MANCHESTER, Conn. (May 24, 2018) – 735 degrees and certificates were awarded to 701 individual graduates at Manchester Community College’s 54th annual commencement ceremony held this evening, Thursday, May 24. Graduates from 98 towns in Connecticut as well as Massachusetts, Michigan and Florida were awarded associate in science degrees, associate in art degrees and certificates. The youngest Class of 2018 graduate is 17 years old and the oldest is 69. 112 graduated cum laude, 58 magna cum laude and 29 were summa cum laude.
The Class of 2018 co-valedictorians are Robert Bailey and Victoria Turk; the salutatorian is Alexandra N. Norton.
Bailey, a resident of East Hampton, enrolled at MCC in 2014 after being away from higher education since 2003. In addition to his studies in the engineering science program, he volunteered as a tutor in the college’s Academic Support Center. He will continue to study electrical engineering at the University of Connecticut.
Turk, of Stafford Springs, enrolled at MCC in 2015 as a general studies/allied health major, after 20 years in the work force and raising a family. She is a member of the Alpha Upsilon Alpha chapter of Phi Theta Kappa and plans to pursue a career in radiography.
Norton, a homeschooled student from Bolton, enrolled in MCC at the age of 13 and matriculated at 14. She is the 17-year-old graduate and is the youngest student to serve as an officer of the Alpha Upsilon Alpha chapter of Phi Theta Kappa. She is also this year’s Regional Advisory Council award winner for outstanding community service. She plans to continue her education to become a veterinarian.
All three are also recipients of the Board of Regents’ Medallion for Academic Excellence. Medallions are awarded at each of the community colleges to graduating students who have earned a perfect 4.0 grade point average. Three other Medallion recipients are Scott Mintell, of Granby; Kathleen Danaher, of Ellington; and Marwan Ali Ghellai, of New Britain.
Jay Williams, president, Hartford Foundation for Public Giving (HFPG), delivered the Commencement Address to the graduates. A resident of West Hartford, Williams has served as president of HFPG since 2017. During his tenure, he has been working to build stronger relationships between the Foundation and the local communities it serves. In 2018, Williams and HFPG embarked on the “Greater Together” listening tour series to connect with local residents who know what’s best for their communities and identify new ways that the foundation can help make those towns better places to live, work and raise a family.
Michael G. Polo, president and founder of Manchester-based Advanced Composites and Metalforming Technologies (ACMT), Inc., with an associate degree in humane letters honoris causa. For more than 30 years, Polo has contributed to Connecticut’s aerospace industry through his role as president and founder of AdChem, Inc., now known as ACMT. In addition to being head of a local business, Polo is dedicated to driving workforce development initiatives in the State of Connecticut.
Another award presented during the ceremony is the President’s Student Award, given to Kevin E. Rodriguez Oblitas, a Manchester resident. Rodriguez Oblitas moved to the United States from Argentina at the age of 22 to help care for his grandmother. Knowing that he did not want to go through life struggling with a language barrier, he enrolled in ESL classes to learn the English language. After tackling this first obstacle, his passion for learning grew, and he found himself drawn to education as a way to give back to others, especially his grandmother who had been providing economic and emotional support for him. Since enrolling at Manchester Community College in Summer 2015, Rodriguez Oblitas has been inducted into Phi Theta Kappa, serving as co-vice president of membership. He recently became an American citizen.