GC Holds 41st Graduation Ceremony

The Garrett College community, families, and friends gathered on Saturday to celebrate the college’s 41st commencement ceremony and to honor the 101 graduates of the class of 2013.

Led by Faculty Marshal Prof. Ben Sincell, the honored guests, faculty, staff, and graduates, all in full academic regalia, processed into the Garrett College Gymnasium as the Garrett Highland Pipes and Drums played “Garrett Highlands.” Elizabeth Grant, Garrett College Adjunct Instructor, then led an invocation.

President Dr. Richard MacLennan welcomed everyone present and introduced the honored guests who included Sen. George Edwards, Del. Wendell Beitzel, Garrett County Commissioners Robert Gatto, and James Raley, Superintendent of Garrett County SchoolsDr. Janet Wilson, Members of the Garrett College Board of Trustees Chair Albert Coviello and Board membersMadeleine Collins,Ruth Seib, Linda Sherbin, and Duane Yoder, and commencement speaker Dr. Rosemary Versteegen.

Garrett College President Richard L. MacLennan greeted and welcomed all those in attendance and addressed the graduates. He applauded them for their efforts and accomplishment noting that the average GPA in the class was 3.0. He encouraged the students to recognize all those who helped them along the way including family, friends, faculty, and staff. “This commencement ceremony brings closure to an important phase in each of your lives. And we know how hard you’ve worked hard to get here. We also know you didn’t do it alone. This is also a day of recognition for those people who encouraged and supported you throughout your tenure at Garrett College,” Dr. MacLennan said.

Following his address to the students, Dr. MacLennan introduced commencement speaker Dr. Versteegen, who earned her B.Sc. and Ph.D. degrees in Biochemistry from Glasgow University, Scotland and held Postdoctoral scholarships at Cambridge University, England and the National Institute of Health working in areas of disease research.

Since it’s inception in 2006 Dr. Versteegen has been the CEO of the International Serum industry Association, a global life science not-for-profit association. She serves on the Garrett College Foundation Board and is also very involved in the local community, Dr. MacLennan noted.

Dr. Versteegen underscored the idea that this ceremony did not truly mark the end of something but the beginning. “I love the concept of commencing the rest of your life rather than that of ending just your education.  You graduates have all shown perseverance and determination in getting to this point and should be justifiably proud of your achievements to date.  Your parents and professors have shown many of those same qualities as they have supported your efforts, picked you up when you were down, and nudged, cajoled and prodded you into the happy state you find yourselves in today.  Some of you graduates will go on to further education, some will go out into the working world, but all of you have a solid foundation on which to build – so here we are at the threshold of your future!  Are you ready to take the next big step?” she asked.

Dr. Versteegen also took the opportunity to remind the students of their good fortune to live in a country where hard work and education can lead to a better future. “Better yet, you live in a community that has shown its value for education as the way forward by creating the Commissioner’s Scholarship, to aid recent high school graduates in taking the first steps into a learning lifetime,” she pointed out.

It was with humor that Dr. Versteegen concluded her address to the student. “And there I was sitting on the plane for another 15 hours, wondering what word of wisdom I could use to conclude these ramblings, and along came dinner and, since I was on my way back from China, it came with a fortune cookie! So graduates I salute you once again and in the words of my fortune cookie would like to remind you that the way to the top is to get off your bottom,” she said.

Dr. George Brelsford, Dean of Student Life, introduced the student speaker for the ceremony,Karissa Anne Brenneman, who began her academic career at Garrett College in the Fall of 2011 when she was accepted into the Honors Program as a General Studies Major. Not only has she remained in the Honors Program but has also earned Dean’s List recognition each semester.

A member of the Phi Theta Kappa (PTK) National Honor Society chapter at Garrett College, Brenneman was recently selected to the PTK All-Maryland Community College Academic Team, earning a nomination to the national All-USA Community College Academic Team/Coca-Cola Community College Academic Team. She plans to continue her education at Rosedale Bible College majoring in Biblical Studies with a music concentration.

Thanking Dr. Brelsford as she stepped to the podium, Brenneman began by noting how much she appreciated the honor of being selected to speak on behalf of the graduating class of 2013. After greeting all present for this occasion, Brenneman spoke directly to her classmates. “You made it here, you made it to graduation day – a day that represents all the work you have put into receiving your diploma.” She recalled for them memories of learning new concepts, coming to grips with mathematical terminology, and struggling to get papers written on time.

Brenneman noted the common thread of sacrifice. “I know I speak for us all when I say there were many times that we wished we were not students with homework to do. I know I sometimes wanted to blow off all my projects, all my papers to write, all the forty page chapters to read, and all the lab reports to do. I wanted to take the weekend off and just do nothing. But we make sacrifices for the things we know are best for us.”

As a student reared in a home school environment, Brenneman said she had been accustomed to having the teacher all to herself. To her surprise, she said, it wasn’t that different at Garrett College where there were always teachers available to help and a wealth of resources at her fingertips. “I found that the people working here are truly rooting for us and want us to succeed.”

Brenneman quoted comedian Milton Berle who once said, “If opportunity doesn’t knock, build a door.” She pointed out many doors were provided at Garrett College including the Commissioner’s Scholarship, the Bucknell Transfer Program, Phi Theta Kappa, and the Frostburg State University Transfer Program. “Garrett College has taught me not only to take the opportunities that present themselves to me, but also to make opportunities for myself. It has taught me that waiting around for things to fall in my lap is not the most constructive use of my time. I need to build a door,” Brenneman said.

She exhorted her classmates: “Find the thing you love to do and make a way to do it. Build a door. Pursue the openings that are possible for you. Build a door. Maybe your dream job isn’t working out like you planned – build a door. Give yourself the benefit of the doubt and build a door. Opportunity will follow.”

In concluding, Brenneman thanked family, friends, and the Garrett College community for helping her reach this point in her life and the memories she will take with her.

Following Brenneman’s address James Allen, Interim Dean of Instruction, announced the names of students who earned academic recognitions at Garrett College. Following is the list of awards and the names of the students receiving them:

Bucknell University Scholarship: Greg Schrock
Female Scholar Athlete Award: Kaley Green
Male Scholar Athlete Award: Allan Bencid
All-USA Academic Team: Karissa Brenneman and Mallary Granger
All-State Academic Team: Karissa Brenneman and Mallary Granger
Honors Program: Laurel Baker and Karissa Brenneman
Scholar Athletes: Allan Bencid and Kayley Green
Highest Grade Point Average: Karen Bonser
Outstanding Transfer Student: Karen Bonser
Outstanding Career Advancement Student: Laurel Baker
Inspiration Award: Heather Fisher
Leadership Award: Greg Schrock                    

Allen then presented the candidates for degrees which were conferred by Dr. MacLennan and Albert Coviello, Board Chair. Hat tassels were ceremoniously moved from right to left, a benediction read by Elizabeth Grant, and the 2013 Garrett College Graduation Ceremony concluded with the recessional.

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