A great day for Great Bay graduates

05/16/2016 by Kimberley Haas

PORTSMOUTH - Students graduating from Great Bay Community College on Saturday morning heard the message that they can sit down with the President if they want to, from a woman who literally spends time with presidential candidates.

Renee Plummer, who is actively engaged in local, statewide and national elections as a Republican activist, was the keynote speaker at the college's 70th commencement ceremony. She is is the vice president of marketing at Two International Group, and is credited with building Pease International Tradeport into the bustling business hub it is for more than 250 companies, including the school.

Plummer told the graduating class they have a lot in common with her.

"I had a vision for my life, and I found ways to make it a reality," Plummer said. She credited GBCC President Will Arvelo with helping recruit companies to the Tradeport.

Plummer quoted the musical "Hamilton" as she gave the graduates advice on how to approach the workforce.

"Talk less, smile more, don't let them know what you are against and what you're for," Plummer said. "Nobody needs to know so much about you in the beginning."

Arvelo said many of the students will go on to pursue their four-year degrees at larger institutions, and others will enter the workforce using their new skills. He asked the graduates to stay in New Hampshire.

"There is no reason to leave New Hampshire for good, well-paying employment," Arvelo said.

A theme that was highlighted during graduation ceremonies was the concept that GBCC caters to students with traditional and non-traditional backgrounds. Many of the students worked full-time while completing their courses. An example of one such graduate is Natalia Bustos Villescas, a hospitality student and native of Colombia.

In addition to working at the Hilton Garden Hotel, Villescas was active in the hospitality club, attended leadership retreats, participated in the Women in Leadership mentoring program, and volunteered more than 100 hours in the community while at GBCC. Today, Bustos Villescas is employed as a front office shift manager at Foxwoods Resort Casino.

"Today, I can say that Great Bay literally changed my life," Bustos Villescas said.

In 2011, Plummer was the recipient of the Great Bay Community College honorary degree. In 2015, she served as the chair of the College's Distinguished Leaders Award event.

This year, an honorary degree in arts and liberal arts was presented to Jacqueline Eastwood, CEO and co-founder of Salient Surgical Technologies and former vice president of Medtronic, Inc.

Among the graduates was Nicholas Evans, who won the Outstanding Student Award. He was shocked, and looked as if he might weep tears of joy as he accepted the award.

Union Leader