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DPT Commencement celebrates future healers

Fifty-three graduate students received their Doctor of Physical Therapy degrees Sunday in a ceremony that recognized School of Health Sciences Dean Elizabeth Rogers, whose retirement in May will come 20 years after she arrived at Elon to help create the physical therapy program.

Elon University President Leo M. Lambert handed diplomas Sunday to each graduate of the Doctor of Physical Therapy program.

A new generation of physical therapists educated at Elon University graduated Sunday from the Doctor of Physical Therapy program in the final Commencement ceremony for a faculty member instrumental in creating the program two decades ago.

With hundreds of family and friends in attendance, the program included a Commencement address and student awards for research, clinical performance, service and overall achievement. 

The Dec. 13, 2015, afternoon ceremony in McCrary Theatre for the DPT program's 53 graduates also featured an acknowledgement and standing ovation for Elizabeth Rogers, dean of the School of Health Sciences, who has announced her retirement from Elon following the upcoming spring semester.

Rogers was recruited from Western University of Health Sciences to create Elon’s physical therapy program in 1996. Working in partnership with Alamance Regional Medical Center, she developed a program that enrolled its inaugural physical therapy class in 1998.

The Elon Master of Physical Therapy program received accreditation from the Commission on Accreditation in Physical Therapy Education two years later. The report included a rare commendation, stating "the curricular plan is unusually well developed and graduates are singularly equipped to join the physical therapy profession."

Elizabeth Rogers, dean of the School of Health Sciences at Elon University, will retire at the end of the 2016 spring semester.

As physical therapists began to take on more substantial roles in the direct care of patients, the profession recommended transition into doctoral-level education. In 2002, Rogers led Elon’s development of an innovative Doctor of Physical Therapy program integrating dynamic classroom instruction with an impressive number of hands-on clinical opportunities. The charter DPT class graduated in 2005.

Rogers was named the founding dean of Elon’s School of Health Sciences in April 2011, and a year later the school moved to the newly remodeled and custom-designed Gerald L. Francis Center on East Haggard Avenue. In expanding the scope of the School, she played a critical role in the development of Elon’s Physician Assistant Studies master's program, which enrolled its first class in January 2013.  

“Elon is extremely appreciative for the creative and extraordinary leadership Dean Rogers has provided to the university,” Elon Provost Steven House said at the Commencement program. ‘“Elizabeth, we wish you the very best in your retirement. I thank you for all you have done for your students, for your DPT program, and for Elon University. You should be proud of your accomplishments.”

Sunday’s ceremony also featured an address by Joshua Cleland, a professor in the Doctor of Physical Therapy Program at Franklin Pierce University in Concord, New Hampshire.

Joshua Cleland delivered the 2015 DPT Commencement address at Elon University on Dec. 13, 2015.

Cleland is a researcher and author on the effectiveness of manual physical therapy and exercise in the management of spine and extremities disorders. He has been recognized as the recipient of the Rothstein Golden Pen for Scientific Inquiry Award, the Rose Excellence in Research Award, the Eugene Michels New Investigator Award, and the Jack Walker Award, all prestigious awards from the American Physical Therapy Association.

But he wasn’t always the best student. Cleland told graduates of his early failures in college and taking time off from school to discover his passions, which would come to include physical therapy. Since then, he has committed to be an active member of his profession, and the best therapist he can be for those in his care.

“I am not saying go out and eliminate every challenge facing our profession. But do your part to facilitate change,” Cleland said. “I encourage each and every one of you to dig deep and figure out who you are going to be as a physical therapist. Trust yourself, not matter what anyone else thinks.”

University President Leo M. Lambert closed the program with a charge to graduates in which he told them to "hold your lamps high" as they "bring light to darkened places" with the core values an Elon education represents - a commitment to excellence that demands they challenge mediocrity, a passion for a life of learning, personal integrity that may mean taking an unpopular road at times, a respect for human difference, and an ethic of service.

“Both DPT and PA Studies are powerful examples of what can happen when engaged learning and compassionate care come together,” Lambert said. “Through your work, you will leave a lasting impact on the quality of health care in the communities into which you will venture.”

2015 DPT honorees:

Outstanding Research Award: Thomas James Willauer
Outstanding Clinical Performance Award: Richard Pine
Outstanding Service Award: Kimberly Anne Smith
Outstanding Student Award: Kristen Blair Riffanacht
Outstanding Clinical Instructor Award: Jessica Sheets, P.T., M.S.P.T., O.C.S.

Candidates for the Doctor of Physical Therapy degree:

Cassandra Michelle Abrahams
B.A., North Carolina State University

Camille Sarah Baliker
B.S., Clemson University
M.S., University of South Carolina

Alexander George Beker
B.H.S., University of Florida

Jonathan Michael Belk
B.A., The University of North Carolinaat Wilmington

Kendra Hentz Bernhard
B.A., Gettysburg College

Allan Christopher Buccola
B.M., The University of North Carolina at Greensboro

Jeffrey Andrew Chesson
B.S., Campbell University

Michael John Chiuminatto
B.S., University of Arkansas

Andrea Marie Christian
B.S., State University of New York at The College at Brockport

Paige Ellen Copeland
B.S., University of Dayton

Jacqueline D. Crosser
B.A., Loyola University Maryland

Lindsey Leigh Davis
B.S., The University of North Carolina at Greensboro

Mindy Jo Drewette
B.S., North Carolina State University

Stepheni Nichole Witherspoon Edwards
B.S., Coastal Carolina University

Sabrina Doreen Fogleman
B.S., Elon University

Amanda Marie Hoffmeyer
B.S., Calvin College

Jessica Brooke Holder
B.S., Elon University

Erica Michelle Jardine
B.S., The Ohio State University

Jamie Danielle Kuenze
B.S., The University of North Carolina at Charlotte

Ashley Lynn Kuzbary
B.S., Furman University

April Bianca Lammert
B.S., Alderson Broaddus College

Kristoffer Lee Leamon
B.S., Western Carolina University

Amy Kathryn McMillion
B.S., Campbell University

Victoria Marie Miller
B.S., The University of North Carolina at Greensboro

Jordan Marie Moore
B.S., Samford University

Christin Alecia Nelson
B.S., The University of North Carolina at Charlotte

Martie Badger Neuen
B.A., Liberty University

Jessica Christine Nowak
B.S., University of Georgia

Elizabeth Barbara O’Leary
B.S., University of New Hampshire

Caroline Elizabeth Ondrey
B.S., The University of Alabama

Ashley Denny Parr
B.S., The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill

Tiffany Hinesley Patterson
B.A., The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill

Ashley Elizabeth Pearsall
B.S., Meredith College

Nicholas Victor Pederzolli
B.S., The University of North Carolina at Wilmington

Richard Pine
B.S., Baylor University

Gabrielle Lynn Pulliam
B.S., Murray State University

Jesse Devine Reynolds
B.S., Averett University

Kristen Blair Riffanacht
B.S., University of Utah

Madeline Josse Royston
B.S., Elon University

John Thomas Salley III
B.S., Radford University

Abbey Anne Schallhorn
B.S., Oakland University

Adam R. Schessel
B.A., The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill

Ryan James Seibert
B.S., University of Southern Indiana

Wilson Meade Sheldon III
B.A., The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill

Heather Lynn Umberhocker Smith
B.S., The University of North Carolina at Wilmington

Kimberly Anne Smith
B.A., Walsh University

Darrin Ray Sorenson
B.S., Clemson University

Joanna Lynn Tyndall
B.S., Coker College

Sarah B. VanDyke
B.S., Bluefield College

Mackenzie Elizabeth Walley
B.S., Elon University

George Anthony Wentz
B.S., Elon University

Thomas James Willauer
B.A., The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill

Laura E. Wilson
B.S., The University of North Carolina at Wilmington

Eric Townsend,
12/14/2015 4:55 AM