Marshall announces spring commencement speaker

Marshall University will welcome two-time graduate and public relations senior executive Susan Hellems Lavenski as its keynote commencement speaker for graduation ceremonies scheduled for Saturday, May 11, at the Big Sandy Superstore Arena.

Lavenski, a native of Lewisburg who graduated with a bachelor’s degree in journalism and again with a master’s in political science, is chief executive officer and owner of Charles Ryan Associates (CRA), the state’s largest and oldest communications firm headquartered in West Virginia. The company also has offices in Virginia, Ohio and Pennsylvania.

A leader in issues management and strategic communications, Lavenski credits Marshall University’s W. Page Pitt School of Journalism and Mass Communications with providing her important tools for a successful career in the demanding world of public relations and advertising.  Her work has produced results that garnered state, regional and national coverage for her clients.

Beginning her career in the nonprofit world, Lavenski later spent a few years with a small agency in Clarksburg before moving to Charles Ryan Associates in 1998. She has been with the firm since, advancing from senior account executive to vice president and then to CEO.

Lavenski was inducted into Marshall’s school of journalism’s hall of fame in 2017 and the same year was recognized as a "Who’s Who in West Virginia Business" by The State Journal.  She was also named a recipient of the West Virginia Executive 2018 Sharp Shooters Award.  Lavenski serves as a board member for numerous organizations and is active across the state in a variety of professional activities.

Marshall’s May commencement ceremonies will be organized differently than in years past in an effort to streamline the day’s activities. Both morning and afternoon ceremonies will feature degree conferral at the bachelor’s, master’s, and doctoral levels, but will be divided by college.

The schedule is as follows:

9 a.m. Ceremony

Lewis College of Business Undergraduate and Graduate Students

Doctor of Management Practice and Nurse Anesthesia

College of Education and Professional Development Undergraduate and Graduate Students

Doctor of Education

College of Science Undergraduate and Graduate Students

Biomedical Sciences Graduate Students

College of Engineering and Computer Sciences Undergraduate and Graduate Students


2 p.m. Ceremony

College of Health Professions Undergraduate and Graduate Students

Doctor of Physical Therapy

College of Liberal Arts Undergraduate and Graduate Students

College of Arts and Media Undergraduate and Graduate Students

Regents Bachelor of Arts Undergraduate Students

Additional details about spring commencement will be released in the coming weeks.