Patricia Geis started taking classes at Penn State Altoona in 2005 at the young age of 73.
"As I got credits, someone said why not go for a degree," Geis said.
Geis, 82, was one of 280 students who graduated Saturday during Penn State Altoona's Commencement at the Jaffa Shrine Center.
Mirror photo by Gary M. Baranec
Andrew Weglein of Baltimore gives a hug to English professor Mary Ann Porbst Saturday morning during Penn State Altoona graduation ceremonies at the Jaffa Shrine Center.
Geis, who dropped out of Gallitzin High School at the age of 15 to get married, earned her associate degree in letters, arts and sciences.
Geis said she is not done with her education and plans to return to Penn State Altoona to take some additional classes and do volunteer work.
She has enjoyed her experience at the Ivyside campus.
"I like to hang out with the young people. It keeps me younger. I have 13 great-grandchildren and nine grandchildren, and they keep me going," Geis said. "I just enjoy going to school and the people."
Chancellor Lori Bechtel-Wherry said she was delighted to see Geis receive her degree.
"For many years, she's been a familiar face on our campus, and one can't help but admire her sticktuitiveness in completing her degree. As a member of our college community, she continues to be a model citizen who leads by example," Bechtel-Wherry said. "Her perspectives and life experiences enrich the classroom experience for everyone. Patricia epitomizes what Penn State Altoona is about: providing lifelong educational experiences for our learning community."
Former Altoona City Councilman Mark Geis said he is impressed by what his mother has accomplished.
"The whole family is so proud of her. In the last few years she really enjoyed it. It has been a big part of her life," Mark Geis said. "She has been well received by the people. It has give a lot of meaning to her life."
Bechtel-Wherry congratulated the graduates and wished them well in their future endeavors.
"I hope the lessons and time you spent here will serve you well. Learning is a lifelong process," Bechtel-Wherry said.
Commencement speaker Darren Miller, a 2005 Penn State graduate, told the graduates hard work, dedication and sacrifice are keys to success.
"We all have different definitions of success. If money drives you, you will never be successful at life. We should focus on our careers and be successful but also focus on our families and passions for life," Miller said. "Success should not be driven by what is in your pocketbook but by what you give back."
Miller, who has been a licensed financial advisor since 2006 with Federated Investors, Merrill Lynch, and is currently employed at PNC Bank in Murrysville, competed in swimming at Penn State Altoona for two years. He later became a distance runner and competed in the Boston and Pittsburgh Marathons.
On July 19, 2010, he swam the English Channel and over the next three years became the fourth swimmer in the world to complete the "Ocean's Seven" Challenge, and was the first in the world to complete it on all first attempts.
"I accomplished what I did because of hard work and perseverance. You can accomplish things if you just believe in yourself," Miller said. "We need to use our God given talents to make the world a more beautiful place."
Miller told the graduates failure is never an option.
He also said Penn State is much more than an institution: It is a family. He then repeated a well known quote from the late Joe Paterno - "Believe deep down in your heart you are destined to do great things."
"The opportunities we have and what we want to achieve are right in front of you. Go after every dream you want to achieve. America has enough sheep. It is time to wake up the lions," Miller said.
Mirror Staff Writer Walt Frank is at 946-7467.