Newman University honors spring 2015 graduates at ceremonies, commencement

May 20, 2015

Newman University staged a number of ceremonies and special events May 15 and 16 to celebrate Spring 2015 graduation.

This year, two of the major events were moved to new venues to ensure adequate seating for graduates’ family members and friends who wanted to attend. The Baccalaureate Mass, which has traditionally been celebrated in St. John’s Chapel on the Newman campus, took place in the historic Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception. Commencement, which for many years has taken place in Central Community Church, was staged at Century II Convention Hall, 225 W. Douglas Ave.

The Commencement ceremony also featured the naming of the 2015 recipients of the Harvey J. Ablah Award and the Leona J. Ablah Award, Alex Beck and Amal Ullah, respectively.

Pinning Ceremonies
Several pinning and hooding ceremonies were held by various academic disciplines as part of the graduation festivities. The first event was the traditional Nurses’ Pinning ceremony, which took place at 4 p.m., Friday, May 15 in Performance Hall, inside the De Mattias Fine Arts Center on the Newman campus. During the event, Director of Nursing Teresa Vetter, M.S.N. placed nursing pins on graduate candidates’ lapels as a symbol of their completion of the Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) program. The ceremony also featured the Distinguished BSN Graduate Award, which was presented to Hanna Hein of Colwich, Kan. Click here for more information including the full list of BSN candidates and a photo of Hein.

Also on Friday from 4 to 6 p.m., the Newman School of Education Department of Graduate Education honored students who earned a master’s degree in education with a Graduate Education Hooding and Pinning Ceremony. The event, held in the Dugan-Gorges Conference Center, recognized the accomplishments of the more than 70 graduate education students who attended. For more information and photos of the event, visit

Students in the Occupational Therapy Assistant (OTA) program were also honored during the annual OTA Pinning ceremony, which took place from 2 to 3:30 p.m. Saturday, May 16 in Performance Hall, inside the De Mattias Fine Arts Center. The ceremony honors the completion of coursework for students in the program. Read about the OTA Pinning ceremony here. View photos from the OTA Pinning ceremony here.

Baccalaureate Mass and Commencement


The Spring 2015 Baccalaureate Mass took place at 7 p.m. Friday, May 15, in the Cathedral at 430 N. Broadway. The Mass drew many students, parents and friends, many of whom were seeing the beautifully remodeled Cathedral for the first time. The Mass was celebrated by the Most Rev. Carl A. Kemme, bishop of the Diocese of Wichita, and featured reflections by four Newman graduates on their experiences at the university. Baccalaureate was followed by a reception. To view the student reflections, visit the Newman Facebook page at, or visit the Newman University YouTube Channel.

Commence-1-72WebThe Spring 2015 Commencement ceremony featured the awarding of degrees to 22 candidates for associate’s degrees, 184 candidates for bachelor’s degrees, and 210 candidates for master’s degrees. The ceremony included an address by Newman University Associate Professor of the Humanities Kelly McFall, Ph.D. McFall received the 2014 Newman University Teaching Excellence Award, an annual recognition to a full-time faculty member who has demonstrated an innovative or dynamic approach to courses, course revisions, and teaching techniques. The award recipient also has the honor of speaking at the spring commencement ceremonies. Watch McFall’s address to Newman students at View the photos from the commencement ceremony at

Ablah Awards
A special feature at the Commencement ceremony was the naming of the 2015 recipients of the Harvey J. Ablah Award and the Leona J. Ablah Award. The awards are presented each year to a graduating male and a graduating female student who exemplify the mission and spirit of Newman University, and who show great promise to make a strong and positive contribution to society. For 2015, the Harvey J. Ablah Award went to Alex Beck of Wichita. The Leona J. Ablah Award was presented to Amal Ullah of Wichita.

The Ablah Awards were established by Fran and Geri (Ablah) Jabara to honor the memory of Geri’s parents Harvey J. and Leona J. Ablah, and to perpetuate their vision of entrepreneurism and the American dream. Award recipients must have completed at least 62 credit hours at Newman and graduate with a grade point average of 3.2 or higher. Each student receives a $2,500 award.

Alex Beck accepts the Harvey J. Ablah Award from Provost Michael Austin, Ph.D.
Alex Beck accepts the Harvey J. Ablah Award from Provost Michael Austin, Ph.D.

Beck, who graduates with a biology major and sports medicine minor, was selected in part for his active involvement both on- and off-campus. He served as a resident assistant, a student ambassador, a Campus Activities Board member, and a member of the Newman Medical Professions Club. Off-campus, he volunteered for such organizations as Big Brothers Big Sisters and the Lord’s Diner. He also is a weekly volunteer at a hospice.

Amal Ullah received the Leona J. Ablah Award.
Amal Ullah received the Leona J. Ablah Award.

Ullah, who earned a major in elementary education and a minor in art, was equally active during her time at Newman. She served on the Newman Mission Advisory Board, a Learning Task Force and as a member of the Teacher’s Club. She is an ASC Community Leader Scholar, and volunteered for a large number of events on campus. Off-campus she was a member of the Society of Islamic Sisterhood, where she volunteered at a local food bank, the Kansas Humane Society and other organizations. She has also volunteered for projects for the Envision Child Development Center, Big Brothers Big Sisters, the Islamic Circle of North America-Relief Aid Chapter, and the Lord’s Diner.

Honorary Degrees
The Commencement ceremony also included the awarding of a Doctor of Letters, honoris causa degree to Gene and Yolanda Camarena, and Newman Professor Emeritus (Biology) Surendra Singh, Ph.D. The university awards the honorary degrees to notable and accomplished members of the extended Newman community whose life and work reflect exemplary dedication to one of the university’s four Core Values: Catholic Identity, Culture of Service, Academic Excellence, and Global Perspective.

Gene and Yolanda Camarena exemplify the Newman University Core Value of Culture of Service through their work to support educational opportunities for Hispanic students. The Camarenas have actively supported educational opportunities for Hispanic youth for many years. They established the Adelante (Spanish for “moving forward”) Scholarship at Butler Community College in 2010 to help Hispanic students earn an associate’s degree. In 2011, the Camarenas extended the Adelante Scholarship to Butler Community College students who transfer to Newman University to complete a four-year degree. The Camarenas have also established the Camarena Adelante Foundation, which supports Hispanic scholarship programs nationwide.

Through his longtime service as teacher, mentor and program developer, Professor Emeritus Surendra Singh, Ph.D., exemplifies the Newman University Core Value of Academic Excellence. Singh is known and revered throughout the Newman University and Wichita health care communities for his many accomplishments, service to Newman students, and important contributions to the academic, scientific and health care education development at Newman. Over a teaching career that spanned 45 years – all at Newman University – Singh worked with colleagues to establish a highly respected Department of Biology, and provided leadership in the development and implementation of 10 degree programs at Newman in science and allied health, including radiologic technology, respiratory care, health care administration, occupational therapy and sonography.

Singh started the pre-med program at Newman, which since 1969 has consistently placed 90 percent or more of Newman pre-med students who applied into medical schools. Over the past 10 years, the rate has averaged more than 96 percent. Newman graduates regularly place well, also, in applications to other health care graduate programs such as chemistry, optometry and physical therapy.

The complete list of Spring 2015 graduates will be announced in the near future.

To read more about the Camarenas and Surendra Singh, click here.

In the week leading up to graduation, Newman students took part in Scholars Day. The event featured the results of student research on a wide variety of topics. Each student must complete a research project under the direction of a faculty member as part of the requirements to earn a bachelor’s degree at Newman University. Read more about Scholars Day here.