Blue Bell, PA —Montgomery County Community College (MCCC) celebrated the success of 1,555 graduates during its 2016 Commencement ceremony on May 19 in Blue Bell.
Ranging in age from 18-70, from 11 countries throughout the world, graduating with 1,597 degrees and certificates in more than 30 areas of study—the class of 2016 reflects the diversity of MCCC’s student body.
Among the members of the class of 2016 are 34 military veterans, 17 international students, 32 student athletes, 294 members of Phi Theta Kappa International Honor Society, 30 graduates from MCCC’s Culinary Arts Institute, 62 graduates from the MCCC Municipal Police Academy, and 45 Virtual Campus students who completed their degrees entirely online. In addition, 133 graduates started their education as dual enrollment students from 30 different high schools.
“You are a remarkably diverse, committed group of students. All of you share an unquenchable determination and hunger for learning,” MCCC President Dr. Kevin Pollock told the graduates during his welcome.
Dr. Pollock also shared a statistic of which he is particularly proud.
“This year, our student body, including many graduates here tonight, logged over 20,000 hours of community service, making a difference on our campuses and in the community,” he said. “Don’t ever lose your drive to improve the world. You will make a difference.”
The theme of opening doors and seizing opportunities carried throughout the evening’s speeches.
“Tonight, I will share three important lessons with you: look for opportunity in every situation; don’t give up; and make a difference,” said PECO President and CEO Craig L. Adams, who provided the keynote address. “There is always a way.”
Adams shared his own educational journey, which, like MCCC’s graduates, started at a community college.
“When I was young, I didn’t think I’d have the change to go to college—but there was a way,” he said. “You will encounter many barriers. Don’t let then stop you from doing what you want to do.”
A highlight of the evening was the student address, given by 2016 MCCC Culinary Arts Institute graduate Jacqueline Ramos, of Hatfield.
Ramos passionately shared her experiences as a student, drawing laughter when she recalled Lecturer and Chef Julia Quay creating a ServSafe version of Justin Timberlake’s song “Suit and Tie” to teach the students about foodborne illnesses.
“Never did I feel such a part of my school as I do here. Thanks to Montco and the Culinary Arts Institute, I became part of a family,” she said.
Ramos, who graduated with an Associate in Applied Science (A.A.S) in Baking and Pastry Arts and a Certificate in Culinary Arts, also encouraged graduates to be open to new opportunities.
“Regardless of why we enrolled in that first class at Montgomery County Community College, we opened a door! I encourage you to walk through [that door] ready to conquer the world!” she said. “Be open to opportunities and take advantage of them when they come to you. They will open even more doors and new adventures.”
In addition to serving as the evening’s Master of Ceremonies, Vice President of Academic Affairs and Provost Dr. Victoria Bastecki-Perez presented several awards for teaching excellence to MCCC faculty based on nominations by their colleagues and students.
The late Dr. Lee Bender, who passed away recently after serving MCCC for 48 years as a Professor of Economics and Dean of Business and Computer Science, was posthumously honored with the Pearlstine Award for Teaching Excellence, presented bi-annually to a full-time faculty member.
“Dr. Bender’s unparalleled 48-year tenure at the College, coupled with his commitment to lifelong learning, academic excellence and student success, were cited as clear reasons for his nomination for this award—or as one nominator called it, ‘the College’s first lifetime achievement award for excellence in teaching and excellence in administration.”
Bender’s wife, Carol Shilling, accepted the award on his behalf.
Part-Time Faculty Teaching Excellence Awards, sponsored by Barnes & Noble and presented for only the second time, were awarded to Senior Psychology Lecturer Mary Brenna Burch and Senior Biology Lecturer Ricardo Lopez.
Following the conferring of degrees, Dr. Bastecki-Perez ended the evening with words of inspiration to the class of 2016.
“Ghandhi is famously quote as saying, ‘You must be the change you want to see in the world.’ Graduates, each one of you has taken a step toward being that change by investing in your education and in your future. Your vision, hard work, and perseverance will serve as an example for generations to come. I wish each and every one of you a bright future filled with happiness and success. Congratulations to the class of 2016!”