On Saturday, April 30, Kellie Beach participated in one commencement ceremony while monitoring two others through the live feed on her mobile phone. The director of Student Services, registrar and ombudsperson for the University of Pittsburgh’s School of Health and Rehabilitation Sciences (SHRS), Beach officially started her day when she arrived at the Oakland campus at 7 a.m. to work through the final details with her staff and volunteers for the back-to-back SHRS commencements scheduled for 9:30 a.m. and 1:30 p.m.
Then she left Pittsburgh in time to join her family at the University of Pittsburgh at Greensburg and attend her daughter’s commencement, set for 10 a.m.
“It was hard to just hand it off,” said Beach of her responsibilities of planning and executing the commencements for approximately 200 undergraduates, 200 graduate students, 80 faculty, 40 staff volunteers, and up to 2,000 guests—a feat she has orchestrated for the past nine of her 10 years with Pitt. “Although it was very hard for me not to be there to oversee my ceremonies and wish the SHRS graduates congratulations, I know that I left them in good hands with my staff in Student Services and all of the volunteers who stepped up to make sure the ceremonies went off without a hitch.”
Like an air traffic controller, Beach makes sure all of the components are working together. “I construct the student invitations, stage party scripts, and duties, the student line-ups, and coordinate the staff volunteers. I also work with Pitt Facilities, Pitt Catering, audiovisual techs, photographers, venue staff, SHRS Marketing and Communications, and many more to pull it all together. Leading up to the event, my staff of two helps me to review everything and finalize all the details.” She added, “It’s hard for me to go to any graduation now and not notice all the details and think about all the hours and hard work that the staff put in to make this the best experience for everyone.”
When Beach realized that the SHRS commencements and the Pitt-Greensburg commencement were happening on the same day—in the same timeframe—she reached out to Sherra Moors, director of Conferencing at Pitt-Greensburg who coordinates commencement there.
“We commiserated a bit over how much goes into planning the events,” remembered Beach, who also asked about Pitt-Greensburg’s Legacy Diploma co-presentation, saying, “I don’t know if I can do this, but I’d love to be able to give my daughter her diploma.”
The Legacy Diploma co-presentations are unique to Pitt-Greensburg and allow alumni who are immediate family members to join their graduates on stage in order to co-present diplomas, with campus President Robert G. Gregerson, to their graduates. Immediate family members who are current faculty or staff of the University are also invited to participate in the co-presentation. It is an illustration that Pitt-Greensburg graduates join a very large “family” of alumni from the many schools and campuses that comprise the University system. This year, 21 families will participate in the Legacy Diploma co-presentations.
“I knew that I would not miss my daughter’s graduation for all the world,” said Beach who stood next to her daughter on the stage in Chambers Hall Gymnasium and hand her the diploma. “I thought I would be overcome with emotion as I feel that it is not only her accomplishment but my accomplishment of a goal that I set for myself 10 years ago—to help put three children through college.” Beach’s oldest son Evan graduated from the University of Pittsburgh at Johnstown and her son Jared graduated from Gannon University via a baseball scholarship.
Lindsay Beach agreed with her mom. “I think it’s really special that she was the one to hand me my diploma. She’s a big reason why I will graduate with no debt. She knows the hard work that I put in to get my degree, and she’s probably the biggest reason why I have done so well.”
An early childhood education major with a science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) endorsement, Lindsay graduated summa cum laude from Pitt-Greensburg. Earning her degree in early childhood education is the culmination of a childhood dream. “I knew that I wanted to be a teacher since I was seven,” said Lindsay. She finished her student teaching this semester and will continue working at a local private school this summer, something that she has done for the past three summers. While doing that, she’ll continue looking for a long-term substitute position or a full-time teaching position with a local school district. “I would love to teach first grade,” she said.
Lindsay arrived at Pitt-Greensburg four years ago after starting her freshman year at another regional Pitt campus. “I moved in as a freshman and stayed for a week. I realized that I wanted to be closer to home, so I moved back home and started at Pitt-Greensburg as a commuter [student].”
Beach remembers that first year at Pitt-Greensburg was hard, with Lindsay traveling an hour to and from campus from their home in Cecil Township, Washington County. By her sophomore year, Lindsay had formed strong friendships with other students and her professors, which made the decision to reside on campus easy.
“I’ve made really good friends during the past four years,” Lindsay said. “I like Pitt-Greensburg because it’s more inclusive. I was never a ‘big’ college person. If you want a school where you know your fellow students and your professors, Pitt-Greensburg is great for that.”
Rich Beach, Lindsay’s father and Beach’s husband, watched from the audience at the Pitt-Greensburg ceremony, as did Lindsay’s grandparents Jean and Chuck Young. “My husband has been a huge help in helping me pull off these graduation ceremonies each year, he would show up and help in any way he could when volunteers canceled at the last minutes, or bring everyone doughnuts, or just listen to me go through the run of the show multiple times,” said Beach. “I never thought when I started [at Pitt] that I would be in the position that I’m in, I only wanted a simple job and to receive the tuition benefit. As my children grew and reached their goals, I too, had opportunities to advance my career more than I ever thought I could.” Beach added, “I’m so proud to be the mom of three college graduates and to have had the opportunity to work with so many outstanding Pitt students as a small part of their college experience and graduation ceremony. On April 30th, I will be overjoyed to be able to hand my daughter her Pitt diploma.”
Susan M. Isola
Director of Media Relations
University of Pittsburgh at Greensburg
May 5, 2022