May 27, 2022 (Meriden, Conn.) — After two years of virtual ceremonies, Middlesex Community College recognized graduates from the class of 2022 with an in-person Commencement that took place on Thursday, May 26, at Orville H. Platt High School in Meriden. The ceremony followed a two-day cap and gown celebration on the Middletown campus.
In total, 335 students earned 361 associate degrees and certificates, with 26 students receiving multiple diplomas. Among the class of 2022 are 14 military veterans, including a married couple, and 13 international or permanent residents. The youngest graduate is 18 years old while the oldest is 64. One graduate began taking classes in 1992 and completed the necessary requirements to graduate this year. The class also includes three pairs of siblings, including twin sisters.
Through Wesleyan’s Center for Prison Education, a unique partnership with Middlesex and the Connecticut Department of Correction, three graduates completed their degrees while incarcerated at Cheshire and York Correctional Institutions.
The 55th Commencement ceremony began with Stephen Krevisky, mathematics professor and college marshal, who carried in the mace. Christianna Colello, a computer information technology major, sang the national anthem.
Middlesex Interim Chief Executive Officer Kimberly Hogan presided over the ceremony and was joined by previous Middlesex CEO Steven Minkler, Ed.D, who is now the associate vice president of academic affairs at Central Connecticut State University.
“You completed your college degree during a time like no other. Our world was shut off and shut down for the coronavirus pandemic. Resilience helped you cope, adjust and stay on your feet. Resilience leads to a greater future,” Hogan said.
Christopher Dibble, chair of the Middlesex Community College Foundation Board of directors, gave greetings.
Julia Noriega, a liberal arts and sciences graduate, shared her experiences while serving on the state Board of Regents Student Advisory Committee and as president of the Middlesex Student Senate.
“The lessons we have learned at the college with stay with us forever,” said Noriega. One lesson, she said, is to “use your voice.”
“Use your voice not only to build a space for yourself but also for others and the things that you believe in,” Noriega added.
Donna Bontatibus, Ph.D., interim dean of academic and student affairs, introduced the class valedictorian, Isabella Merlini, a liberal arts and sciences graduate from Chester. A member of the Honors Program and president of the Phi Theta Kappa Honor Society chapter at Middlesex, Merlini earned the highest grade point average and completed at least 50% of coursework at Middlesex, while attending full time.
Sara Hanson, Ed.D., associate dean of student affairs, introduced Maia Carpentino, a liberal arts and sciences graduate from Durham, who gave the class of 2022 student address.
“We have fought so hard and overcome many struggles and we have survived,” said Carpentino, who plans to study environmental science at UConn next year. “Our alma mater has fostered the growth and success of some of the most exquisite minds in our state. This is all due to the support and small interpersonal community in the most caring and passionate faculty that the deans in our college have to offer. Our time at Middlesex will be one of the most remarkable chapters of our lives.”
Interim CEO Hogan presented the Distinguished Service Award to Peter Galgano, Middlesex veterans outreach coordinator and former media associate, for his “longtime commitment to veterans and service to Middlesex.” A former Sgt. E-5 in the U.S. Marine Corps, Galgano was instrumental in establishing Middlesex as a national Military Friendly® School since 2011.
Following a poetry reading by theater studies graduate Jacqueline Killelea, former CEO Minkler introduced the Commencement speaker, renowned jazz saxophonist and Connecticut native Jimmy Greene.
In his speech, Greene emphasized the importance of community, comparing how the many parts of his musical community, as well as the Sandy Hook community, “showed up” after his daughter died in that 2012 tragedy. He paralleled the significance of his community experiences with Middlesex being the community support for students who were about to receive their degrees.
“Everyone seated here today who is poised to receive diplomas has shown up. Big time. We’ve all lost so much in the past two and a half years to COVID. So many livelihoods put in jeopardy. So much hope in what the future holds has been lost… but you all, you chose to show up,” said Greene, who is the co-coordinator of jazz studies and associate professor of music at Western Connecticut State University.
“Expand your definition of community to embrace those from different backgrounds and whose life experiences may differ from your own. Be willing to identify with many communities. Be willing to challenge one another with bold ideas and embrace the hardships and triumphs inherent in each one. Go out of here and love your communities, and always, always, show up,” said Greene.
Jessica Banning (Cheshire, psychology studies), Thomas Kashuba (Hamden, business studies), Jordyn Randlov (Colchester, radiologic technology) and Merlini each earned the Award for Academic Excellence for achieving a cumulative 4.0 quality point average in an associate degree program and who have completed half of their requirements at Middlesex.
Dibble presented the Pritchett-Taylor Scholarship Award to Merlini and Kashuba. These scholarships are given to the graduates with the highest cumulative quality point average and who have attended at least two semesters full-time and earned at least 30 credits at Middlesex.
Interim CEO Hogan presented emeritus status to retiring employees John Ambenge, Ph.D., Emily Canto, M.Ed., Leonel Carmona, M.A., Donna Hylton, M.S., M.A., Janet Klinck, B.S., Rich Lenoce, M.S., Patricia Raymond, M.S., and Judith Wallace, D.P.T.
Interim Dean Bontatibus and professors Rebecca Rist-Brown and Victor Triay, Ph.D., announced the candidates for degrees and certificates, which were conferred by Interim CEO Hogan.
In closing, Hogan told the graduates, “I challenge you to use your education to its fullest. Never doubt the power that it will unleash. Continue to be courageous in your conversations. Be informed. Continue to learn. Go forward. Be humble. Continue to be resilient.”
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 35-acre campus in Middletown, the Meriden Center at Platt High School and online.
Connecticut’s 12 community colleges are merging into a singly accredited institution called CT State Community College. The merger will combine and strengthen resources and support equitable student success across the state while maintaining campus communities and access. To learn more about the merger, visit ct.edu/merger.