With only three years behind its name, PTO University graduated 86 employees from both certificate and degree programs on June 10, 1997, in an outstanding commencement program. The Third Annual PTO University Graduation Ceremony was held in the Crystal Forum. Nearly 500 guests attended including officials from the partnering colleges and universities, co-workers, friends, and families of the graduates. In this milestone year, PTO University awarded the first undergraduate degrees and graduate-level certificates earned through this on-site learning program.
Lawrence J. Goffney, Jr., Deputy Assistant Secretary of Commerce and Deputy Commissioner for Patents and Trademarks, delivered greetings on behalf of Commissioner Bruce A. Lehman. Edward (Kaz) Kazenske, Deputy Assistant Commissioner for Patents, awarded each student a certificate of recognition from PTO. Those students who graduated from Northern Virginia Community College received additional credentials from Dr. Richard Ernst, president of the college. Dr. Roger Whitaker, Assistant Vice President of Academic Development and Continuing Education at George Washington University, presented the graduate certificates in the Management Information Systems Program.
Alethea Long-Green, Director of Human Resources, was the mistress of ceremonies while Gloria GuitiÃÂ©rrez, Administrator for Human Resources and Public Affairs, announced each graduate during the certificate and degree presentations. Philip G. Hampton, II, Assistant Commissioner for Trademarks, a staunch supporter of PTO-U since its inception, was present to see several of his proud employees receive their honors.
PTO's "mission to become a world-class organization," Long-Green said, "is realized through PTO University students' efforts to transfer classroom learning to workplace practices." Keynote speaker, Elizabeth Stroud, Director of Human Resource Management at the Department of Commerce, challenged the graduating employees to "continue to pave a clear and sturdy path for...coworkers, family, and friends so that they, too, can make learning an integral part of their lives." A particular highlight of the program was the message from graduate Cheryl Hardy. Hardy, who earned an Associate of Science in General Studies through PTO University, encouraged fellow students to define goals and to work hard. Her inspirational remarks showed the essence of commitment needed to achieve academic success.
PTO University students completed coursework in three different programs with two academic institutions. At the undergraduate level, 75 students earned the Career Studies Certificate in Business Information Technology. This core program is an introductory college curriculum that provides a basis for more advanced studies.