Middlesex Community College held its 47th graduation ceremony on May 29, presenting associate degrees in the arts and sciences to 338 students – the largest class in the College’s history. The students, who ranged in age from 18 – 78, completed degrees or certificates in 32 different areas of study including accounting, biotechnology, broadcast cinema, forensic science, multimedia web design and development, ophthalmic design and dispensing, management information systems, environmental science, graphic design, and criminal justice.
President Dr. Anna Wasescha presided over the ceremony, which was held among a grove of stately pine trees on the campus grounds. She wished all graduates “a life of significance in your community” and reminded them that, as part of MxCC’s family, “where you go, we go with you.”
As in years past, Dr. Wasescha asked students who are military veterans to stand and be recognized and thanked for their service. She asked all veterans and the relatives of any veterans to stand – bringing nearly the entire audience to its feet. “We salute those who served, and hope for a bright and peaceful future,” she said.
Meriden Mayor Manuel Santos and Middletown Deputy Mayor Robert Santangelo joined Dr. Merle Harris from the Board of Regents for Higher Education Conn. State Colleges and Universities to welcome students and families, congratulating them on their successes.
Gina Layman, 43, of Middlefield, gave a greeting as student representative. She told how she, as a mother of three, firefighter and EMT, BMX racer, somehow found the time to finally earn her degree. Like many of her fellow graduates, she juggled all this with the great support of family, friends, and MxCC faculty – whom she thanked for truly getting to know each student as individuals. Layman said life should be about “second chances and no regrets.” She said, “Every day is a new day. Embrace it, tackle it, love it and make it yours. Because, guess what? It really is.”
The keynote commencement address was given by veteran broadcaster and local businessman Don DeCesare, president and general manager of WLIS-AM, Old Saybrook, and WMRD-AM, Middletown. He opened by observing this is the “most well informed class in history,” thanks to the Internet and Google. He then suggested a new hashtag (#whoisthisguy) for those who may not know of DeCesare or his work – which is lengthy and varied. As he reminded us of Connecticut’s historic role in the Freedom of Information Act and explained his own role on the Connecticut Task Force on Victim’s Privacy Rights and the Public’s Right to Know, he stressed one message: always challenge government secrecy and pursue truth through fact.
During the ceremony, Patricia Z. Karl of Lebanon was announced as class valedictorian. Although she accepted the honor from Tennessee, where she was already working on her bachelor’s of science degree in nursing, she encouraged her classmates to “keep going and always look at life through the lens of education.”
Karl joined Sara Kaiser of Cromwell as recipients of the MxCC Foundation Pritchett-Taylor Scholarship, which is given annually to the student(s) who have the highest cumulative GPA in the class, and who completed the majority of their degree at MxCC. Additionally, Allison Rodman, MxCC student poet and Higganum resident, read an original piece titled, “An Insightful View.”
Dr. Wasescha conferred an honorary degree upon Jesse J. Salafia, MxCC founding member and 1976 graduate (Government Services degree). Salafia was a member of the MxCC Foundation Board for 42 years, and he established the Jesse J. Salafia Nursing Scholarship Award which is given to an entering or returning MxCC nursing student. Salafia, who celebrated his 100th birthday earlier this year, is a WWII veteran who played active roles in the City of Middletown for 45 years.
MxCC Dean Steven Minkler presented the MxCC Distinguished Service award to Dic Wheeler and Marcella Trowbridge on behalf of ARTFARM, the Middletown-based theatre organization that hosts free Shakespeare in the Grove performances at MxCC each summer (including “King Lear,” coming to MxCC this summer).
“It is a testament to the quality of our education and the dedication of our staff and administration that we are here today celebrating the largest graduating class in Middlesex Community College’s history,” said Dr. Wasescha. “We are fortunate to enjoy tremendous support from our community – financially, culturally, economically, and socially – and we are glad to celebrate the community along with our graduates on this important day.”