May 26, 2023 (Middletown, Conn.) — Middlesex Community College celebrated graduates from the class of 2023 with Commencement exercises that took place on Thursday, May 25, on the Middletown campus. The ceremony marked the last independent graduation under the name Middlesex Community College, as the state’s community colleges are merging into Connecticut State Community College on July 1. (Click here for full coverage of Commencement 2023.)
In total, 427 degrees and certificates were awarded to 391 students, with 36 students receiving multiple diplomas. Among the graduates are 10 military veterans, 5 international students, and 11 permanent foreign residents. The youngest graduate is 18 years old while the oldest is 66. One graduate began taking classes in 1998 and completed the necessary requirements to graduate this year. The class also includes two pairs of siblings, including twin sisters.
Through Wesleyan’s Center for Prison Education, a unique partnership with Middlesex and the Connecticut Department of Correction, seven graduates completed their degrees while incarcerated at Cheshire Correctional Institution. These students will receive their diplomas in a separate ceremony.
The 56th Commencement began with Stephen Krevisky, mathematics professor and college marshal, who carried in the ceremonial mace.
Briana Jump (Westbrook) and Katherine Dole (Haddam) sang the national anthem. The two graduates met during their audition last month and have become great friends ever since. (Read more about the singers.)
Middlesex Chief Executive Officer Kimberly Hogan presided over the ceremony.
“Class of 2023, you are the class of endurance,” stated CEO Hogan. “You have had to withstand obstacles that were out of your control. You’ve also had to endure a time in our college like no other time in history. Yet we worked together and you endured.”
“Whatever your Middlesex moments are, capture them and let them shine as these moments create memories that will last a lifetime,” Hogan said, before introducing Richard Balducci, a member of the state’s Board of Regents, who congratulated the class.
Katherine Tocto Quituisaca (Meriden), a liberal arts and science graduate and president of the Phi Theta Kappa International Honor Society Middlesex chapter, shared her Middlesex experience as the student speaker.
“Life is like a train ride, with stops, accidents, delays, routes changing, and multiple people working and stepping down. I felt that my whole life I was in the wrong train and I even tried jumping off the train,” said Tocto Quituisaca (photo), who moved here from Ecuador in 2021.
“This college is a place where people with different backgrounds and different stories get to celebrate the many stories and experiences that each of us have gone through to make this day possible,” she added.
“Today, we are not where we were a couple years ago. Each one of us overcame things we thought impossible,” said Tocto Quituisaca, who is continuing to pursue another degree in business administration and a future career in business analytics.
“Even if you don’t know if you’re on the right train or where the train is going, you have made an important step today. And be proud of where you have come so far, because we’re not here to figure out where the train is going. We’re here to learn and enjoy the ride,” she said. (Read more about Katherine Tocto Quituisaca.)
Donna Bontatibus, Ph.D., interim dean of academic and student affairs, introduced the class valedictorian, Mark Kulaga Jr. (East Haddam), a liberal arts and science graduate. Kulaga (photo) earned the highest grade point average and completed at least 50% of coursework at Middlesex, while attending full-time. (Read more about Mark Kulaga.)
Edward Tessman, associate dean of campus operations, presented the Distinguished Service Award to David Parmelee, president of Wepco Plastics in Middlefield. Parmelee’s company partnered with the college to develop the Skill Up in Manufacturing program to increase a qualified workforce in the industry.
“My advice to new graduates is to work hard, be a problem-solver and be patient, but make sure that when you choose a company to work for, you think about not just the hourly wage, but the total compensation,” said Parmelee before the ceremony. “Also think about the company’s culture and values. Do they align with you and how you live your life. Money is great and very important, but at the end of the day, so is your happiness. Find a company that you feel really fits you.”
Following a poetry reading by English graduate Mack Toomey (Portland), CEO Hogan introduced the Commencement speaker, Donna Hylton, Middlesex professor emerita, computer information technology and management information systems degree programs.
“I entered unsure, wondering if I knew all that I needed to do this job well. I left sure of this, that nobody knows it all. No one has all the answers,” Hylton said, reflecting on her 25-year tenure at Middlesex. “However, your college education here at Middlesex has taught you how to learn. There’s far more to be discovered that can ever be taught in the classroom, so I hope you’re leaving here more curious than when you entered. You entered as a student, but I hope you’re leaving as a lifelong learner.”
“Sometimes opportunities will come your way, and they will stretch you in ways that you didn’t even think were possible,” said Hylton (photo), who founded STEAM Train, a nonprofit organization that works to move generations of under resourced populations to careers in science, technology, engineering, mathematics, (STEM), and beyond. “If it doesn’t challenge you, it won’t change you.”
Kulaga, Carmela Zavaglia (Higganum, early childhood education), Malgorzata Kochanowicz (Cromwell, computer information technology), Olivia Merlini (Chester, liberal arts and science. Read her story.), Kayla Molis (Meriden, radiologic technology), and Kirsten Ruderman (South Glastonbury, radiologic technology), each received the Award for Academic Excellence, presented by Sara Hanson, Ed.D., associate dean of student affairs. These students earned a cumulative 4.0 quality point average in an associate degree program and completed half of their requirements at Middlesex.
Christopher Dibble, board chair of the Middlesex Community College Foundation, presented the Pritchett-Taylor Scholarship Award to Kulaga and Zavaglia. 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.
Dean Bontatibus and each academic program coordinator announced the candidates for degrees and certificates, which were conferred by CEO Hogan.
“Tonight, you crossed one endurance race finish line. Do not stop here. You have proven that you can endure,” said CEO Hogan (photo) in her closing comments. “I challenge you to use your education to its fullest. Never doubt the power that it will unleash. Our world needs you. Continue to be courageous in your conversations and use your voice whenever necessary. Be informed. Continue to learn. Have a conscience and vote that conscience. Go forward. Be humble.”
Middlesex Community College is among 12 community colleges in Connecticut merging on July 1, 2023, to become CT State Community College, one of the largest community colleges in the country and largest in New England, dedicated to quality, access and affordability. CT State students will be able to apply once and take classes at any campus. In addition to Middlesex (Middletown & Meriden), locations include Asnuntuck (Enfield), Capital (Hartford), Gateway (New Haven & North Haven), Housatonic (Bridgeport), Manchester, Naugatuck Valley (Danbury & Waterbury), Northwestern Connecticut (Winsted), Norwalk, Quinebaug Valley (Danielson & Willimantic), Three Rivers (Norwich), and Tunxis (Farmington). Find out more at ctstate.edu/becoming.