Sen. Shaheen addresses GBCC graduates
05/18/2014 by Janice Henderson
PORTSMOUTH — The night before Great Bay Community College's 68th Commencement Ceremony there were power outages, a river running through the ceremonial tent and people crawling under the stage to reconnect wires, according to Bruce Baker, campus director.
By 11:00 on graduation Saturday that was difficult to believe as the sun shone down and warmed the entire Great Bay Community College Pease International Tradeport campus, in Portsmouth.
The class was comprised of traditional and non-traditional aged students from the Seacoast and surrounding areas. “Some 257 students received degrees and 150 of those are walking today,” said Lisa Proulx, Great Bay Community College public information officer.
Prior to any greeting remarks, college president Widolfo Arvelo asked guests to pause for a moment of silence to honor Brentwood Police Officer Stephen Arkell and recently deceased adjunct professor and University of New Hampshire Police Chief Nicholas Halias.
He then asked all the graduates to stand and applaud themselves for their hard work, remarking, “It's a culmination of hard work throughout the year by you: the graduates; but also by our dedicated and passionate faculty and staff.”
Arvelo noted the community college system in New Hampshire is changing and will continue to do so “as we find better ways to serve our students in our communities.” He said part of the evolution of community colleges is due to the community college system of N.H. board of trustees and “their great love of commitment to the community college system that has allowed us to change and prosper.”
U.S. Sen. Jeanne Shaheen gave the day's commencement address, which she admittedly finds to be “among the hardest speeches that I'm asked to give.” She began on a light note, “as a former student I can't remember not only what the speakers at my commencement said, but I can't even remember who they were.” She agreed to follow Franklin Roosevelt's advice: “Be brief. Be sincere. Be seated.”
Shaheen also referenced a common saying that “the only certain things in life are death and taxes,” but that she “would argue that there's a third one.” That third certainty she said is, “change” and that the careers these students have now will undoubtedly change over the coming years. The senator said she hoped the experience the students gained at Great Bay instilled in them “that desire for lifelong learning.” Shaheen said that doesn't necessarily mean more courses or going back to college, but “a desire and openness to constantly learning new ideas, new approaches and new skills.”
Twenty students completed the colleges first ever six-month advanced composites manufacturing certificate program at the Advanced Technology & Academic Center, located in Rochester.
This is the first time advanced composites manufacturing students received their degrees at commencement. Four students were present to receive their certificates.
The center has gained national recognition for responding to local manufacturing hiring needs. The ACM certificate program trains composites manufacturing technicians and operators to match the workforce needs of area manufacturers. Two of those manufacturers are Albany Engineered Composites and Safran Aerospace Composites. The companies recently relocated to Rochester and the Safran building is expected to house approximately 400 new employees.
Peter Kimball, an Ossipee resident and one of the day's four ACM graduates “felt great” as he and other students prepared to join the day's graduation procession.
Kimball entered the program part-time in spring 2013, moved to full-time that fall and completed the program this December. Kimball was unemployed and “needed to get back to work immediately.” He did that fast. “I interviewed, was accepted into the program and six months later I began working as a finishing operator at Safran in Rochester.” Kimball said, “The outcome is a positive one.”
Several awards were presented during the ceremony. An award for teaching excellence was presented to Meg Prescott, associate professor and program coordinator for the computer technologies program. Prescott was praised for her innovative approach to teaching and her extensive work on the college website redesign and support of student activities.
The award for service excellence went to Debra Lancaster, assistant registrar and military and veteran liaison for the college. Lancaster was applauded for effectively supporting and promoting veteran students at the college and implementing quality improvements.
The president's award for outstanding adjunct went to Bette Reith, adjunct faculty member in the math department. Reith's leadership role in curriculum development won her praise, as did successfully piloting a program that resulted in increased motivation and improved coursework among students.
Patricia Corbett, chair, department of educational and social services served as the commencement ceremony's faculty marshal while student leader and 2014 graduate Natalie Landry served as the day's student marshal.
Landry was also this year's recipient of the president's award for leadership and gave the graduation address. She graduated with a 3.65 GPA and was commended various times throughout the ceremony for her dedication and significant contributions to the school, serving as president of the student government association and sitting on the college advisory board and coordinating counsel. President Arvelo noted that “what she does impressive, but what is most impressive is the way she does it.”
In her speech, Landry said each student concludes his or her own Great Bay College story on graduation day; however “the most important part of the story isn't the ending, but the journey that gets us there.”
After a failed attempt of enrolling in college and dropping out another time, Landry enrolled again, this time at Great Bay Community College where she met Maggie Duffy Durkin, “an amazing academic advisor who encouraged me to get involved on campus, invest in my classes and myself and see where it took me.”
Landry said, “as soon as I was inducted into the student government association, my life began to change and I initiated the transformation into the person I am today.” Landry went on to commend her peers for the hard work and determination that got them to this point. She mentioned several students by name and their unique successes. Landry ended her address singing the words of the famous American rock band, Journey: “Don't stop believing!”
Many proud families members attended the celebration. Some held large bouquets full of flowers while others couldn't hold back their tears of joy. Victor Oulette traveled from Sarasota Florida to watch his 49-year-old daughter-in-law, Gemma Ouellette graduate with an associate degree in surgical technology. Gemma, a wife and mother, “worked hard for six years to get here and am I ever so proud of her,” said Victor.