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Notable Alumni Address WCU Graduates at Winter 2013 Commencements

From left to right: Cole Hamels, Heidi Hamels, President Greg Weisenstein

This year's winter commencement speakers brought their A games to the two ceremonies on Dec. 15: three-time Emmy winner and composer/arranger/musical director and keyboardist Bill Jolly '82 and Heidi Hamels M'07, co-founder of the Hamels Foundation (and wife of Phillies pitcher Cole Hamels).

Both Jolly and Hamels referred to the power of karma, telling the graduates that being kind and doing good things for others will help them achieve success.

Jolly told the morning graduates from the colleges of Arts & Sciences and Visual & Performing Arts that "Success is not just book smarts: It's also street smarts and common sense. … The process of learning doesn't stop here. It gets more intense. Learn to learn quickly."

He encouraged the graduates to open themselves to the differences among people, to accept others as part of the path to success in a diverse world.

He closed by telling the audience to "Take care of yourself physically, emotionally, spiritually. You can't catch your dreams from a hospital bed."

Hamels, whose husband, Cole, attended the afternoon ceremony with her, told the audience to overcome their fears and take calculated risks to become successful at their passions. "Happiness takes work. It's a consequence of your personal effort, your actions. Use all your talents to achieve it. … "If even one of you doesn't reach your potential, the world is less whole."

She advised students from the colleges of Business & Public Affairs; Education; and Health Sciences that "One good deed can shift the balance of this world so don't underestimate the value of your doing good."

Two President's Medallions for Service were also awarded to Richard B. Yoder '59 and Millie C. Cassidy.

Hollinger Field House renovations resulted in limited seating, so overflow seating with live streaming video was provided in Schmucker and Merion halls.

Bill Jolly '82

Morning Ceremony: Bill Jolly '82

Bill Jolly is a three-time Emmy Award-winning composer/arranger/musical director and keyboardist who's worked with a galaxy of stars including Celine Dion, Usher, Michael Bublé, Stevie Wonder, Aretha Franklin, and many others. He's been recognized twice in Keyboard Magazine and plays vibes, drums and bass guitar as well as piano. He has composed music for HBO, MTV, NBC, ABC, CBS, Showtime and Columbia Tri-Star.

He has also appeared in commercials and endorsements; directed the Emmy Awards and other special televised events; and has performed before four U.S. Presidents as well as both the Democratic and Republican National Conventions. Jolly received West Chester's Distinguished Alumni Award and also the WCU Drum Major for Justice Award.

Jolly was one of the 15 founding members selected to the National Recording Arts and Sciences Philadelphia Branch Board of Governors, which votes on the Grammy Awards winners.

Afternoon Ceremony: Heidi Hamels M'07

Heidi Strobel Hamels received her master's degree in secondary education at WCU. She and Cole married in 2006 and honeymooned in Africa, which inspired them to do something proactive to help the impoverished people – specifically the children – they encountered.

In 2008, the couple co-founded the Hamels Foundation, which uses the power of education – Heidi's specialty – to enrich the lives of children and give them tools to achieve their goals. It provides support for quality education in the United States and has completed the first phase of construction on a $3.5-million school in Malawi, Africa, where more than half a million children have been orphaned due to HIV/AIDS. Now that some classrooms and teacher housing (teachers will live at the school since most face 10-mile walks from home) are open, construction can begin on a library and sports fields. The entire project is expected to be complete by 2016.

In the United States, the Hamels Foundation supports low-income inner-city school systems through grants, which provide for construction, educational supplies, and provisions as well as scholarship opportunities. The Foundation's first grants were to Philadelphia schools and today total nearly $800,000.

Forbes Life magazine called the Foundation "an athlete's charity that actually works" (Sept. 23, 2013) because 100 percent of its funds are invested in Malawi and the places the Hamels have called home: Philadelphia, San Diego, and Springfield, Mo.

The couple has been recognized with the Sixers' "Heroes Among Us" award and a Humanitarian Award from the Philadelphia Sports Writers Association.

Master's Ceremony: Tom McCool M'67

Tom McCool was elected president of the National Association of Private Schools for Exceptional Children in January 2012. A long-standing member of the Autism Society, he is a founding commissioner of the National Commission on Accreditation of Special Education Services (NCASES), and a founding member and current vice chair of the National Association of Residential Providers for Adults with Autism (NARPAA). He had been president/CEO of Eden Autism Services since 2005. Following West Chester, McCool earned his doctorate in educational leadership from Fairleigh Dickinson University's Institute for Leadership Studies. From 1985 through 2005, he served in various capacities at Devereux, a national nonprofit organization serving persons with emotional, developmental and educational disabilities. He was executive director of Devereux California for 11 years and Devereux's national vice president of development and government relations for nine years. While in California, McCool was a gubernatorial appointee to the California Interagency Coordinating Council and served on the MIND Institute Advisory Board at the University of California, Davis. He was also elected vice chairman of the Philadelphia Irish Business Chamber Network (IABCN). He was named 2010 Innovator of the Year by the Princeton Regional Chamber of Commerce, and earned the New Jersey Firefighters' Mutual Benevolent Association 2012 Humanitarian Award.

President's Medallion for Service: Richard B. Yoder '59

Dick Yoder is a fixture in the West Chester community and on campus. He served two terms as mayor of West Chester Borough beginning in 2002 and has been perennially active in the West Chester Rotary Club and Sunrise Rotary Club. For 38 years, he served WCU, first as an assistant professor of physical education and a football and track coach for 17 years before chairing the Physical Education Department, becoming acting associate dean of the School of Health Sciences, and as director of athletics. He supports the University as a member of the Charles S. Swope Memorial Scholarship Foundation Board of Trustees, Russell Sturzebecker Foundation Board of Directors, and W. Glenn Killinger Football Foundation Executive Committee. As director of athletics in 1979, he was instrumental in relocating the Philadelphia Eagles to the West Chester campus for their summer football camp. He was inducted into three Halls of Fame: Killinger, Sturzebecker, and Chester County. Among his many honors, he received the West Chester University Distinguished Alumni Award and the Lifetime Achievement Award from the Greater West Chester Chamber of Commerce in 2009. He served in the U.S. Marine Corps and earned his master's degree from Villanova.

President's Medallion for Service: Millie C. Cassidy

In addition to nearly four decades of experience as a pension fund adviser specializing in real estate investments and in the development of residential communities, Millie Cassidy serves on the West Chester University Foundation Board of Trustees and the board's student housing committee, which she has chaired. She has played a key role in the development, financing and construction of the University's new student housing facilities.

She has supported numerous campus projects including the Madeleine Wing Adler Theatre, the Business and Public Affairs Center, and the Sandra F. Pritchard Mather Planetarium renovation.

Most importantly, Cassidy has been a regular and generous supporter of scholarships for students in financial need as well as those requiring additional academic assistance to ensure a successful college experience.

From 1975 to 1980, she was vice president of management and acquisitions for residential properties for the Envicon Corporation after which she became vice president of acquisitions, in charge of residential and commercial transactions, for Drexel Burnham & Company.

Cassidy joined New York City-based Sentinel Real Estate Corporation in 1982. She became the company's first female president in 2004, and has helped build Sentinel into one of the largest owners of apartment rental properties in America.

Council of Trustees Achievement Award: Charles Hardy

Charles Hardy is an oral historian, researcher, author and scholar who has creatively merged experimental media forms with humanities scholarship and education.

Early on, Hardy recognized the importance of keeping the recorded voice, focusing on human stories as an integral part of history rather than on transcripts. His Goin' North: Tales of the Great Migration radio series chronicled firsthand the personal journeys many African Americans made as they relocated from the South to Philadelphia, and his oral history essay-in-sound, I Can Almost See the Lights of Home: A Field Trip to Harlan County, Kentucky, has impacted the way scholars contemplate and present history.

A visionary leader, he has helped develop one of the most significant state history websites in the country,, which has brought a broad range of materials on the history of Pennsylvania to diverse audiences. This work has included development of a content management system with MATRIX, a digital humanities and social sciences center at Michigan State University that networks technologies.

Hardy came to WCU in 1990.