Valparaiso University Academic Year Concludes with Commencement Ceremonies May 18–19

rot1More than 900 undergraduate, graduate and law students will participate in Valparaiso University’s May 2019 commencement ceremonies, capping a productive year marked by numerous accomplishments for the University, along with its students and faculty.

“As the academic year comes to a close, I am grateful for the commitment our students, faculty, and staff to fulfill the Valparaiso University’s mission to lead and serve,” said Mark A. Heckler, Ph.D. “Our community has celebrated many achievements this year, and I am humbled by the opportunity serve as president of a place known for the knowledge, character, integrity and wisdom of its graduates.”

Here’s a look back at highlights of Valparaiso University’s 2018–2019 academic year:


  • The academic year officially began with Opening Convocation and Taste of Valpo, welcoming nearly 850 freshmen and transfer students.
  • Valpo’s College of Engineering, ranked as one of the top 20 undergraduate engineering programs in the nation by U.S. News & World Report, will expand its degree offerings with the development of an environmental engineering major.


  • Valpo, along with 56 other colleges and universities nationwide, joined the #YouAreWelcomeHere national scholarship program, providing financial support for incoming international students.
  • Karl Schmitt, Ph.D., assistant professor of mathematics and statistics and director of Valpo’s data science program, and Ruth Wertz, Ph.D., assistant professor of general engineering, along with colleagues at Brown and Smith, received a $199,040 TRIPODS+X grant from the National Science Foundation (NSF). Valparaiso University will receive more than 50 percent of these funds and serve as the lead institution for the collaborative effort.
  • Fall exhibitions at the Brauer Museum of Art were highlighted by a collection of photographs by David Robert Austen covering nearly two decades spent in Australia.
  • Krista Stribling ’18 was named a Tau Beta Pi Laureate, one of just two students across the nation to be recognized in the association’s annual program.
  • Thais Carter, B.A., was appointed to the Bonnie and Peter Raquet Endowed Director’s Chair for the Institute for Leadership and Service.
  • Deaconess Kristin Lewis installed as Interim Campus Minister.
  • During Homecoming Weekend, the University dedicated a new facility for the physician assistant program and the Kempf Court at Hilltop Gym, held a ceremonial groundbreaking for a chapter facility for the Indiana Epsilon chapter of Phi Kappa Psi, and celebrated 50 years of Study Abroad at Valpo.


  • Randa J. Duvick, Ph.D., professor of foreign languages and literatures, was named Officer in the Order of French Academic Palms. The award, created by Napoleon I in 1808 and bestowed by the French government, honors those who have rendered services to French education, actively helping people around the world to better understand France and its heritage.
  • The inaugural cohort of physician assistant master’s students received their white coats, advancing from didactic learning to clinical training.


  • The Gamma Mu chapter of Order of Omega welcomed 25 new members. Order of Omega selects the top 3% of fraternity and sorority members who are of junior or senior standing and excel in academics, leadership, and service.
  • Conductor Jeffrey Scott Doebler, guest conductor and composer Johan de Meij, soprano Maura Janton Cock, the Valparaiso University Chamber Concert Band, Windiana Concert Band, and a massed choir of nearly 200 premiered “Symphony No. 5: Return to Middle Earth” by Johan de Meij. In addition, the concert featured a 30th anniversary performance of “Symphony No. 1: The Lord of the Rings” by Johan de Meij.
  • James D. Brodzinski, Ph.D., dean of the College of Business at Valparaiso University, was selected for a three-year term on the AACSB Continuous Improvement Review Committee.
  • Haiying He, Ph.D., and Luke Venstrom, ’07, Ph.D., were named the University Research Professors for the 2019–2020 academic year.
  • Professor Jeffrey Scott Doebler received the State of Indiana Office of the Governor’s Distinguished Hoosier Award.


  • The University announced a gift from Richard “Dick Beumer ’59 will be used to equip an environmental engineering lab for a new program within the College of Engineering.
  • Damia Garcia ’19, a Spanish and international economics and cultural affairs double major, received the Indiana Outstanding College Student Award by the Indiana Chapter of the American Association of Teachers of Spanish and Portuguese (AATSP).
  • Phyllis Buehner ’54 Duesenberg ’04H and Richard Duesenberg ’51, ’53 J.D., ’01H generously committed to establish the Phyllis and Richard Duesenberg Endowed Chair in French Language and Culture.
  • Jess Hunter-Bowman ’17 J.D., an alumnus of the Valparaiso University Law School, was one of 28 lawyers nationwide to receive a Skadden Fellowship.
  • Valpo announced that the College of Nursing and Health Professions will expand its degree offerings the development of an online, post-professional, occupational therapy, doctoral program, available to students in summer 2019.
  • Volleyball earned its first postseason wins in program history, reaching the NIVC Quarterfinals.
  • Associate Professor of History Heath Carter was honored with the Emerging Public Intellectual Award. The award fosters emerging talent in the Christian academy and recognizes excellent academic and public work.
  • Frederick Niedner, Th.D., senior research professor, served as keynote speaker for the Winter Commencement ceremony, during which 218 undergraduate, graduate, and law degrees were conferred.


  • Eddie S. Glaude Jr., Ph.D., served as Convocation speaker during the 30th annual Martin Luther King Jr. Celebration, built around the theme of “What Everybody Ought to Know.” During the celebration, Christina Crawley Hearne ’15, director of Valpo’s Access and Accommodations Resource Center, received the 2019 Martin Luther King Jr. Award.
  • Jackie Thomas ’09 Goebel, Wally Hanas ’84, Jeff Horton ’08, Taylor Root ’14 Lopez and posthumous inductee Wally Gilbert ’22 were inducted into the Valparaiso University Athletics Hall of Fame.
  • Trisha Mileham was appointed dean of the library, where she previously spent her time as dean of the library in an interim capacity.
  • The University announced its music department will expand its degree offerings with the development of a cutting-edge music therapy bachelor’s degree program that integrates the art of music with the science of healing. Pending approval from the American Music Therapy Association, the program is projected to begin in the fall of 2019.
  • The Welcome Project at Valparaiso University received a $100,000 grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH) Digital Projects for the Public initiative.
  • Forever Valpo: The Campaign for Our Future reached the $200 million milestone, thanks to the generosity of more than 21,500 donors.
  • Valparaiso University alumnus Michael “Mike” Gruszyk ’85 committed $1.3 million to fund an endowed professorship and a scholarship in College of Business. His gift will be divided between the Michael Gruszyk Endowed Professorship in Business and the Michael Gruszyk Endowed Scholarship Fund.
  • Valpo Men’s Basketball player, Markus Golder, takes the number 1 spot on ESPN SportsCenter’s Top 10 Plays.


  • TEDxValparaisoUniversity, Valpo’s fourth community-inspired TEDx event, focused on the theme “Moment[um].”
  • Sara Gundersen, Ph.D., Theresa Kessler, Ph.D., RN, ACNS-BC, CNE, and Julie Peller, Ph.D., received the 2019–2020 Wheat Ridge Ministries–O.P. Kretzmann Fund grants for Research in the Healing Arts and Sciences.
  • Valparaiso University’s overall endowment investment return of 10.7 percent in fiscal year 2018 was within the top 10 percent of participants in the 2018 NACUBO-TIAA Study of Endowments.
  • The Bach Institute at Valparaiso University performed Johann Sebastian Bach’s “St. Matthew Passion,” featuring the Chorale, Bach Choir, and Bach Orchestra, along with special guests the Fort Wayne Children’s Concert Treble Choir and the Leipzig Baroque Orchestra.
  • A $1 million gift from the estate of Valparaiso University alumnus William “Bill” Schlender ’41 has significantly boosted a scholarship fund he established in 2007.
  • Valparaiso University received an IRA charitable contribution from Rosemary and Chuck Newton ’61 to establish the Newton-Antonelli Endowed Scholarship Fund. The fund will provide scholarship assistance to students enrolled in the College of Engineering, with preference to those who are of the Lutheran faith.
  • Nathaniel Bouman ’19 and Jake Landgraf ’19 have been named to the prestigious Orr Fellowship, recognizing them as future business leaders of Indianapolis.
  • The University launched ValpoConnect, an online network that allows Valpo students to connect with alumni for career advice and for alumni to expand their professional networks.


  • Valpo’s Panhellenic Council unanimously voted to extend an expansion invitation to Alpha Gamma Delta Women’s Fraternity.
  • Landon Fox was hired as the 18th head coach in the history of the Valpo Football program.
  • The Valparaiso Panhellenic and Interfraternity Councils were recognized for excellence at the 2019 Association of Fraternal Leadership and Values conference. The Panhellenic Council received the Gamma Phi Beta College Impact Award for their work with the #OneValpo Promise in 2018, and the Interfraternity Council was recognized with the 2019 AFLV Jellison Award for their work with the #OneValpo Promise. Both councils were recognized for excellence in Programming and Accountability and received an Academic Achievement Award from Gamma Sigma Alpha Honorary.
  • The annual Jazz Fest featured local performers as well as Stefon Harris and Blackout and The Marco Villarreal Quartet.
  • Shahin Nudehi, Ph.D., P.E. associate professor of mechanical engineering and bioengineering, received the University’s Award for Excellence in Research and Creative Work for 2019
  • The Council for Accreditation of Counseling and Related Programs (CACREP) re-accredited the Graduate School’s clinical mental health and counseling (CMHC) program through March 2021. The program has maintained continuous accreditation since 2009.


  • More than 550 students participated in the University’s annual Dance Marathon, raising more than $72,000 for the Ann and Robert H. Lurie Children’s Hospital of Chicago.
  • The sixth-annual Day of Giving, Proud to be Valpo, brought together campus, alumni, and friends for a day of celebration and giving, raising nearly $730,000 from more than 1,700 donors.
  • The Brauer Museum of Art’s spring exhibitions featured original artwork by Valpo students in a juried exhibition.
  • Mark Budnik, Ph.D., the Paul H. Brandt Professor of Engineering and associate professor of electrical and computer engineering, was selected to receive the ASEE National Outstanding Teaching Medal.
  • Valpo’s College of Nursing and Health Professions celebrated 50 years of preparing health care providers for the world.
  • The Cresset, Valparaiso University’s journal of literature, the arts, and public affairs, received nine “Best of the Church Press” Awards.
  • The Union and Student Activities won the Association of College Unions International's award for the region for Best Collaborative Program with the Defamation Experience.
  • Valpo’s College of Engineering hosted the American Society of Civil Engineers Great Lakes Student Conference, welcoming students from 19 to compete in a set of civil engineering-based competitions.
  • Salena Anderson, Ph.D., associate professor of English and director of the Writing Center, and Tiffany Kolba, Ph.D., associate professor of mathematics and statistics, were selected as the 2019–2020 Valparaiso University Excellence in Teaching Award recipients.


  • 2017–2018 Valpo alumni achieved a 97 percent graduate placement rate, marking the 26th consecutive year of a placement rate above 90 percent.
  • Students in the Traditions in Giving and Serving in American Life course, led by Martin Buinicki, professor of English and Walter G. Friedrich Professor of American Literature, presented four checks to local nonprofit organizations, bringing the total dollars given away over the past 10 years to $95,500.
  • Randa J. Duvick, Ph.D., professor of foreign languages and literatures, received the American Association of Teachers of French’s 2019 Dorothy Ludwig Excellence in Teaching Award at the Post-Secondary Level.
  • Joshua Williams '20 and Mikayla Higgins '20 represented Valparaiso University at the 2019 Midwest College Chinese Speech Contest at Loyola University and placed third in their respective competitions.
  • Five graduating seniors and two recent alumni received Fulbright grants to study and teach abroad, and one student was selected as an alternate.
  • Jacob Roth ’20 was named a Goldwater Scholar, one of the oldest and most prestigious national scholarships in the natural sciences, engineering and mathematics in the United States.
  • The club men’s Ultimate Frisbee team advanced to the national tournament for the first time in program history.
  • The third Valpo New Play Festival featured staged readings of new work written by undergraduate playwrights.
  • Seven Valpo Athletics programs received the NCAA Public Recognition Award for outstanding academic performance.
  • On Saturday, May 18, and Sunday, May 19, Valparaiso University will celebrate the class of 2019 through three commencement ceremonies, conferring degrees upon 707 undergraduate, 155 graduate and 76 law students. The undergraduate keynote speaker is retired CEO of Thrivent Financial Bradford L. Hewitt, PMD.

The 2019–2020 academic year kicks off Aug. 20 with the University’s annual Opening Convocation and Taste of Valpo celebration.