YSU presents honorary degrees at Spring Commencements May 5

Youngstown State University alumnus Brian J. Wolf, executive director of the Marion G. Resch Foundation, and Los Angeles musician and composer Bill Bodine will be awarded honorary degrees at YSU’s two Spring Commencement ceremonies, set for Saturday, May 5 at Beeghly Center on campus.

New graduates selected to serve as student speakers are Rachel Emerson of Leetonia, Ohio, and Ryan Portela of Little Ferry, N.J.

Wolf and Emerson will speak at the 9:30 a.m. ceremony, and degrees will be presented to graduates of the Williamson College of Business Administration, the Beeghly College of Education and the College of Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics.

Bodine and Portela will speak at the 2:30 p.m. ceremony, and graduates of the College of Creative Arts and Communication, the Bitonte College of Health and Human Services and the College of Liberal Arts and Social Sciences will receive their degrees.

Dave Law, professor of Accounting in the Lariccia School of Accounting and Finance, and Jake J. Protivnak, professor and chairperson of the Department of Counseling, School Psychology and Educational Leadership, have been chosen to serve as macebearers for the ceremonies.

Brian J. Wolf
Brian J. Wolf

Wolf had retired from a successful career as a teacher, coach and school administrator in 2001 when he was named executive director of the newly-created Marion G. Resch Foundation. The foundation, which partners with YSU and six other universities to provide need-based scholarships to students in Mahoning, Trumbull and Columbiana counties, has awarded more than $3 million in scholarships to YSU students. A Liberty Township resident, Wolf earned his undergraduate degree from the College of William and Mary and in 1972 was part of the first class to receive a Master’s of Science in Education from YSU. He will be presented an Honorary Doctor of Humane Letters.

Bill Bodine
Bill Bodine

Bodine began his musical career in Youngstown and is considered a co-founder of the Dana School of Music Jazz program. In 1994, he established a scholarship fund at YSU in honor of another musician recognized as a founding father of the program, the Tony Leonardi Jazz Scholarship Fund. Since relocating to Los Angeles in the 1970s, Bodine has become well known across the music community there as a producer, composer, arranger, bassist and trumpeter. His production company, Bill Bodine Music, has composed scores for more than 300 television commercials for clients such as Honda, McDonald’s, Nike, Gillette and Toyota. Still rooted to the Youngstown area, Bodine co-founded CreativeBridge Coalition, a non-profit that is bringing music programs to children across the region with special needs. He will receive an Honorary Doctor of Music.

Rachel Emerson
Rachel Emerson

Emerson, the daughter of Melanie and the late Dr. T. Scott Emerson, was homeschooled by her mother before enrolling at YSU. She will graduate with a baccalaureate in Middle Childhood Education with a concentration in Math and Science and a minor in Art. Emerson is employed as head varsity swim coach at Poland Seminary High School and has worked as a swim coach year-round for the past six years. She also developed and teaches an art program at the Youngstown YMCA and enjoys volunteer work at her church. She plans a career in education and would like to stay in the Mahoning Valley.

 

Ryan Portela
Ryan Portela

Portela is a non-traditional student, a second generation American and the first in his family to graduate from college. He enlisted in the Army after high school, serving in Afghanistan and Kuwait, and used his Post 9/11 GI-Bill funding to help pay for his education at YSU, also serving as a student employee at the Student Veterans Resource Center. Portela founded and served as an officer in the YSU Chapter of the John Quincy Adams Society, a foreign policy club. He was vice president and events coordinator for the Armed Forces Student Association and a member of the National Geography Honor Society, Gamma Theta Upsilon, the National Political Science Honor Society and Pi Sigma Alpha. He will graduate with bachelor’s degrees in Political Science and Geography and, after taking some time to travel, would like to pursue a PhD in Geopolitics.