May 30, 2019 (Meriden, Conn.) — Middlesex Community College held its 52nd Annual Commencement ceremony on Thursday, May 30, 2019, when 419 students were conferred 456 degrees and certificates. Due to inclement weather, the ceremony, which is normally held on the Middletown campus, was moved indoors to O.H. Platt High School in Meriden, a satellite campus for the college. U.S. Congresswoman Jahana Hayes’ commencement speech resonated with the packed audience in the auditorium and the overflow crowd in the gymnasium.
Among the Class of 2019 were 21 military veterans, 24 foreign/international students, 160 males, and 259 female graduates. The oldest graduate is 79 years old, and the youngest is 18. Three most persistent students began classes at Middlesex in 1991 and attended on and off during the next three decades before completing the necessary requirements to graduate. The class also had a husband and wife graduate together as well as three pairs of siblings, including twins Abigail and Emily Gagliardi of Meriden.
“I’m so excited to be here. Jahana Hayes’ speech was really good and very encouraging,” said Abigail Gagliardi, who earned an associate in applied science degree in digital media production. She plans to start her own business as a digital content provider. Emily Gagliardi, who earned the same degree and has similar aspirations, added about possibly working with her twin, “I’m sure our paths will collide.”
Campus Chief Executive Officer Steven Minkler, EdD, who also serves as the MxCC dean of Academic Affairs, presided over the ceremony. After posting and retiring of colors by the MxCC Veterans Color Guard and singing of the national anthem, Dr. Minkler welcomed the graduates and told them their degree today may be “a single step and a giant leap forward to each of you in your personal journeys.”
At a later ceremony, the college will also confer associate degrees to 10 incarcerated graduates at Cheshire and York correctional institutions through the Second Chance Pell grant program, which is a partnership with Wesleyan University.
Dean of Students Adrienne Maslin, PhD, was named Dean of Students Emerita by Dr. Minkler. Dean Maslin is retiring in June after more than 20 years at Middlesex. In her speech, she quoted from her letter to her son while he was away at college, offering the same advice and encouragement to the Class of 2019: “Be proactive, ask questions, get involved, and go the extra mile.”
David Jimenez, a member of the Connecticut Board of Regents for Higher Education, also offered greetings and congratulations to the graduates.
Dean Maslin introduced student speaker, Danielle Davis of Meriden. The accounting and business major gave credit to her mother for showing her perseverance. “And because of MxCC, I found the greatest strength in myself,” she said.
Marissa Johnson, of Marlborough and a veterinary technology major with a 4.00 grade-point average, was presented by Dean Maslin as the Class of 2019 valedictorian. Johnson plans to eventually continue her studies at the University of Connecticut.
Commencement speaker Jahana Hayes is the U.S. Representative for the Fifth Congressional District of Connecticut. Congresswoman Hayes was elected in 2018 and previously earned notoriety as the 2016 National Teacher of the Year. An alumna of Naugatuck Community College, Congresswoman Hayes told the graduates, “I am you. I walked in the same path you walked in.” She explained how she was an honor student in high school but then pregnant at 17 and “a dropout.” She almost didn’t attend college.
“You have to jump,” she said. “Sometimes you land, sometimes you don’t, but at least you leave the ground.”
Dean of Administration Kim Hogan recognized Hamden resident Nancy Dolan, retiring manager of the MxCC Follett Bookstore, with the Distinguished Service Award. While running the bookstore since 2000, she oversaw the store’s renovation, served as president of College Stores of New England, and coordinated the annual Read Across America event on campus. “I’m so taken aback about this tremendous honor,” she said following the ceremony. “I’m going out on top!”
Aquia Brown-Welch of Meriden, and a spouse of the graduating married couple, read her poem called “Breathe.”
Several graduates received the Award for Academic Excellence that was presented by Dr. Minkler. They are Valedictorian Johnson; Micailah Buttaro and Carole Capen-Kargher, both of Middletown; Danielle Davis, Arthur Genualdo, and Anne Gibbs, all of Meriden; Christopher Fanolis of Rocky Hill; Kaeleigh Gold of Woodstock; Dante Petruzziello of East Hampton; and Laura Schneider of Higganum. This award is given to graduating students who have achieved a cumulative GPA of 4.00 and who have completed 50% of their requirements at Middlesex. MxCC is proud to have 20 students graduating with a 4.00 GPA this year.
Graduates Davis and Petruzziello also received the Pritchett-Taylor Scholarships presented to them by MxCC Foundation Board Chair Julé Crawford. These scholarships are awarded to the graduates with the highest cumulative GPA who have earned at least 30 credits at MxCC, and who have attended full-time for at least two semesters.
Dr. Minkler and David Jimenez conferred associate degrees to students in 36 different areas of study, including the first students to graduate with CSCU Pathway Transfer Degrees in biology studies, business studies, computer science studies, mathematics studies, and Spanish studies. With this transfer program, students can complete associate degrees that seamlessly transfer as juniors to any CSCU four-year college offering their major. The first-ever graduates in the digital media production program also earned associate degrees. Certificates were handed out to students in 14 areas of study.
Since 1966, Middlesex Community College 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. A part of the Connecticut State Colleges and Universities system, MxCC offers more than 70 degree or certificate programs at the main 38-acre campus in Middletown, MxCC@Platt in Meriden, and online.