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A Virtual Graduation to the Front Lines

The Joseph F. McCloskey School of Nursing at Lehigh Valley Health Network held a virtual graduation for its Class of 2020 graduates.


With very little “Pomp and Circumstance,” the Class of 2020 of the Joseph F. McCloskey School of Nursing at Lehigh Valley Health Network (LVHN) became graduates.

Certainly, it was one of the most unusual graduation ceremonies in the school’s 125-year history, as 34 students, their instructors, leaders from Lehigh Valley Hospital (LVH)–Schuylkill and LVHN, representatives of Penn State Schuylkill, as well as supporting family, friends and others, joined to celebrate the 123rd exercises of the school.

Typically held on the campus of Penn State University Schuylkill, this year’s commencement was billed as a virtual ceremony and was streamed live on Facebook. Graduates and others watched from the safe comfort and privacy of their own homes or other locations. Watch the recorded graduation video on Facebook.

Anya Essler, class president, recited the Nightingale pledge, a common practice often compared to the Hippocratic oath taken by physicians. The pledge is named for Florence Nightingale, who is considered the founder of modern nursing. Also acknowledged at the virtual event is that 2020 is designated as the International Year of the Nurse and the Midwife by the World Health Organization.

There was the traditional playing of Elgar’s “Pomp and Circumstance” and the national anthem to open the event. Individual photos of the students taken last week in front of the School of Nursing building served as the backdrop for diploma pictures. Instead of speakers presenting “live,” all messages were pre-recorded but played for the live audience watching on Facebook. Messages included an invocation from the hospital’s chaplain, greetings and welcoming remarks from LVHN Chief Academic Officer, Robert Barraco, MD, and LVH–Schuylkill President William “Bill” Reppy, MBA, and a congratulatory message from School of Nursing program director Melanie Bendinsky, MSN, RN. The school’s director, Lynne Hausman, MSN, RN, presided over the ceremonies.

“It was certainly unusual, but uplifting,” says Hausman of the ceremony. “This has been a challenging semester, but our students did well. In spite of COVID-19, they hung in there and learned new ways to communicate. In fact, it taught these nurses that they can persevere, no matter what life hands them. What an attribute that will be as they move forward.”

Sixteen of the 34 students will remain at an LVHN hospital facility, having accepted positions at LVH–Schuylkill, LVH–Hazleton, LVH–Muhlenberg and LVH–Cedar Crest.

The next phase is for students to sit for the National Council Licensure Examination (NCLEX). The Joseph F. McCloskey School of Nursing at LVHN boasts some of the highest pass rates for nursing graduates taking the NCLEX.

Since it was established in 1895, the Joseph F. McCloskey School of Nursing at LVHN has graduated nearly 2,500 nurses. The school continues to be the main supplier of registered nurses for Schuylkill County. It is named for retired Judge Joseph F. McCloskey who was a long-time member and Chairman of the Board of the hospital’s Board of Directors, a former President Judge of Schuylkill County Court of Common Pleas and Senior Judge for Pennsylvania Superior Court. He was a long-time advocate of nursing education and was instrumental in the survival of the former Pottsville Hospital School of Nursing. Upon his retirement from the Board, the school was named in his honor.

2020 graduates of Joseph F. McCloskey School of Nursing at LVHN:

Danj Andrewswith high honors; Barbara Zellner Memorial Award to the Graduating Nurse Who Clinically Excels in labor and delivery or nursery nursing.

Nicole Attingerwith high honors; Dr. Gabriel M. Lizak Memorial Award to the Salutatorian; Joseph F. McCloskey School of Nursing Alumni Association Award for Superior Skill in clinical nursing; Ellen Brennan, RN, Memorial Award to the graduate who has demonstrated excellence in critical care nursing.

Leigh Beachwith honors

Melissa BoernerLehigh Valley Hospital–Schuylkill S. Jackson Street OPEIU for Involvement in Community Activities.

Stacie Braywith honors

Jayda ByrneCertificate of Recognition to the student with notable aptitude, interest and skill in nursing of children.

Kaitlyn Calvertwith high honors; Lehigh Valley Home Care–Schuylkill Award for the student who excelled in home health nursing.

Kathleen Chapman

Jocelyn DarrupSchuylkill EMS Award for the student who demonstrated the most interest in pre-hospital patient.

Tina Delbowith honors

Anya Esslerwith honors

Kayla Hossler

Julia Jefferson

Marion Kemfort

Ellie Kintzel

Alison Kochwith high honors; Constance D’Allesandro Memorial Award to the graduate who has consistently demonstrated academic progress achievement.

Kirsten Kohr

Rachel Kulengoskywith honors

Brandi Lawtonwith high honors; Louise Warne Hildreth Memorial Award to the student who has shown sensitivity and caring in geriatric nursing.

Alexys Longwith honors

Kiara Moore

Brianna Picarelliwith honors

Laci Quickwith honors; Schuylkill County Society for Crippled Children Award for the student who excelled in rehabilitation nursing.

Samantha Riffonwith honors; Schuylkill County Medical Society Alliance Award to the graduate who is a resident of Schuylkill county, who possesses leadership skills and a willingness to learn and share knowledge with others.

Nicole Russell

Julia Shellhamerwith honors; Retired Nurses’ Award to the graduate who demonstrated excellence in Medical-Surgical nursing.

Marissa Slifkowith high honors; Joseph F. McCloskey School of Nursing Administration and Faculty Award for the student who excelled in patient teaching.

Sean Sloskey

Jordan Sypeck

Paige TamburelliCertificate of Recognition for proficiency and excellence in emergency nursing; Certificate of Recognition for proficiency in relating to psychiatric patients of all age groups.

Andrew Turliswith honors; The Robert DeColli III Critical Care Nursing Award presented by Dr. and Mrs. Robert DeColli.

Kelly Walinchuswith honors; Ethel M. Jones Ermert, R.N., Memorial Award for Obstetric Nursing; Schuylkill County Society for Crippled Children Award for the student who excelled in orthopedic nursing.

Aleksandra Williamswith high honors; Rae Ann Lubold Memorial Award to Valedictorian; Lehigh Valley Hospital–Schuylkill, Medical Staff Award to the Valedictorian; Dr. A. Wesley Hildreth Memorial Award for Superior Knowledge and Skill in Obstetrics; John and Anna Breitigan Memorial Award to the graduate who resides in either Pottsville or St. Clair, who possesses strong leadership skills and has maintained academic and clinical excellence; Pennsylvania State University Schuylkill Campus Award to the student having the highest average in PSU courses.

Sarah Wood

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