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Valparaiso University Academic Year Concludes With Commencement Ceremonies May 20–21

Spring commencement caps another exciting year for the Valparaiso University community as it continues its legacy in education, leadership, faith and service. The University along with its students and faculty marked achievements during the 2016–2017 academic year in the classroom and beyond.

“As our year comes to a close, I am grateful for the dedication and enthusiasm our students and faculty exhibit each day and for the many achievements our community has made this year,” said Mark A. Heckler, Ph.D., president.

Here’s a look back at highlights for Valparaiso University’s 2016–2017 academic year:


  • Move-In Day marked a 28-year high for undergraduate enrollment with 1,101 incoming students. Total enrollment for fall 2016 was 4,439 undergraduate, graduate and law students.
  • Thomas Albert (Tal) Howard, Ph.D., joined Valpo as Phyllis and Richard Duesenberg Chair in Christian Ethics.
  • Washington Monthly named Valparaiso University the No. 4 master’s university in the nation for contribution to the public good.


  • U.S. News and World Report ranked Valparaiso University No. 1 Best Value in the Midwest, No. 1 for Best Undergraduate Teaching in the Midwest and No. 4 Overall Best Regional University in the Midwest. Additionally, the College of Engineering was ranked No. 13 in the nation for best undergraduate engineering programs.
  • Valparaiso University publicly launched Forever Valpo: The Campaign for Our Future with a kickoff celebration featuring a concert by Barenaked Ladies. Forever Valpo is a $250 million endowment campaign focused on raising permanent support for student scholarships, faculty development and programs that prepare students for lives of leadership and service.
  • During Homecoming Weekend, Valpo blessed the Sorority Housing Complex, which has six townhouse-style units for 150 women and a carriage house for a full-time residential learning coordinator.
  • Valpo established the Karl and Shirley Kreft Endowed Fund for the LCMS Pastoral Ministry and Chapel Programs.


  • The second annual TEDxValparaisoUniversity focused on the theme “Dare to Build.”
  • Valpo alumnus Lesley “Les” K. Chapman ’77 committed $1.1 million to support the University’s unrestricted endowment fund, and alumna Deborah “Deb” A. Tschetter ’71 Spanrafft committed nearly $1.4 million in support of the College of Business. The University also received $1.8 million from the estate of Stephanie E. Umbach ’59, longtime assistant professor of library services, to establish the Umbach Family Endowed Scholarship Fund.
  • Valparaiso University was recognized on the President’s Higher Education Community Service Honor Roll with Distinction for general community service, education and economic opportunity.
  • Valpo’s Board of Directors entered into a new five-year contract with President Mark A. Heckler, Ph.D., which extends his term of office through June 30, 2021.


  • Nicholas Schromeck ’19 received the “Realizing the Dream” scholarship from the Independent Colleges of Indiana (ICI), an annual award for first-generation students.
  • Daniel Saros, Ph.D., and Julien Smith, Ph.D., were named University Research Professors for 2017–2018. The grant recognizes and encourages scholarly accomplishments.
  • Teshurah Lee ’18 was one of 150 worldwide selected for the prestigious “Chinese Bridge” Chinese Proficiency Competition held in China.
  • Valpo was named a 2017 Military Friendly School by Victory Media.
  • Nathaniel Griewe ’18 received a German Academic Exchange Service scholarship.
  • Valparaiso University and the NWI Coalition for Civil Discourse, which includes the Urban League of Northwest Indiana, Lakeshore Public Media, the City of Valparaiso, and the City of Gary, hosted a town hall forum aimed to foster civil conversations on race, justice, community and policing in Porter County and the surrounding communities.


  • On Dec. 2–3, more than 200 Valpo students performed in the annual Christmas Concert, participating in a more than 90-year tradition.
  • The annual Advent Christmas Vespers on Dec. 9 featured the Kantorei Choir and the Handbell Choir of the Chapel of the Resurrection.
  • Judge Christopher A. Nuechterlein ’73, ’76 J.D., delivered the December Commencement address.


  • Cornel West, Ph.D., served as keynote speaker for Valpo’s 27th annual Martin Luther King Jr. Celebration, focusing on the theme “Conscious Humanity: What is Justice?”
  • Valpo announced Karen Allen, RN, Ph.D., FAAN, will join its faculty as dean of the College of Nursing and Health Professions, effective July 3, 2017.
  • Valpo’s student chapter of the Association for Computing Machinery-Women was awarded a $3,000 start-up seed fund by the National Center for Women & Information Technology to help launch its chapter.


  • Actors From The London Stage returned for a weeklong residency during the fourth annual Shakespeare Week.
  • Lubos Barton ’02, Rod Moore ’68, ATC, LAT, and Angie Porché ’10 Rundh comprised the 20th class of the Valpo Athletics Hall of Fame.
  • The “BIG Dream Gathering” brought author and speaker Mitch Matthews to campus for an event that inspires people to think about their big dreams and ideas and discover how to make them a reality.


  • The Institute for Liturgical Studies at Valparaiso University named Jennifer Baker-Trinity ’99, MST, and Brian Johnson, M.Div., assistant vice president for mission and ministry, as co-directors of the Institute.
  • Valpo hosted Pulitzer Prize-winning photo journalist Scott Strazzante to campus for a public lecture.
  • Valpo alumni Judith “Judy” Rockett ’60 Beumer and Richard “Dick” Beumer ’59 committed $1 million to establish endowed funds in support of the University Writing Center and the College of Engineering.


  • Valpo’s second annual Dialogue and Discernment Event presented “Bring it to the Table,” a documentary film screening and discussion with Emmy-nominated director Julie Winokur.
  • The 32nd annual Jazz Fest featured headliners the Victor Wooten Trio with Dennis Chambers and Bob Franceschini, as well as CALJE (The Chicago Afro-Latin Jazz Ensemble).
  • 2015–2016 Valpo alumni achieved a 96 percent graduate placement rate, marking the 24th consecutive year of a placement rate above 90 percent.
  • Valpo announced the establishment of the Innovation Hub at McMillan Hall, an interdisciplinary center of entrepreneurship learning, supported by the estate of the late Deborah “Deb” A. Tschetter ’71 Spannraft and Stewart McMillan, who donated the building that will house the facility.
  • Theresa Kessler, Ph.D., RN, ACNS-BC, CNE, received the Valparaiso University Award for Excellence in Research and Creative Work for 2017.
  • Jennifer Bjornstad, Ph.D., Danielle Lavin-Loucks, Ph.D., and Kevin Ostoyich, Ph.D., received the 2017–2018 Valparaiso University Excellence in Teaching Award.
  • Panayiotis (Peter) Kanelos, Ph.D., who serves as dean of Christ College — The Honors College, will step down at the end of the 2016–2017 academic year to become the 24th president of St. John’s College in Annapolis, Md., the third oldest college in the United States.


  • Valparaiso University has received $1.4 million for Counseling Services from the estate of an alumnus who wished to remain anonymous. The gift will be used to establish an endowed fund, which will generate a perpetual source of support for Counseling Services programs and operations.
  • Six Valpo Athletics programs received NCAA Public Recognition Awards for outstanding academic performance.
  • The fourth annual Day of Giving, Proud to be Valpo, raised $723,077 — the most dollars raised to date — from more than 2,500 donors.
  • Valparaiso University announces that Nicholas E. Denysenko, Ph.D., will join its faculty as the Jochum Professor and Chair, effective Jan. 3, 2018.
  • The Institute for Leadership and Service at Valpo selected 20 current and graduating students for Calling and Purpose in Society (CAPS) Fellowships during summer 2017.
  • The May Commencement ceremonies on May 20–21 will celebrate the achievements of undergraduate, graduate and law students. Ken Hackett, who served as the 10th United States Ambassador to the Holy See, will serve as the undergraduate commencement speaker.

The 2017–2018 academic year kicks off Aug. 22 with the University’s annual Opening Convocation and Taste of Valpo celebration.