HAMLET — A record number of Richmond Community College graduates walked across the stage at the Cole Auditorium in two phases Saturday to accommodate the many graduates and their family and friends.
Dr. Dale McInnis, RichmondCC president, called the spring commencement ceremony the pinnacle of the College’s academic year.
“Today is the day we cherish and look forward to with great anticipation all year long,” McInnis said. “Today we’re celebrating the largest graduating class in the 53-year history of this great college with 409 degrees and diplomas being awarded. This does not happen without great effort, tenacity and drive on part of everyone involved.”
McInnis recognized the RichmondCC Board of Trustees, faculty and staff, as well as the many family and friends who supported a student through college.
One graduate was invited to speak before her fellow classmates. President of the Student Government Association and a graduate of the Criminal Justice program, Mary Lampley spoke about her battle with addiction and how going to college for her was a second chance at life. On Saturday, she was earning an Associate in Arts, her second degree from RichmondCC.
“RichmondCC has not only given me a second chance, but it has restored everything that my addiction had deprived me of, such as my courage, my self-worth, my dignity, my intelligence, my common sense and, most importantly, my family and friendships,” Lampley said.
From a scared first-year student who was unsure of how to even begin this educational journey, Lampley quickly involved herself in campus life. She became the student activities coordinator for SGA and started working as a student worker in the Financial Aid office. That same year, she became president of the Criminal Justice Club. A year later, she became SGA president.
Lampley had these inspiring words to offer as she and the rest of the graduates prepared for the next phase of their lives.
“Don’t stop here. Continue your education and go as far as your desires and dreams will take you. Don’t allow past adversities to hinder or define you; instead, use them as fuel to drive you toward your dreams and ambitions,” Lampley said. “And finally, my message to all people is don’t use drugs. Thanks and congratulations to the Class of 2017. This is only the beginning.”
Also offering departing words of wisdom to the Class of 2017 were two faculty members. In the morning ceremony, Faculty Association President and mathematics instructor Ian Allred told about his not-so-glorious journey as a college student at RichmondCC.
“Academically, I did not have a great first year of college. I dropped several classes and spent a lot of time in the parking lot,” Allred said.
However, Allred had several instructors at RichmondCC who looked beyond his flaws and believed in his potential. Because of their confidence and subtle guidance, Allred went on to earn a bachelor’s degree and become a full-time instructor himself at RichmondCC.
“Your future is pretty wide open, whether you are a little lost right now or you have a plan,” Allred said. “Either way, I look forward to seeing some of you again down the road where I can measure my success by your success when all the flaws have blurred into the background.”
Speaking at the afternoon graduation ceremony was 2016-17 Faculty of the Year award winner, Kim Parsons, who is also the Business and Technologies Department chair.
Parsons also talked about her educational journey, which began when she was 28 years old. She had worked many jobs but was never really happy. What she really wanted to do was teach business.
“As I have told those of you in my classrooms, going to school was the hardest job I have ever had. You do not get paid, you have tons of homework, tests, and no social life,” Parsons said.
However, in order to have the career she wanted, Parsons had to earn a bachelor’s and then a master’s degree.
“Degrees are not given, but earned by all of us. We all have stories to tell, but we made it and it is a wonderful feeling. A degree is something no one can take from us,” she said. “The road that lies ahead of you will not always be easy. Nothing worthwhile in our lives is easy, but it is worth working toward. You already know this because you are graduating today. Keep pushing yourselves to achieve your dreams!”
Academic Award Winners
Several students were recognized for their academic achievements at Saturday’s graduation.
• Peggy Kennedy — Dodd-Moore Humanities Award
• Veronica Griffin — Excellence in Science Award
• Brooke Deegan — Robert D. Street Academic Excellence Award for Superior Achievement in Accounting
• Michael McIntyre — The Paul H. Many Award for Superior Performance in Electrical Systems Technology
• Ethan Bryant — Joseph D. Beam Excellence in Engineering Award
• Peggy Kennedy — The Richmond County Historical Society Award for Excellence in History
Wylie D. Bell is director of marketing and communications for Richmond Community College.