from the University of Denver College of Law.

She primarily taught in the areas of business law, legal environment of business, and federal income taxation of individuals and entities. She has served on many committees over the years. She chaired the Faculty Senate; the Rank Promotion, and Tenure committee, Professional Development Committee, and the Graduate Council. She has also been the longest serving member of the Institutional Review Board. She served as a sponsor for the Student Senate and Kappa Delta Gamma on campus. She also served as interim graduate dean for a year.

She is a member of Phi Kappa Phi Honorary. She is a licensed attorney and has been a member of the Academy of Legal Studies in Business and the ABA Section on Taxation. She has presented at numerous professional conferences.

“My greatest joy as a faculty member has been to witness and applaud the many successes of our students” Bondhus said.


Donovan ConleyDr. Donovan Conley, Professor of Exercise Science

Dr. Donovan Conley began teaching at Wayne State in 1992. He earned his bachelor’s and master’s degrees from Southern Illinois University at Carbondale and his Ph.D. in exercise science from the University of Georgia. Before coming to WSC, Conley worked at Truman State University as Director of Aquatics and he served on the faculty at the University of Georgia, where he taught courses in scuba diving and aquatics and later in exercise science.

During his tenure at Wayne State, Conley taught a variety of undergraduate and graduate courses in exercise science. He advised numerous graduate and undergraduate research projects that were subsequently presented at regional and national meetings and published in peer-reviewed journals. Conley also worked collaboratively with WSC students and faculty to prepare Quiz Bowl teams that represented WSC and the Northland Chapter American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM) at several national meetings and WSC students won the student Quiz Bowl at the national ACSM meeting held in Seattle in May 2009.

Conley holds Fellow status in the American College of Sports Medicine and has been actively involved in the Northland Chapter ACSM, serving as president, strategic planning chair, and director of development. He is also a member of the National Strength and Conditioning Association and Phi Kappa Phi Honor Society, and he is an ACSM Certified Exercise Physiologist. In addition to his teaching responsibilities at Wayne State, he served as department chair for Health, Human Performance and Sport and he served on several department and college committees to include Faculty Senate, Rank Promotion and Tenure, Graduate Council and General Education.

“It has been a labor of love teaching at Wayne State and working with students, faculty and staff. And it has been very gratifying to watch our students excel and succeed in a variety of careers supporting the notion that you can get anywhere from Wayne State,” Conley said.


Randa GardenDr. Randa Garden, Professor of Communication Arts

Dr. Randa Garden began teaching at Wayne State College in 1999. She earned her bachelor’s and master’s degrees from Wayne State and her Ph.D. at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln.

During her tenure at Wayne State, she taught courses in health communication, communication ethics, organizational communication, qualitative research design, and principles of human communication. She served on several committees as a faculty member at Wayne State: Rank, Promotion, and Tenure; Rural Law Opportunity Program (RLOP); and chair of General Education.

In addition to her teaching and committee responsibilities, she presented her scholarly research at several annual National Communication Association (NCA) conferences and Central State Communication Association (CSCA) conferences. Her research interests focus on qualitative narrative research, particularly in health and illness. She especially enjoys sharing the knowledge she has gained through her original research. She received the State Nebraska Bank and Trust Teaching Excellence Award at the WSC spring 2023 commencement ceremony.

“It has been a pleasure advising such fantastic students on their honors original research projects presented each semester at the Spring and Fall WSC Honor Colloquiums,” Garden said. “I have also enjoyed mentoring and preparing communication students each year to present their original qualitative research at the (CSCA) Undergraduate Honors Conferences and other regional communication conventions. My students are very excited when their papers are chosen for presentation, and many have shared with me that this experience was the ‘highlight’ of their time at Wayne State.”


Sharon GarvinDr. Sharon Garvin, Professor of Business and Economics

Dr. Sharon Garvin taught at Wayne State full-time from 1982 to 1986 and full-time from 2002 to 2024 with many part-time and interim teaching contracts between those two time periods.

She earned a B.S. in Business Administration - Accounting from Wayne State College in 1981, her master’s in Professional Accountancy from the University of South Dakota in 1982, and her Doctorate of Education degree from the University of South Dakota in 2005. She also earned a State of Nebraska Certified Public Accountant (CPA) Certificate (inactive).  

She taught many accounting classes in Wayne State’s Business Administration foundation, Accounting concentration, Public Accounting concentration, and MBA - Accounting focus programs.

She has served on WSC standing committees for Conn Library; Scholarship, Honors, and Financial Aid; Teaching and Learning Technology; and Rank, Promotion and Tenure. She has also served on the Business and Economics Department’s Scholarship Committee. At the state level, she served on the Education Advisory Committee to the Nebraska State Board of Public Accountancy.  

She has always been in a teacher position, working her way through rank promotions up to full professor. She was the recipient of the Outstanding Accounting Educator Award presented by the Nebraska Society of CPAs in 2009. She was named Outstanding Collegiate Teacher in 2013 by the Nebraska State Business Education Association. In 2015, the Student Senate recognized her as Wayne State’s Professor of the Year.  

“Teaching at Wayne State College has always been more of a calling to me than simply a job,” Garvin said. “I myself was fortunate enough to benefit from an excellent undergraduate education at WSC, and I have aspired to help students from our service region to build better futures for themselves through the knowledge they attain as well as the abilities and professionalism they develop during their time here.  It is my lasting hope that they too will ‘pay it forward’ by making a positive difference in the lives of those who come after us.”


Pam Langlie-WillersDr. Pamela Langlie-Willers, Professor of Family and Consumer Sciences

Dr. Pamela Langlie-Willers started her career at Wayne State in the fall of 2006. She earned her bachelor’s degree in Teaching and Learning: Early Childhood Education and Elementary Education at the University of North Dakota; her master’s degree in Teacher Leadership: Family Education at the University of Minnesota; and her Ph.D. in Teaching and Learning: Early Childhood Teacher Education at the University of North Dakota.

She taught early childhood and family studies courses at the undergraduate and the graduate level; guided students pursuing Early Childhood master’s degrees from the start of the program at Wayne State; advised the Early Childhood Association student group; served on Academic Policies and Graduate Council; and worked her way from assistant professor to associate professor and then full professor.

“It has been most rewarding to work with so very many wonderful class members over the years and to prepare them to be the next teachers of young children who have always held a foremost place in my heart,” Langlie-Willers said.