Villa Maria College will celebrate its 52nd commencement on Sunday, May 22, 2016. The ceremony, which begins at 1 p.m. and takes place in the auditorium, will award degrees to 78 students.
In addition to their diplomas, two students will receive the College’s highest awards. Lucy Norton, a graphic design major, will be awarded the Martin Wanamaker Spirit Award and Grace Gruarin, a graphic design major, will be awarded the Blessed Mary Angela Award for Students. The Peter and Elizabeth C. Tower Foundation was named the winner of The Founder’s Award and Natalie Barnhard, ’02, will receive The Villa Maria College Distinguished Alumni Award.
The Martin Wanamaker Spirit Award is given annually to a graduate who has distinguished themselves in promoting spirit on campus. A positive, friendly, and helpful person, Lucy Norton truly embodies the spirit of Villa Maria College. She is a hardworking student who excelled both inside and outside of the classroom. In addition to earning a 3.93 grade point average, Lucy served as an orientation leader, a student ambassador and as a volunteer in the after school program during her time at Villa. She is currently employed by Newbird, LLC in Buffalo, NY.
Named after the foundress of the Felician Sisters, the Blessed Mary Angela Award for Students is awarded annually at commencement to the most outstanding graduate of Villa Maria College. The award winner is selected by the president of the college and her cabinet, based on nominations from faculty and staff. Recipients should embody the mission and values of Villa Maria College, demonstrated through outstanding achievement in academics, leadership, and service to both the College and local community. An impressive resume of professional experience, including internships at Villa Maria, Block Club and Quinlan and Company, volunteer work at Villa Maria and Basilica of the National Shrine of Our Lady Fatima, coupled with a slew of awards and a cumulative grade point average of 3.88 made Grace Gruarin the perfect candidate for this award. She is now working as a graphic designer for The Mac Groups in Buffalo, NY.
The Founder’s Award is presented annually to a person or persons who have made an outstanding contribution to society and to Villa Maria College. The Peter and Elizabeth C. Tower Foundation is the 2016 recipient. The Foundation supports organizations that work to improve the lives of young people in the communities important to the Tower family, including Western New York. The Foundation’s Executive Director, Tracy Sawicki, will accept the award on behalf of the organization.
The Villa Maria College Distinguished Alumni Award is presented each year to an alumnus of Villa Maria College who has fulfilled a mission in life that exemplifies the principles on which the College was founded and who has distinguished himself/herself in career and community. This year’s recipient is Natalie Barnhard, a 2002 graduate. After a tragic accident left Natalie with sensory and motor paralysis, she devoted herself to assisting others who have suffered from spinal cord injuries. Natalie founded Wheels with Wings, a 503(c) non-profit organization that helps the injured obtain the assets that are critical to their recovery process. She is also the Great Lakes Regional Chapter Coordinator of the United Spinal Association and she is working to develop a unique recovery program for individuals managing neurological injuries or disease.
For more information on Villa Maria College, please visit villa.edu/commencement.