Commencement is a Family Affair
Commencement is always a joyous occasion at Northampton Community College (NCC), but it was doubly and triply joyous for several families this year.
Twins Allana and Ariel Karo both earned associate in applied science degrees in construction management.
Matthew, Rachel and Rebecca Cimera graduated together, bringing to five the number of Cimera siblings who have earned degrees at NCC. Matthew and Rebecca majored in engineering and Rachel in secondary education.
A mother and son - Berrin and Sedat Kirgiz - also walked across the stage within minutes of each other, Berrin to receive a degree in early childhood education from NCC President Mark Erickson, and Sedat in business administration. They are not the first members of this family to graduate from Northampton, and they may not be the last. Berrin's daughter Yesim and son Mithat earned degrees in communications studies. Her grandchildren are still too young for college, but they may follow in their grandmother's footsteps.
Commencement was bittersweet for the Polles family. All wished Stephen Polles '70 had lived long enough to see his son Christopher receive his degree. Stephen had majored in data processing, Christopher chose a related field - computer maintenance and repair. Christopher's sister Kate also took classes at NCC.
And how about Bob Walters? He was the only member of his family to graduate from NCC this spring, but he has enough degrees, certificates and diplomas for ten family members. To keep his brain sharp and satisfy his curiosity, he has completed an accounting certificate and associate degrees in electronics, optoelectronics, information technology, chemical technology, electronics technology, optical electronics technology, nursing and welding. He also holds bachelor's and master's degrees and a law degree.
Whether they were crossing the stage for the first time or earning additional credentials, the 2015 graduates and their families were elated. A total of 850 graduates ranging in age from 16 to 71 completed degrees, certificates and diplomas this spring. They were a spirited group, applauding the faculty and each other, and giving a rousing ovation to fellow student Christina Cenexant for her powerful rendering of the National Anthem.
Serving as marshal for the evening was Susan Roth, the first culinary professor chosen to carry the mace.
Speaking for the NCC trustees, Robert Fehnel told the graduates they should be proud of themselves for the "victory" of graduating. "We're very proud of you as well," he said.
Faculty speaker Jack Spirk, thanked the graduates "for not being all the same." Northampton, he said, is a special place "because of who you are, and who you're not, and what you bring to the table." The professor of criminal spoke of the ways in which that diversity enriches students' educational experience, saying "many universities would bend over backwards" for a student body like Northampton's. He thanked students for being willing to express their differences in class, to respect or at least tolerate the opinions of others even if they disagreed with them, and for having the courage to change their goals or to choose among many options, noting that those traits would serve them well throughout life.
In her commencement address, Dr. Marcia Welsh, president of East Stroudsburg University, offered the graduates four pieces of advice: 1) Accept challenges, not limitations. When making choices, "don't dwell on what could have been and make it the best." 2) Be thankful for opportunities, and "pay it forward" to give others opportunities. 3) Keep learning. "Find a group of people who challenge and inspire you, and spend a lot of time with them." and 4) Take the high road. "Never sacrifice your reputation or your integrity to accomplish your goals."
Kathy Siegfried '83 and '95 welcomed the graduates to membership in "one of the oldest, continuously active community college alumni associations in the country" and encouraged them to stay connected to the College as they move forward with their lives.
And then they commenced.
You can view Commencement photos here and post your own on Twitter, Instagram and Facebook using the hashtag #nccgrad.