Celebrating RCC’s 43rd Commencement: May 8, 2015

On Friday, May 8, at Rappahannock Community College’s 43rd Commencement ceremony, college officials bestowed degrees and certificates on over 200 members of the Class of 2015 who attended the ceremony. While the official lists of graduates cannot be finalized until mid-June (after high school graduations), the total number of degrees and certificates awarded promises to be close to 500. As in previous years, this number includes students who completed their graduation requirements at the end of the Summer and Fall 2014 semesters as well as those who have just completed the Spring semester.

The credentials awarded to these graduates included Associate of Arts and Sciences degrees in Arts and Sciences, Business Administration, Criminal Justice, Health-STEM, Pre-Engineering, Psychology/Social Worker, and Teacher Education; and Associate of Applied Science degrees in Administration of Justice, Business Management, General Engineering Technology, and Nursing.

One-year certificate programs included Administrative Support Technology, General Education, Law Enforcement, and Practical Nursing. Career studies certificates were awarded in Administrative Professional, Computer Application Specialist, Culinary Arts, Advanced Culinary Arts, Emergency Medical Services-Intermediate, Emergency Medical Services-Paramedic, Emergency Medical Technician, Game Design and Development, Heating, Ventilation, and Air Conditioning, Advanced Heating, Ventilation, and Air Conditioning, Human Services, Nurse Aide, Phlebotomy, Pre-Nursing, and Web Design.

“Your skills, talents, and positive attitude have created life and work opportunities,” RCC president Dr. Elizabeth Crowther told the graduates at the open-air ceremony. She thanked faculty and staff members for the support that helped the Class of 2015 to realize its goals.

Among the guests of honor joining Dr. Crowther and Dr. Donna Alexander (RCC’s vice president of instruction and student development) on the platform was keynote speaker Everett Jordan, educational director of Newport News Shipbuilding’sApprentice School. Retired faculty members Robert Griffin and Leslie Smith attended to accept the title of Professor Emeritus, and RCC’s dean of dual enrollment, Walter “Petie” Norris, was the bearer of the ceremonial mace.

Tyron Williams, pastor of Mount Olive Baptist Church in Heathsville (Northumberland County), pronounced the invocation and benediction. Stephen M. Tucker, chair of the RCC College Board, and vice-chair William H. Pennell, Jr., were present, as well as Class of 2015 representative Brittany Thompson. Also, members of RCC’s College Board and of the RCC Educational Foundation Board, as well as several Professors Emeriti named in previous years, were seated in the audience.

“We made it, and it was worth it all!” said class representative Brittany Thompson to the other graduates, before introducing the keynote speaker. Everett Jordan responded, “Your vision and hard work have paid off.”

Jordan admitted that the invitation to speak had not come at a good time for him. “I was emotionally spent and physically exhausted. My plate was full. But I had to accept,” he declared, quipping, “Dr. Crowther is a hard lady to say ‘No’ to.” More seriously, he added that he was “humbled and honored” to be a part of the graduates’ special evening. The primary reason he accepted the invitation, he said, was that he felt he could relate personally to the graduates, having earned an associate degree of his own just 12 years ago. He has since earned bachelor’s and master’s degrees.

Due to many competing interests, Jordan was not a strong high school student, he says, and did not want to go on to college. The Apprentice School was an alternative; and he is the second person to graduate from it who later served as its director. As an educator, he recommended that RCC’s graduating class keep these three words in mind: adapt, aspire, and change. “They’re part of education, and they’re part of life.” He compared life’s experiences to canoeing down a fast river: “The river is time, the canoe is your place in life … and your paddle is the ability to adapt. Your degree is a paddle. If you can adapt, you can survive.” He told the graduates to prepare for success, but to embrace change, and finally offered them congratulations and good luck for the journey ahead of them.

After Dr. Crowther named Griffin and Smith Professors Emeriti, College Board chair Stephen Tucker called seventeen members of the Class of 2015 to the podium to receive medallions recognizing them for graduating summa cum laude (with the highest honor), a distinction awarded only to those maintaining a grade-point average of 3.8 or better. Also awarded at the ceremony were the Governor’s Scholar medallions, honoring students in RCC’s dual enrollment program who completed an associate degree and a one-year certificate in General Education before graduating from high school. In addition, the college recognized veterans of our nation’s armed forces with a distinctive red, white, and blue cord accenting their academic hoods, as well as a flag icon marking their names in the event program.