June 1, 2021 (Middletown, Conn.) — Middlesex Community College recognized graduates from the class of 2021 with a three-day, in-person Congratulatory Cap and Gown Celebration on the Middletown campus, which culminated in an online commencement ceremony broadcasted on Friday, May 28, 2021, at 6 p.m.
In total, 364 students earned 408 associate degrees and certificates, with 36 students receiving multiple diplomas. Among the class of 2021 are 14 military veterans and 17 international students. The youngest graduate is 17 years old while the oldest is 63. One graduate began taking classes in 1992 and completed the necessary requirements to graduate this year. The class also includes five groups of siblings.
The Center for Prison Education is a unique partnership among Middlesex Community College, Wesleyan University and the Connecticut Department of Correction. Four graduates completed their degrees while incarcerated at Cheshire Correctional Institution and one while at York Correctional Institution. They will receive their degrees later at separate ceremonies inside those prisons.
Another two graduates began their college study while in the Center for Prison Education program, finished their sentences and then completed their studies at MxCC after coming home. One of these students was accepted to the Access to Law School Program at Yale Law School, an innovative pipeline program for students pursuing a legal career.
The online ceremony began with Stephen Krevisky, MxCC mathematics professor, serving as the college marshal, followed by a military hand salute from Peter Galgano Jr., U.S. Marine Corps sergeant and MxCC veterans outreach coordinator. Christianna Colello, a computer information technology major, sang the national anthem.
MxCC Chief Executive Officer Steven Minkler, Ed.D., presided over the ceremony. Jane Gates, Ph.D., Connecticut State Colleges and Universities (CSCU) interim president, and Matt Fleury, chair of the Connecticut Board of Regents for Higher Education, along with U.S. Senator Richard Blumenthal, all offered congratulatory remarks.
To the class of 2021, Minkler said, “Everyone at the college is proud to have been with you on this portion of your life’s journey. You inspired us to work together as one team to focus on student success and educational excellence. We celebrate the higher purpose we serve by creating the college you experienced.”
Riley McConnell, a communication studies major from Middletown, gave the class of 2021 student address. She has served as a legislative intern at the state capitol and as a member of the MxCC Foundation Board, CEO search committee, Student Senate, Honors Program and Phi Theta Kappa Honor Society.
“Young people carry within them the energy and idealism that will regenerate human life on this planet. We are a generation of game changers. We are empathetic and radical and brave and young,” said McConnell as she spoke of the five lessons she learned during her time as an Middlesex student. “The world needs us, but with this, please remember that we are all in this together, and when there is no more room at the table, get more chairs.”
Tasha Gawkowski, an English studies major, read her poem entitled, “You Deserve This.”
State Representative Quentin “Q” Phipps, Middletown, 100th District, delivered the commencement address. He told the graduates, “I encourage you—and reward you—to strive to fail,” as he listed a series of his own career and educational failures that ultimately led to his achievements.
“In all those chances of being able to do better, to dream better, to work harder, that’s what continues to drive all of our success,” Phipps emphasized. “I salute you because without failure there is no progress, without strife there is no hope, and you have found that progress and that success, and there’s more to come.”
Sharale Mathis, Ed.D., dean of academic and student affairs, introduced the class valedictorian to the virtual audience. The valedictorian earned the highest grade point average and completed at least 50% of coursework at MxCC. This year’s valedictorian, a 4.00 GPA political science major from Cromwell, wishes to be published anonymously.
Kendyl Ortiz (Haddam, business administration), Matthew Ryan (New Hartford, computer information technology), Brian Schramm (West Hartford, radiologic technology), Thomas Laskowski (Wallingford, psychology studies) and the valedictorian each earned the Award for Academic Excellence. This award is given to graduating students who have achieved a cumulative 4.0 GPA in an associate degree program and who have completed 50% of their requirements at Middlesex.
Dean of Administration Kim Hogan presented the Pritchett-Taylor Award to Laskowski and also to the valedictorian. These scholarships are awarded to the graduates with the highest cumulative GPA who have attended at least two semesters full-time and earned at least 30 credits at MxCC.
After academic program coordinators and faculty members announced the names of each graduate, including the first graduates from the new CSCU Pathway Transfer Degree Program in economics studies, CEO Minkler officially conferred the associate degrees and certificates.
Before the ceremony concluded, Pamela Frost, retiring mathematics professor, and Judy Mazgulski, retired retention specialist, were presented with emeritus status by Donna Bontatibus, Ph.D., associate dean of academic affairs, and Sara Hanson, Ed.D., associate dean of student affairs, respectively.
During the week leading up to the ceremony, graduates were invited to the Congratulatory Cap and Gown Celebration at the Middletown campus to pick up their regalia, graduation gift box and pose in a photo with CEO Minkler. They also enjoyed food and music and had their caricatures drawn by artist Don Landgren Jr. The students also shared their favorite memories at MxCC.
“The Math Club Pi Day event was awesome. I had the pleasure of being the Math Club president, working among wonderful faculty and motivated students,” wrote Chris Currie, an engineering sciences graduate who attended the in-person celebration. “It was wonderful to be a part of a warm campus environment.”
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, MxCC@Platt in Meriden and online.