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York College Graduates More Than 200 During December Commencement Exercises

December 14, 2023
Dr. Burns speaking at Commencement.

More than 200 York College students crossed the stage to receive their diplomas at a Dec. 13 ceremony, where President Thomas Burns delivered his first commencement address. More than 180 students earned bachelor’s degrees, more than 50 earned graduate degrees, and several students received associate degrees. 

“Today is an extraordinary day where we have the chance to recognize faculty achievement and celebrate student success together,” Burns said as he welcomed the Class of 2023 and audience. “As your new president, I am humbled by your achievements and grateful to be part of the Spartan community.”

During his address, Burns shared the lifetime accomplishments of alumna Chloé Eichelberger, who passed away on December 2, 2023. “As I thought about what advice I should give, or what words of encouragement I might offer you, or what examples I thought would inspire our new Spartans, I decided I wanted to focus on an exemplary Spartan that I’ve learned about recently. 

“Today, I am going to use the life and achievements of a member of the Spartan community, Chloé Eichelberger, a Yorker, a 1954 graduate of York Junior College, and a trustee emerita who lived a life that was noble, grateful, and loving.”

Burns spoke of Eichelberger’s professional career, which began in 1955 as a laboratory technician with United Piece Dye Works. By 1980, she had climbed the corporate ladder and was one of seven company managers who offered to buy United Piece Dye Works from its parent company in France. She eventually became the vice president in charge of operations of the new company. In September of 1987, Eichelberger purchased the dyeing and finishing plant in Middletown, PA, from United and began her own company, Chloé Eichelberger Textiles, Inc. She then became a major supplier of finely finished fabrics for men's and women's wear as well as the home furnishings industry.

Chloé was the personification of the York College motto to serve is to live,” Burns said. 

Eichelberger was very involved and supported many events and charities in York and surrounding communities. She served on many boards, including the Federal Reserve Bank of Philadelphia, Susquehanna Bancshares, First Capital Bank of York, the York Water Company, York Foundation, York College of Pennsylvania, Pennsylvania Chamber of Commerce, Susquehanna Alliance, Capital Region Economic Development Corporation, Capital Region Chamber of Commerce, and Memorial Hospital. She was instrumental in the decision to build the new UPMC Memorial Hospital and subsequently served on the Board of Directors as a Charter Member. Additionally, Eichelberger served as president of the Out Door Country Club from 1987-1991 with the distinction of being the first and only female president in the Club's history to date. She also supported the York Symphony Orchestra and was also very instrumental in sponsoring and providing scholarships for teen girls and women through Distinguished Young Women of York County and Miss Pennsylvania.

“That’s all incredible, but what’s most impressive to me, though, is that Chloé did all of this with grace, patience, and passion,” Burns said. “Sure, she was driven and worked extremely hard, but she was known as a person who listened carefully, who gave thoughtful advice, and who always wanted to help others succeed. Chloé was a gift to those that knew her.

“I hope that each of you, as you venture out to represent yourself and the College, can think about this story when you need it most. You have the tools to do anything you want; our faculty have made sure of that. You have the talent to do anything you can dream . . . . I want you to become the best you that you can be.”

Political science graduate and first-generation student Jay Hynes, who will begin Juris Doctor studies at Widener University, opened their address by saying, “These past few years have been unprecedented, and I admire our hard work and dedication to persist through these challenging times.”

“For most of us, we began our college journey at the height of a global pandemic. Our freshman and sophomore years were remote and isolated,” they said. “It was a collective feeling that we had been robbed of our coming-of-age stories. Most of us never had a senior prom or a high school graduation. And now we were missing out on our college experience. Nevertheless, we persisted. We stand here today with our degrees in our hands, ready to end this small chapter of our lives and ready to begin the next phase.”

“Be passionate in your path, wherever it is you go, for passion makes work feel like a hobby rather than an obligation,” Hynes said to their classmates. “Be the change, be kind, and treat people with kindness as you navigate life after graduation.”

Dr. Gabe Cutrufello, recipient of the 2023 Presidential Faculty Award for Teaching and Mentoring Excellence, offered three points to the graduates. “When thinking back on your time at York College, I really want you to think about these three things . . . that you were somebody’s support group, that someone is here today because you helped them in some small way. 

“Think about what you really learned at York College. . . . I would say one of the biggest things you learned while at York is that you learned how to learn, you learned how to adapt, you learned how to meet new challenges. I think that that’s the most valuable thing.

“Most important, to get here today you had to make mistakes. In making those mistakes, that was an opportunity to learn, to grow in some way. We all make mistakes, but in making mistakes we find something new to learn, we find a new way to be in the world.”

Professor of Psychology Dr. Carla Strassle was presented with the 2023 Presidential Award in Faculty Scholarship and Professional Activity at the ceremony. Strassle is recognized within her field for her work on stigma reduction in mental health, inclusivity, and community-based learning in psychology. She authored numerous impactful peer-reviewed publications in selective journals including the Journal of Intellectual Disabilities, Behavioral Sciences and the Law, and the Journal of Teaching of Psychology.

Strassle shares her expertise and enthusiasm for academic inquiry in ways that meaningfully impact our students and community. Her scholarship is embedded in the design of signature assessments throughout the College’s Psychology curriculum. She also serves as a member of the York County Stepping Up Advisory Committee and the York County Crisis Intervention Team. She routinely delivers mental health professional learning, research reports, and pro-bono consulting for the National Alliance on Mental Illness, the York County Department of Adult Probation, and York County Human Services.