UMES awards 29 Doctor of Physical Therapy degrees

  • Hurricane threat pushed back ceremony to Sept. 20

    Sunday, September 23, 2018

    Twenty-nine graduate students in the University of Maryland Eastern Shore's doctor of physical therapy program were awarded degrees during summer commencement and a belated 132nd Founders' Day celebration. 

    Following the ceremony, Rachel V. Whiteley of Bowie and Laura E. Kaufman of Baltimore were named co-winners of the Joseph Beatus Award for Excellence in Patient-center care in recognition of their clinical work as students. 

    The newly minted graduates must now pass a national licensure exam in the coming weeks so they can practice anywhere in the country.

    Maurice Allen Oliver Jr. is from Camden, Del. and has a job waiting in Charlotte, N.C. 

    “It was a challenging and interesting three years,” Oliver said before the ceremony. “It's a great program, and I highly recommend it. I feel like I'm well-prepared to start my career.” 

    Benjamin M. Taylor, a Utah native, chose to apply to UMES because of the physical therapy's stellar reputation of producing graduates who have little trouble finding jobs, and he also wanted to do his graduate studies in a different part of the country. 

    Taylor said he could tell immediately the faculty was invested in ensuring the program delivers on what's promised in the recruiting brochures.

    During his three years at UMES, Taylor and his wife Lacy had two daughters, Lucy, and Callie. They were in the audience along with big sister Madison, 4, to see their dad cross the Fitzgerald center stage. 

    “I've been working a long time to get to this day,” said Taylor, who has a job lined up in Kingsman, Ariz.

    Rachel Whiteley and Laura Kaufman

    The graduation venue was familiar to Nicole E. (White) Baker of nearby Allen. She graduated from Washington High School, which holds its commencement at UMES, before enrolling at Towson University. 

    Baker played field hockey and remembers the aches and pains of being an athlete, including a knee injury. 

    “I had to go through physical therapy to get better and that's where I really started to consider it as a career,” she said.  “I like that physical therapists can spend extended time with patients, and you can see up-close that what you do helps people.” 

    Steven Walas, chief executive officer of HealthSouth Chesapeake Rehabilitation Hospital in Salisbury, was the day's guest speaker.  He stepped in when an ominous weather forecast for Sept. 13 compelled UMES to reschedule the commencement. 

    Walas told his audience “the best physical therapist I have ever worked alongside (in a 20-year-career) is a UMES graduate.”

    At a reception following the graduation, the UMES faculty presented Maria von Kollmar, a 1995 UMES alumna, with the Raymond L. Blakely Award for Leadership and Commitment to the Physical Therapy Profession. She works at Peninsula Regional Medical Center. 

    Blakely was founding chairman of the physical therapy program who retired in 2016 and died in December 2017.