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Manchester to honor front-line workers at 2022 Commencement

On Saturday, May 21, Manchester University is honoring all Indiana front-line professionals by awarding honorary degrees to three alumni – a teacher, a health care worker and a social worker – at Commencement 2022.

“In the midst of the global COVID-19 pandemic, front-line professionals in a wide variety of fields served in heroic ways under extraordinary circumstances,” said President Dave McFadden. “We honor these representatives as a way to honor them all.”

Manchester seldom has a traditional Commencement address – choosing instead to present an honorary doctorate to someone who gives brief remarks – and keeps the focus on its graduating seniors.

“I am pleased to announce that three individuals have agreed to stand for their professions and fellow alumni, to help us lift up all who are – and have been – serving in heroic ways in a multitude of roles,” McFadden said.

The honorees are:

Ryan-EvansRyan Evans of Wabash, Indiana, who is a teacher and coach at Wabash Middle School. He teaches  seventh-grade science, helped implement a 1:1 digital initiative across the district, was district teacher of the year in 2017 and started a middle school science club that travels to different parts of the nation each summer for immersive experiences. He is head high school track coach and head middle school boys cross country coach.

“He is an engaging, inquisitive, personable young educator who creates inclusive and welcoming learning environments.  He awakens curiosity in his students, and he allows them to explore the joys of learning,” said Heather Schilling, director of teacher education at Manchester.

He graduated from Manchester 2007, where he was chosen as one of five “Outstanding Future Educators” and then later as the 2014 Warren K. and Helen J. Garner Alumni Teacher of the Year.

Pearl_PfiesterPearl Pfiester
of Fort Wayne, Indiana, graduated in 2016 from Manchester with a professional doctorate in pharmacy. She is described as a “fierce advocate for the profession of pharmacy, Manchester University, and the patients she serves.” Her passion for immunizations stems from working in a virology lab under Dr. Robert Visalli, a medical microbiologist professor, for her graduate thesis. 

During the COVID-19 pandemic, she developed and led a CVS team of more than 100 employees to immunize residents in long-term care facilities and assisted living facilities throughout northern Indiana. Pfiester was promoted to lead the 24-hour CVS pharmacy in Fort Wayne while precepting Manchester students.

Ryan Ades, director of experiential education in the Manchester Pharmacy Program, said she continues to ensure that patients’ needs are met while simultaneously managing a busy pharmacy and providing students with a positive learning experience in their first and fourth years. 

marti-strikerMarti (Mercer) Striker
of Carmel, Indiana, spent most of her career in the criminal justice field. She worked to reunite children in foster care with their families. In custody cases, she connected families with needed services and signed up children for Head Start..

Striker ran the out-of-school suspension program through the probation department in Wabash County, and was coordinator, case manager and probation officer with the electronic home detention program. She was Re-Entry Court coordinator and worked with defendants coming out of prison – mostly those with substance abuse issues.

Brad Yoder, social work professor emeritus, said Striker helped inmates transition from incarceration to positive participation in community life. She earned a Bachelor of Science in social work from Manchester 1990.

“Our mission is to produce graduates who go on to improve the human condition, and these individuals are representative of what people of people of ability and conviction do,” McFadden said. “These honorary degree presentations are our way of saying ‘thank you’ to the thousands who gave of themselves during tough times.”

This fall, Manchester named its entire custodial staff as this year’s recipient of the Christopher W. Garber Staff Member of the Year Award for being heroes during the pandemic.