The 115 graduates of South Hills School of Business and Technology flipped their tassels from one side to the other at graduation Friday night, then substituted their caps for skimmer hats in memory of Paul Mazza — the school’s founder and president who died in March.
His daughter, school Vice President Gina Mazza, said after every graduation for the past 20 years, her father would grab a cane, put on a skimmer hat, and do a song and dance to the 1927 classic “Side by Side.”
“I think our goal is to carry on his vision for our students,” Mazza said despite overwhelming emotions.
South Hills is an accredited career school offering associate degrees and diplomas in business, technology, health care, law, justice and graphic arts. Paul Mazza and his wife, current President Maralyn Mazza, founded the school in 1970.
Maralyn Mazza, 86, said the school started with 11 students and seven who graduated the first year.
“This was his other home, his love and his passion,” Mazza said about her husband’s love of the school. “We watched it grow together, but I’m just as proud of our students and our school.”
Students from the State College, Lewistown and Altoona campuses walked the stage Friday night at The Penn Stater Conference Center Hotel.
Maralyn Mazza said 87 percent of students have immediate job placement after graduation.
And State College student Derek Vaughn, 21, is one who found out Friday morning he got a job as a data entry specialist at The Penn Stater.
“Yeah, a big weight has been lifted off your shoulders when you get a job out of school,” Vaughn said. “I think South Hills did a good job preparing us for the real world.”
Maralyn Mazza said in the past couple of years, the schools have offered additional criminal justice, graphic arts and medical assistant degrees. Next year, she said the Lewistown campus will offer additional medical assistant programs to meet a growing demand.
“We’re always looking ahead and tailoring our programs to help benefit our students in their future,” Mazza said. “They are the future and representing us all well.”