Middlesex Community College Celebrates Rainy but Glorious 50th Anniversary Commencement

James Dignan and Rachel Watkins received Awards for Academic Excellence presented by Dean of Administration Kimberly Hogan. They also received each Pritchett-Taylor Scholarships.

The persistent rain did not stop Middlesex Community College from holding its outdoor graduation ceremony on Thursday, May 25. The evening event also capped a yearlong celebration of the college’s 50th anniversary, with 427 students receiving associate degrees and certificates. The oldest graduate was 68 years old and the youngest was 18, also emphasizing a 50-year span.

The ceremony was also the final one presided over by Middlesex President Anna Wasescha. Next week, she begins a new role as president of the West Central Initiative, a regional community foundation located in her home state of Minnesota.

After the posting and retiring of colors and singing the national anthem, President Wasescha welcomed the audience, telling them, “We are one community, united in support of our graduates.”

David Jimenez, on behalf of the Board of Regents for Higher Education at the Connecticut State Colleges and Universities, also welcomed the students and their families, wishing them well. Kevin Wilhelm, chair of the Regional Advisory Council, Julé Crawford, chair of the MxCC Foundation, and Abraham Texidor Jr. of Meriden, the Student Senate president, all offered greetings and congratulations.

Rachel Watkins of Chester, a former home-schooled student and multimedia major with a 4.00 grade-point average, was announced as the Class of 2017 valedictorian. She was introduced by Dean of Academic Affairs Steven Minkler, who was recently selected by CSCU President Mark Ojakian to serve as MxCC’s lead campus administrator.

Megan Schneider of Ivoryton, the Class of 2017 student representative and a veterinary technology major, also addressed her classmates. “I leave here today knowing that I am ready. That we’re all ready here to go forward to our future and whatever is next,” she said in her speech. General studies graduate Emily Anderson followed by reciting an inspirational poem she wrote to praise her fellow students.

Middletown Police Captain Gary Wallace, a 2009 MxCC criminal justice graduate and Navy veteran, gave the commencement address. Because MxCC is now 50, Captain Wallace noted he was also turning 50 years old later this year, and proceeded to compare how the world has changed from 1967 to today. For example, gas was only 33 cents a gallon and the average monthly rent was only $125. He encouraged the graduates to give applause to themselves and their loved ones because “what you earned today can never be taken from you, and you should savor it.”

Class of 2017 students James Dignan and Sharon Turcotte, both of Meriden, and Rachel Watkins received Awards for Academic Excellence presented by Dean of Administration Kimberly Hogan. These awards are given to graduating students who have achieved a cumulative GPA of 4.00 and who have completed 50 percent of their requirements at Middlesex. James Dignan and Rachel Watkins also received Pritchett-Taylor Scholarships presented to them by Associate Dean of Development Cheryl Dumont-Smith.

President Wasescha conferred associate degrees to students in 30 different areas of study, including the first students to graduate within the CSCU Pathway Transfer Degree Program in criminology, English, history, political science, psychology and sociology. With this program, students can complete associate degrees that seamlessly transfer as juniors to any CSCU four-year college offering their major.

During the ceremony, two distinguished faculty members received professor emeritus status conferred by President Wasescha. Ophthalmic Design and Dispensing Professor Raymond Dennis served Middlesex for 29 years and is lauded by colleagues as a mentor for his contributions to the annual Community Eye Care Day at MxCC. Judith Felton, professor of human services and psychology, has taught at MxCC for 26 years. Through the Center for Civic Engagement and the Magic Food Bus pantry, she has brought joy by helping and spreading happiness to the college community.

Dr. Robert Olson and Dr. Virginia Nunez, owners of the Pieper-Olson Veterinary Hospital, Pieper Memorial Veterinary Center, and Connecticut Valley Veterinary Associates, were recognized with the Distinguished Service Award for establishing and supporting the veterinary technology program at Middlesex.

Among the Class of 2017 were 23 veterans, 23 international students, 169 males and 258 female graduates. The most persistent student began classes at Middlesex in 1982 before returning in 2016 to finish the necessary requirements to graduate.

“Embrace change,” President Wasescha fittingly told the graduates before the recessional. “Learning is about change. When we learn, we change. Smart people, like you, are able to change their mind, because when they learn something new, it increases the complexity of their mental model. Strive to be smart, to learn and to change.”

Celebrating 50 years as “the college of its community,” Middlesex Community College is part of the Connecticut State Colleges and Universities system. Since 1966, MxCC has provided high-quality, affordable, and accessible education to a diverse population, enhancing the strengths of individuals through degree, certificate, and lifelong learning programs that lead to university transfer, employment, and an enriched awareness of our shared responsibilities as global citizens. MxCC offers more than 60 degree or certificate programs at the main 38-acre campus in Middletown, Meriden and online.

Read more about the 2017 commencement here.

May 26, 2017