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Vernaci, Ruiz to Speak at In-Person Commencement Ceremonies

With extraordinary accomplishments in Northeast Ohio's nonprofit sector, Gina Vernaci, president and chief executive officer of Playhouse Square, and Victor A. Ruiz '99, executive director of Esperanza, will be the keynote speakers for the Baldwin Wallace Commencement ceremonies on Saturday, May 8* at George Finnie Stadium.

The three ceremonies - 9 a.m, 12:30 p.m. and 4 p.m. - will be in-person, outdoor events that follow health safety measures of mask-wearing, physical distancing, cleaning between ceremonies and limited guests. The ceremonies also will be live streamed.

headshots of BW 2021 Commencement Speakers Gina Vernaci and Victor A. RuizThe 9 a.m. ceremony celebrates individuals who graduated in spring and fall 2020 but who were unable to participate in an in-person commencement due to COVID-19 restrictions. Vernaci will be the guest speaker for the returning alumni and their guests.

Ruiz will address 2021 graduate and undergraduate students and guests at two ceremonies, which will be divided by colleges and schools. Business, education and health sciences will gather at 12:30 p.m., and arts & sciences and Conservatory of Music will follow at 4 p.m.

Celebration of Togetherness, Joy

The ceremonies will include the pageantry and tradition of a BW commencement, including regalia, individual conferring of degrees, processional and recessional.

"Commencement is always the pinnacle celebration of spring as we recognize the dedication, hard work and achievements of our students. This year is especially important because of where we have been as a campus and as a nation during the pandemic," said BW President Bob Helmer.

"For many alumni, Finnie Stadium was the place for BW Commencement before we moved all ceremonies indoors," he added. "To be there again is a fond reminder of our past, especially this year as we continue to celebrate 175 years of BW history."

Champion for the Arts

Vernaci's 37-year tenure with Playhouse Square is as dazzling as one of the many Tony Award-winning shows she helped bring to Cleveland over the years.

photo collage of 2020 BW graduatesIn her current role, she is responsible for all operations for the largest performing arts center in the U.S. outside of New York.

Among credits, she is the Road Vice Chair of the Broadway League and sits on the League's board of governors, executive and legislative committees.

She is past president and a member of the investment committee for the Independent Presenters Network and is the designer of a unified booking agreement for the Broadway industry.

Vernaci has a bachelor's degree in studio art from the University of Missouri - Kansas City and a master's degree in urban studies from Cleveland State University.

Leader who Transforms Ideas into Action

A flourishing nonprofit that advocates for the educational needs of Cleveland's Latinx community, Esperanza benefits from the dedication and leadership of Ruiz.

In 2015, the organization was named a Bright Spot in Education by the White House Initiative on Educational Excellence for Hispanics.

In addition to his role with Esperanza, Ruiz has served on several local boards and has been recognized as a Crain's Cleveland Power 150, one of the 500 most influential people by Cleveland Magazine and a Forty under Forty.

He earned his bachelor's degree in English from BW and a master's degree in education from Cleveland State University. In 2014, he was named a Baldwin Wallace Alumni Merit Award honoree, the highest recognition that can be bestowed upon a BW graduate.

 

* If inclement weather prevents ceremonies on May 8, ceremonies will move to Sunday, May 9, with the same time, locations and restrictions for each event. Ceremonies will only move to Sunday in the event of excessive rain and lightning. Light rain will allow ceremonies to continue. Notification of weather changes will be sent through email, social media and posted to the BW website.

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