Spring Semester Graduation Celebration Speaker: Thomas Fritz

Thomas Fritz was one of the student speakers at the Penn State World Campus graduation celebration event for spring semester in May.

Here are his remarks from the event:

Good evening World Campus classmates, families, and friends. My name is Thomas Fritz and I am graduating from Penn State World Campus with a Master of Professional Studies in Renewable Energy and Sustainable Systems Solar option.

Completing this degree is a blending of two paths. The first path started 50 years ago with a magnifying glass and the sun. The other path — working with the uniformed members of the military and the border patrol —finished just two weeks before graduation after 38 years of schools, assignments, and work as a support contractor.

I was born and raised in Michigan, at the border between industrial might and outdoor wonderland. Since an early age, I’ve had an interest in solar power. I really liked to use my magnifying glass to perform feats of destruction. Little bugs. Little holes in my tennis shoes. Very rewarding – to me. But my interest in solar power has gone unfulfilled until now. Finally, after 50 years, with the help of the professors and staff of the Penn State World Campus and my wife Beryl, I’ll be able to blend my natural interests in solar power with the skills I have obtained through my education.

My service-to-my-country path started with a love of machines and engineering problem-solving, which ran in my family. I had the pleasure of graduating from the Air Force Academy and flying a jet fighter at Mach 2. It was exciting and a great way to live out an engineer’s dream realized in titanium, hydraulic pipes, and turbine engine combustion. A lot of turbine combustion!!! But after 26 years in uniform and another nine years in direct support of military endeavors, I worried that I had become so specialized that I could only work and contribute as an instructor in operational requirements analysis in one place in the country. Three years ago, with the start of my enrollment at Penn State World Campus, that worry started to fade away.

When I learned about the Yellow Ribbon Program, and then found the RESS Solar program through Penn State World Campus, my excitement for a new career opportunity soared. The broad scope of the sustainable systems curriculum helped me fit in all of my past experience and envision a new path of service. This time, I believe it will be community service. Beryl and I still plan on traveling, but now we can include the goal of finding renewable and sustainable success stories and bringing them back to our community.

World Campus and the Yellow Ribbon program have been a great fit. They are the keystone that dropped into place and completed this bridge to a future of continued community service.

The RESS Solar program is perfect for someone who wants to become engaged or stay engaged with a community. The curricula of each course reinforces an essential partnership — of the community’s lifestyle, the environment’s silent members, and the financial resources that build business and grow jobs. For me, being able to move from a life of federal service to life of a local and community service is totally re-energizing.

My wish for everyone attending the graduation celebration is that you are all as excited about your next adventure as I am for mine. And I hope we all are rewarded with meeting new people who want us to share our knowledge within our communities at all levels.

Finally, please join me in thanking the Penn State World Campus staff, and the professors who have afforded us this fantastic opportunity.

Penn State World Campus students who plan to graduate in Fall and are interested in speaking at the graduation celebration can contact us via email at graduation@outreach.psu.edu