Relationships, courage, persistence, and lifelong learning are keys to success

AMTIS CEO Barbara Stankowski delivers Penn State Mont Alto Commencement address
Captain, U.S. Navy (Ret) Barbara Stankowski

Captain, U.S. Navy (Ret) Barbara Stankowski addresses Penn State Mont Alto graduates during the Commencement Ceremony on May 7. She is president and CEO of AMTIS, Inc.

Credit: Debra Collins

Penn State Mont Alto graduated 148 students and conferred 53 bachelor’s degrees and 96 associate degrees – one graduate received two degrees – during its commencement ceremony on May 7.

The Multipurpose Activities Center (MAC) was filled to capacity with family and friends of the graduates and the sun broke through rain clouds to shine on the crowd as it spilled out onto the MAC green following the ceremony.

Chancellor Francis Achampong charged the graduates with being engaged citizens. “Give back to your community, and help make this world a better place — one that is more humane and compassionate. If you do, you will make a difference in this world, and in so doing, Penn State Mont Alto would have lived out its vision of transforming lives; your lives, so that you can make a difference.”

The program included a welcome from Lance Kegerreis, chair of the Penn State Mont Alto Advisory Board, and the presentation of the 2016 Faculty Scholar Award to Jacob Moore, assistant professor of engineering by Michael Doncheski, chief academic officer. George Siehl, who received his diploma during the ceremony, welcomed the Class of 2016 as new members of the Penn State Alumni Society.

Commencement speaker -- Captain, U.S. Navy (Ret) Barbara Stankowski -- addressed the graduates. “Remember, the most important things,” she said. “It is all about relationships; have the courage to pursue your passion; be persistent, never, ever give up; and commit to your continuous lifelong learning. And remember that the future of your success was built here at Mont Alto.”

Stankowski is president and chief executive officer of AMTIS, Inc. and a 1970 Penn State graduate, who attended the Mont Alto campus before completing her degree at University Park.

She shared several experiences in her life when she mustered the courage to overcome fear and found success, including starting her first year at Penn State Mont Alto, joining the Navy, attending Women’s Officer Candidate School and then the Naval Postgraduate School — where she was one of eight women among 1,000 men.

“I thought, man, no way I can do this,” she said. “I might as well walk away now, but instead I worked really hard, survived and graduated.” This success led to a distinguished 28-year career in the U.S. Navy from which she retired in 1998.

Following her service in the Navy, Stankowski worked for several businesses as a training and education consultant and facilitator. At the age of 58, she started her own business, AMTIS, which provides the Department of Defense and their government agencies with information technology, professional management, and educational support services. The business has won several awards. Most recently, it was named “One of the Top 100 Businesses in the United Sates for 2015” by “Diversity Business.”

“Again, it was a frightening step,” she said but key relationships from individuals at Penn State, in the Navy and business helped get her business started. Today, her business is successful and has created jobs and careers for 170 people, according to Stankowski.

“Remember the foundation for your future success that was built here at Mont Alto, cherish those memories and come back and give back to Penn State Mont Alto so others may have the chance to start their journey here,” said Stankowski.

Stankowski holds a master of science degree in computer science from the Naval Postgraduate School and a bachelor of science in psychology from Penn State. She is also a graduate of the Joint Forces Staff College. She was inducted as a Penn State Alumni Fellow in 1996 and named a Penn State Mont Alto Distinguished Alumna in 2013.