Paperless Post CEO serves as Keynote Speaker at W&J College Commencement Ceremony

Created: May 8, 2019  |  Last Updated: November 15, 2021  |  Category:   |  Tagged:

Updated May 20, 2019

WASHINGTON, PA (May 8, 2019) – Washington & Jefferson College welcomed a slate of accomplished speakers to campus for Commencement weekend events, including a tech company entrepreneur, a noted chaplain, and an accomplished military general.

Alexa Hirschfeld, co-founder and CEO of Paperless Post, gave the 2019 Commencement keynote during the May 18 ceremony in the James David Ross Family Recreation Center.

At age 23, Hirshfeld and her younger brother created an e-commerce company that would soon reach over 85 million users and employ more than 100 people in New York and London. She has been named one of Fortune’s “10 Most Powerful Women Entrepreneurs”; Fast Company’s “Most Influential Women in Technology”; and Forbes’ “30 Under 30.” A 2006 graduate of Harvard University, she is an outspoken advocate for the liberal arts and holds a Bachelor of Arts degree in classics.

Additionally, Dr. Mark Johnson '94 was the keynote speaker at the College’s Baccalaureate Service, May 17 at Church of the Covenant in Washington, Pa. Dr. Johnson was the first African American Senior Class Commencement Speaker at W&J when he graduated in 1994. An instructor and research fellow at New Orleans Theological Seminary in Louisiana, he formerly was pastor of a large church in Cleveland, Ohio.

He has served as chaplain of both the Cleveland Indians major league baseball team and the Miami Marlins’ AAA baseball team in New Orleans. Earlier, he had a professional basketball career in Europe and South America. Dr. Johnson earned a Master of Divinity degree and a Master of Theology degree at Princeton Theological Seminary, and recently completed a doctorate at New Orleans Theological Seminary.

Major General (Retired) Steven R. Grove '83 is President and CEO of his own consulting firm, Grove Intel Strategies LLC, and was the 2019 ROTC Commissioning Ceremony keynote speaker on May 16, in the chapel of Old Main. Major General Grove has more than three decades of global Intelligence experience and has served in the most senior Intelligence officer positions in the Middle East, Asia, and Europe. He is a strategic intelligence leader and subject matter expert in real time, high technology intelligence systems and has led multiple efforts at the highest levels to facilitate information sharing between operational organizations, strategic organizations and the Interagency partners.

Major General Grove earned a bachelor’s degree from Washington & Jefferson College in 1983, and holds a master’s degree in strategic studies from the United States Naval War College. He was selected by the US Army to attend the British Higher Command and Staff College at the UK Defense College in Shrivenham.

In addition, Zach Pellis '19 gave the Senior Address during the Commencement ceremony. Pellis is a member of the Pre-Health Society, Student Health Coach Program, Phi Beta Kappa Honor Society, Phi Sigma Biological Honor Society, Alpha Lambda Delta Freshmen Honor Society, Men's Club Volleyball Team, and Phi Kappa Psi Fraternity. He also serves as a LINK Mentor, Biology Lab Assistant, and is one of two program co-chairs for the Washington Fellows program. He will graduate with a Bachelor of Arts degree in biochemistry, and plans to attend medical school.

During the Commencement ceremony, the College recognized Roberta Cross, Director of Career Services, as Staff Member of the Year, and Associate Professor of Economics Dr. Leslie Dunn as Faculty Member of the Year. These awards were voted on by members of the Class of 2019. Dr. Dunn will give the address to incoming students at Matriculation in August.

For more information about the weekend, please see the ROTC Commissioning Ceremony, Baccalaureate, and Commencement pages on the W&J web calendar.

About Washington & Jefferson College

Washington & Jefferson College, located in Washington, Pa., is a selective liberal arts college founded in 1781. Committed to providing each of its students with the highest-quality undergraduate education available, W&J offers a traditional arts and sciences curriculum emphasizing interdisciplinary study and independent study work. For more information about W&J, visit, or call 888-W-AND-JAY.