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Lycoming College alumnus and influential Mexican governor to deliver commencement address

Lycoming College alumnus and influential Mexican governor to deliver commencement address

Rafael Moreno Valle

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Rafael Moreno Valle, the 38th governor of the Mexican state of Puebla, will deliver the keynote address at Lycoming’s 168th commencement on May 7.

Elected in 2010 for a six-year term, Moreno Valle ran on a platform of making improvements to Puebla’s health care system and infrastructure, expanding the state’s social programs, and strengthening its educational system by improving literacy and school performance at primary and secondary levels. His administration also successfully attracted foreign investment to Puebla, including a $1.3 billion investment from Audi to build the German automaker’s first production facility in the Americas.

“Governor Moreno Valle’s dedication and commitment to the citizens of his state have made him one of the most influential political figures in Mexico,” said Lycoming College President Kent C. Trachte. “His goal of improving the quality of life for the residents of Puebla exemplifies the ubiquitous spirit of service found across the Lycoming College family.”

Moreno Valle’s election as governor of Puebla was historic. As the candidate of a coalition known as Compromiso por Puebla, he was the first governor in 78 years not affiliated with the ruling Partido Revolucionario Institucional.

Moreno Valle began his career at the Dresdner Kleinwort Benson Bank where he served as assistant treasurer and vice president. In 1999, he was appointed Secretary of Finance and Social Development of the state of Puebla. In 2004, Moreno Valle was elected to the State Congress and served in the presiding role. From 2006 to 2010, he represented Puebla in the Senate of the Republic, chairing the Foreign Relations Committee on Non-Governmental Organizations and serving as vice-chair of the National Defense Committee.

Moreno Valle returned to Lycoming College in 2013 to discuss the challenges and successes of public service as the James W. Harding Executive Speaker.

Moreno Valle graduated magna cum laude from Lycoming College with a Bachelor of Arts degree in economics and political science in 1991 and was a member of the Phi Kappa Phi honor society. He earned his Juris Doctor from Boston University in 1994 and an MBA from the Harvard University Extension School in 1995. He will receive an honorary Doctor of Laws degree from Lycoming College during the commencement ceremony.

The college will recognize the unique contributions of two other Lycoming College alumni with honorary degrees: Marina Nikki Vernalis, D.O. ’73 for blazing new trails in cardiac medicine and for breaking gender barriers in the military and medical fields, and Jean R. (Alpert) Staiman ’47 for her contributions to the local community over a span of seven decades.

The college will confer an honorary Doctor of Science degree to Vernalis for her innovative approach to the practice of medicine for the U.S. Army, and to honor her service as the first woman medical resident, chief resident, and cardiovascular fellow at the National Naval Medical Center. A retired Army colonel, Vernalis currently serves as executive medical director for the Integrative Cardiac Health Project at the Walter Reed National Military Medical Center, and as the Cardiovascular Consultant to the Army Surgeon General — the first woman appointed to each of these two positions. She also served as a Cardiovascular Consultant to the White House Medical Unit and Office of the Attending Physician to Congress. As an active researcher, Vernalis has published more than 150 scientific manuscripts and abstracts. She has received several awards including the Association of Military Surgeons Paul Dudley White Award for worldwide cardiovascular leadership, American Heart Association Heart Hero Award. Her military awards include the Legion of Merit, two Meritorious Service Medals and other Army and Navy awards. In 2009, she received the Angela R. Kyte Outstanding Alumnus Award from Lycoming College.

The college will confer an honorary Doctor of Laws degree to Staiman for her dedication to the college as a member of its alumni association, and to the Williamsport community. Staiman has served on dozens of youth, family and health-related organizations, as well as the United Way and the Williamsport Symphony Orchestra. She also has been instrumental with the advancement of Jewish life locally and abroad through philanthropy and volunteerism, and has received numerous awards recognizing her life of service from scouting organizations, Rotary, and the First Community Foundation of Pennsylvania, among others.

Jonathan Gowin of Granville Summit, Pa., will speak on behalf of the senior class. A psychology major with an archaeology minor, Gowin is a member of Psi Chi, Gamma Sigma Alpha, and has been named to the Dean’s List all four years at Lycoming. He has been an active member of the campus community, having served as a resident assistant, orientation leader, and on student organizations. He is a member of the fencing club and is a Tau Kappa Epsilon brother.

Commencement will be held at 2 p.m. on The Quad. In the event of inclement weather, the ceremony will be held in the Keiper Recreation Center. More information about the event is available at:

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