2017 Commencement Speaker

President of innovative educational organization to speak at Lycoming College’s commencement ceremony

Lycoming College is pleased to announce Mary Anne Schmitt-Carey, the president of Say Yes to Education, Inc., will be the keynote speaker at the College’s 169th commencement ceremony on May 13.

Mary Anne Schmitt-Carey

Mary Anne Schmitt-Carey

Founded in 1987, Say Yes to Education partners with communities around the goal of graduating all public school children and preparing them to succeed with earning a college degree or other postsecondary credential. Through the Say Yes citywide strategy, the national organization and its community partners work collaboratively to set milestones along the pathway to postsecondary readiness. They also provide the financial, educational and social services intended to eliminate predictable barriers to achievement, particularly for students from low-income backgrounds and others traditionally underrepresented on American college and university campuses.

Lycoming is one of 103 private colleges and universities in the Say Yes Higher Education Compact, which offer scholarships and support services to qualifying students from Say Yes communities.

“Mary Anne is deeply committed to the proposition that all students deserve the opportunity to learn, and has established herself as a leader in the educational reform movement in the United States,” said Kent C. Trachte, president of Lycoming College. “Her dedication to students is manifest in her leadership at Say Yes, and mirrors Lycoming’s nationally recognized commitment to expand college access and success.”

“I’m honored to have the opportunity to speak to the members of the Lycoming Class of 2017 and their families on such a special day,” Schmitt-Carey said. “Say Yes to Education values the partnership of Lycoming College, and of President Trachte, as we seek to blaze a pathway for young people in communities around the nation to achieve their hopes and dreams.”

In 2012, Schmitt-Carey was appointed to Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s Education Reform Commission, which was charged with making recommendations for boosting student achievement and for making education spending more efficient in New York State.

Before joining Say Yes, Schmitt-Carey was president and chief executive officer of New American Schools, which focused on building new infrastructure to provide hands-on support to urban schools. During her eleven years there, she helped the nonprofit grow from a pilot with 120 schools to the model for a national school improvement program called Comprehensive School Reform that touched 10,000 schools.

Schmitt-Carey began her career working for the presidential campaign of Michael Dukakis, followed by an eighteen-year stint in Washington, D.C. For several of those years, Schmitt-Carey worked for Secretary Richard Riley at the U.S. Department of Education as the Director of the Goals 2000 Community Project. During that time, she heard a common refrain from people within the public school systems: they needed more hands on deck, a retraining of teachers and principals, and a restructuring of school systems. That experience had a profound influence on her subsequent career choices.

She graduated magna cum laude from SUNY Albany with B.A. in political science and English, and later earned an MBA from the Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania. She will receive an honorary Doctor of Laws degree from Lycoming College during the commencement ceremony.

During commencement, the College will also recognize the Honorable Marie White Bell ’58 with an honorary Doctor of Laws degree. A Lycoming College alumna, White Bell retired from the bench in 2016 after an extraordinary career where she often broke through racial and gender barriers.

In 1988, Judge Bell became the first female and African American judge appointed to the Camden Municipal Court. In 1997, she was named to the Superior Court by Governor Christie Whitman and served with distinction until she reached mandatory retirement age in 2006. She was asked to return to the bench in 2008 and served in the family division until she reached the mandatory recall judge retirement age of 80 in 2016.

Judge Bell was also active in her community as councilwoman, deputy mayor and mayor. She was a trustee for the Burlington County Bar Association and Foundation, and a member of the Camden County Committee. White Bell has also served on the board of trustees for Lycoming College and as a member of the board of governors at Rutgers University. She has received numerous awards and accolades, including an Outstanding Citizen Award from the State of New Jersey in 1987.

Senior Sophie Herzing, of St. Marys, Pa., will speak on behalf of the senior class at the ceremony. A creative writing and painting major, she has made Dean’s List all four years at Lycoming and was named to the Mid-Atlantic Conference Academic Honor Roll when competing on the Women’s Tennis Team. She has been an active member of the campus community, having served on the Campus Activity Board, Student Senate, Dance Club, as a Tour Guide for Admissions and as editor of The Tributary. Sophie is also a member of Sigma Tau Delta, the English honor society; Omicron Delta Kappa, the leadership honor society; and Kappa Pi, the fine arts honor society.

Approximately 250 students are expected to be awarded their degrees at the ceremony, which will be held at 2 p.m. on The Fultz Quad. In the event of inclement weather, the ceremony will be held in the Keiper Recreation Center.