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American Hero to Share Survival Story at Commencement

American Hero to Share Survival Story at Commencement

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I am delighted to announce that Captain Scott F. O'Grady, the Air Force fighter pilot who survived a six-day ordeal after being shot down over Bosnia, has accepted an invitation to speak at our 38th annual Commencement ceremony, Saturday, May 1. 
 Captain Scott O'Grady

O'GradyCaptain Scott O'Grady made headlines, inspired millions, and taught us about preparation, teamwork, and leadership after surviving a six-day, life-or-death ordeal.  Captain O'Grady was shot down over Bosnia while helping to enforce the NATO no-fly zone in an F-16. Alone, facing death, capture and the elements, he discovered within himself the spirit to go on and relied on the skills learned during a lifetime of preparing for the unthinkable. From Captain O’Grady’s compelling life-and-death story, he teaches audiences how to adapt, change and succeed even under the most daunting and trying of circumstances. Even while isolated behind enemy lines, Captain O’Grady remained a member of a carefully drilled team. In his address to the Class of 2010, he will describe the preparation, teamwork and leadership responsible for his survival and for his dramatic rescue by the U.S. Marines — qualities that are crucial to success in every facet of life in the real world. I am hopeful that the ingenuity and fortitude that kept him alive in hostile territory for six days will inspire our graduates to their own groundbreaking achievements.

He tells his incredible story in his book, Return with Honor, which spent six weeks on The New York Times best-seller list.  His courageous story has also been documented on the Discovery Channel presentation, "Behind Enemy Lines."  In addition, O'Grady has been featured on CNN’s "Voices of the Millennium," and "Then and Now," series that focus on the most influential personalities of the past 25 years.

Captain O'Grady earned a Bachelor of Science degree in aeronautics from Embry Riddle Aeronautical University in 1989 and was commissioned through the Air Force Reserve Officers Training Corp in April, 1989.  He received his master's degree from Dallas Theological Seminary in 2007, and was awarded an Honorary Doctorate in public service by the University of Portland in Oregon.  As a pilot, Captain O'Grady has accumulated more than 1,300 military flying hours including over 1,000 in the F-16. He now serves as a spokesperson for the Save Ellis Island campaign. 

Captain O'Grady will be joined on the platform by Abby Gearhart, speaking on behalf of the Class of 2010, and Jeffrey Burtner, representing the Student Government Association.   

Jeffrey N. Burtner (President, Student Government Association) 

BurtnerJeffrey Burtner, son of Jeff and Chari Burtner of Lower Burrell, is graduating with a Bachelor of Arts in political science (French minor), and an International Studies Certificate (Europe focus).  At this year's Academic Honors Convocation, he received the Joseph J. Rapoport Memorial Award and the Dr. Albert P. Vannucci International Studies Award.  Mr. Burtner is actively involved in Student Council on World Affairs, Concert Choir, and French Club, and was a founding member of Sigma Tau Gamma.  He is also a Student Tour Guide & Admissions Representative (STAR).  Next year, Jeffrey will be attending James Madison University at the Florence, Italy campus to earn a Master of Arts in political science – European Union policy studies with a focus on economic policy.

Abby Lee Gearhart (Class of 2010)

GearhartAbby Gearhart, daughter of Terry and Kim Gearhart of Elton, is an outstanding student-athlete who has achieved success both academically (as a double major in secondary mathematics education and applied mathematics) and as a member of the women's volleyball team.  In addition to serving as President of the Student-Athlete Advisory Committee, Ms. Gearhart is a Presidential Scholar and a member of Pi Lamda Theta.  She is actively involved in the Mountain Cat Maniacs, Education Club, Health and Wellness Committee, Fellowship of Christian Athletes, and Habitat for Humanity.  Abby was also one of the RealWorld Action Program's top-five outstanding students for the past two years.  She received the Faculty Senate Student-Athlete Award, the Stanton Chapman Crawford Memorial Award, and the Charles Kunkle Jr. Leadership Award at this year's Academic Honors Convocation.    Upon graduation, she plans to earn her MBA and pursue a career in collegiate athletics.

Our 38th Commencement ceremony will begin at 1:00 p.m., Saturday, May 1 in the Pitt-Johnstown Sports Center. 

Jem Spectar

Posted by Knipple, Robert on 4/15/2010 4:00:00 PM