READING, Pa. — A new class of 164 Penn State Berks students will receive their baccalaureate and associate degrees at 7:30 p.m. Friday, Dec. 15, in the Beaver Community Center, when Berks hosts its fall 2017 commencement ceremony.
The honorary keynote speaker this year will be Victor H. Hammel, class of 1967, chairman of Rentokil North America, and retired CEO of J.C. Ehrlich.
Hammel is a proud Penn Stater who said that he is grateful for the education he earned and, most importantly, for the opportunity to meet his future wife, Dena (Lipson), class of 1968.
As a student government leader, Hammel became aware of the imminent cancellation of a student loan program that would impact 1,723 Penn State students. He organized a petition-signing, letters to newspapers statewide, and several student rallies calling to prevent the cancellation. Eventually he met with state legislators in Harrisburg, which resulted in a reversal of the decision and continuation of the loan program.
This experience impacted Hammel in several ways. First, he was named an Outstanding Senior of the Class of 1967. Then, after he and Dena married, they learned that she was one of the 1,723 students who was able to continue her education under that loan program. Now, the Hammels are committed to assisting students in earning their degrees and have established scholarships for students at Penn State Berks.
The Hammels are particularly enthusiastic about currently serving as co-chairs of the Penn State Berks Development Committee of the University’s fundraising campaign, "A Greater Penn State for 21st Century Excellence." They said that this is their way of saying “thank you” and helping future students gain the same opportunities from Penn State as they did.
In addition to his professional success as retired CEO of J.C. Ehrlich and current chairman of Rentokil North America, Hammel has been very involved in the local community. He has been a 25-year board member and immediate past board chair of the Reading Health System. In that capacity, he was a co-founder of the Berks Alliance. He also is a past president of the Greater Berks Food Bank, and the Jewish Federation of Reading, serving on its development committee. He also serves on the board executive committee of Yemin Orde Youth Village in Israel — a home and school for at-risk children.
The Hammels will celebrate their 50th wedding anniversary in April 2018. They have three children and six grandchildren. His favorite current role, Hammel said, is that of grandfather.