Central Penn College - Hasu Shah to Deliver 2012 Commencement Address

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April 10, 2012 Hasu Shah to Deliver 2012 Commencement Address

Honorary doctorate degrees to be conferred to Hasu Shah and Nancy Chavez

SUMMERDALE, Pa., April 10, 2012 ― Community leader and philanthropist Hasu P. Shah, founder and chairman of Hersha Hospitality Trust, will deliver the May 4 commencement address at Central Penn College's 130th commencement ceremony, President Todd A. Milano announced today. Shah, of Lemoyne, Pa., and community advocate Nancy Chavez, of Mechanicsburg, Pa., will receive honorary doctorate degrees from the college. The 2012 class of 435 eligible bachelor's and associate degree students are from Central Penn's Harrisburg, Lancaster and Lehigh Valley locations, as well as its bachelor's degree completion programs with McCann School of Business & Technology campuses.

"I am truly honored to speak to the future leaders of our community at such a pinnacle moment in their lives," says Shah.

Shah founded the Hersha group of companies with the purchase of a single hotel in Harrisburg, Pa., in 1984. In the last 25 years, Shah has developed, owned or managed nearly 100 hotels across the United States and started affiliated businesses in general construction, purchasing and hotel management. These companies include Hersha Purchasing and Design, Hersha Development Company and Hersha Hospitality Management, LP. Shah has served as chairman of Hersha Hospitality Trust since its inception in 1998. Under his leadership, the Real Estate Investment Trust (REIT) went public in 1999. Shah has accomplished numerous other professional achievements, including serving on the board of directors for Graystone Tower Bank and Montour Bank, corporations which he also cofounded. Most recently, he was bestowed with the Hall of Fame award from the Central Penn Business Journal for lifetime achievements in both business and philanthropy. 

"Hasu Shah's amazing entrepreneurial spirit, work ethic and core values provide an inspiration for Central Penn graduates as they begin the journey of turning their potential into career success," says President Todd A. Milano.

In 2010, Hasu and his wife, Hersha, received the prestigious National Tocqueville Award from United Way Worldwide for their outstanding humanitarian efforts, locally and around the world. Among other awards, Shah has earned the Entrepreneur of the Year award given by Ernst & Young LLP and the Creating a Voice award given by Project IMPACT, honoring South Asian American community leaders. Shah and his wife are active members of the local community and are involved with charitable initiatives in India.

Locally, he has served on the nonprofit boards of The Foundation for Enhancing Communities, Holy Spirit Hospital, American Red Cross of the Susquehanna Valley, Capital Region Chamber of Commerce and the Minority Purchasing Council of Central Pennsylvania. Shah is a founding member of the Harrisburg Riverboat Society. He has been an active Rotarian for nearly 25 years and continues to serve as a trustee of several community service and spiritual organizations.

In 2005, the Shahs donated the necessary funds to develop a hospital in Gujarat, India, which now bears their name. Also that year, the Shahs established the Shree Krishna Foundation with the goal to restore eyesight to one million disadvantaged blind people living in India. The Shahs are founding members of Human Enrichment by Love and Peace (HELP), which began in 1993 as an organization to aid the homeless in India, but has grown to provide vital prescription drugs and disaster relief services to those in need in India and Africa. They truly have devoted their lives to the service of others.

Shah received a bachelor's degree in chemical engineering from Tennessee Technical University and earned a master's degree in administration from The Pennsylvania State University, which named him as an alumni fellow. He is an alumnus of the owner and president's management program at Harvard Business School. In 2010, he received an honorary doctorate degree of public service from HACC.

Nancy ChavezShah and Nancy Chavez, a community advocate for the rights of victims of domestic violence, will receive honorary doctorate degrees from Central Penn College at the commencement ceremony. The honorary doctorate is conferred upon individuals whose intellectual, spiritual, and cultural values have contributed significantly to society and the community at large.

Chavez has spent the last nine years advocating for the rights of victims of domestic violence.  She knows first-hand about domestic violence, having been a victim herself. As a survivor of an abusive marriage, she also suffered through the brutal murder of her daughter in 2003. She has worked in Pennsylvania state government for more than 31 years and has served in several executive-level positions throughout the Commonwealth. In 1995, Chavez received her Master of Public Administration from The Pennsylvania State University after attending college part time for 15 years. She also holds a bachelor's degree in management from Penn State and an associate degree in management from HACC.

Chavez is known as an over-achiever and a person with an extreme amount of energy and perseverance. She has been featured in a Governor's Commission for Women publication, "Voices: African American and Latina Women Share Their Stories of Success," and is a graduate of the Survivors Speakers Bureau. Over the past seven years, she has organized Randi's Race: A 5K Run/Walk for Hope and Courage, in honor of her daughter. Aside from bringing awareness to the issue of domestic violence, Chavez has raised more than $217,000 to support the Domestic Violence Services of Cumberland and Perry Counties. Chavez and a fellow survivor are currently working on a book focusing on victims healing from the death of a child. She recently formed Randi's House of Angels, a nonprofit organization that will help children who are exposed to and are victims of domestic violence. Chavez resides in Mechanicsburg, Pa.

According to Central Penn's most recent One-Year Graduate Survey, 83.7 percent of the college's graduates were employed in their chosen field or continuing their education within one year of graduation. The Central Penn College commencement ceremony will begin at 8 p.m., Friday, May 4 at the Forum, located at 5th and Walnut Streets, Harrisburg. Tickets are required for admission.

Central Penn College has been helping students turn potential into career success since 1881, offering bachelor's and associate degrees in the fields of accounting, business administration, criminal justice, information technology, communications, healthcare, homeland security and legal studies. The College, currently serving students at its Harrisburg, Lancaster and Lehigh Valley locations, attributes its high rate of student success to a caring faculty and its hands-on learning approach. Based on Central Penn's most recent One-Year Graduate Survey, 83.7 percent of graduates were employed in their chosen field or continuing their education within one year of graduation. Central Penn College is accredited by the Middle States Commission on Higher Education, 3624 Market Street, Philadelphia, PA 19104 (267-284-5000). The Middle States Commission on Higher Education is an institutional accrediting agency recognized by the U.S. Secretary of Education and the Council for Higher Education Accreditation. www.centralpenn.edu