MCC Graduates 847 at 50th Annual Commencement Ceremony

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Manchester Community College future graduate, Chonette Johnson, right, of Manchester, Conn., receives a congratulatory kiss from her son, Javion, 4, as she and her classmates march to graduation at the Bicentennial Band Shell on the college’s campus in Manchester. It was the 50th commencement at MCC. (AP Photo/Journal Inquirer, Jim Michaud)

Eight hundred ninety-eight degrees and certificates were awarded to 847 graduates at Manchester Community College’s 50th annual commencement ceremony on Thursday, May 29. Graduates from 79 towns across Connecticut and six other states were awarded associate in science degrees, associate in art degrees and certificates. The youngest graduate is 18 years old and the oldest is 68. Two hundred fifty-four graduates received academic honors: 40 were named summa cum laude; 78, magna cum laude; and 136, cum laude.

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The Class of 2014 salutatorian was Sarah K. Berkenstock, of East Hampton, who was awarded an associate in science degree in general studies.Since starting at MCC in Fall 2012 she has earned straight “A’s” and has been on the President’s List for all four semesters. She will be transferring to the University of Connecticut where she will study actuarial science.

Baotram N. Tran, of Vietnam and East Hartford, was the 2014 valedictorian, earning an associate in science degree in accounting and business administration. She came to the United States four years ago in hopes of pursuing her education. Her path led her to MCC where she excelled in the accounting program in hopes of one day having a successful career in the accounting field. Having completed her MCC coursework in December 2013, Tran is now pursuing her bachelor’s degree in accounting at the University of Connecticut.

Dr. Gina Barreca, professor of English and feminist theory at the University of Connecticut delivered the commencement address. “Listen most carefully to those ideas with which you’re sure you’ll disagree,” Barreca told the graduates. “It’s the mark of an educated person to be able to listen and understand a position without needing to accept or share it….This works in relationships as well as in politics and at work.”

Nancy J. Kelley ’82, founding executive director of the New York Genome Center, gave the distinguished alumnus address: “With the experience, wisdom and tools you have received at Manchester Community College, you now have the opportunity to dwell in new possibilities that may not have been open to you when you began your journey at this college,” she said.

Dr. Henry C. Lee and Anthony G. Viscogliosi received associate degrees in humane letters honoris causa. Dr. Lee is one of the world’s foremost forensic scientists. His work has made him a landmark in modern day criminal investigations. He has been a prominent player in many of the most challenging cases of the last 50 years. Viscogliosi has 23 years of experience as an accomplished founder, entrepreneur, CEO, board member, leading Wall Street analyst, author, visionary and lecturer. He was the first Wall Street orthopedic industry analyst and has authored more than 6,000 pages of investment research on orthopedics.

Other awards that were presented during the ceremony include the Regional Advisory Council’s Community Service Award, which was presented to Michele St. Pierre, of Enfield. As President of Phi Theta Kappa, St. Pierre has helped to implement a number of important programs, including the Five Star Development Plan, a peer mentoring and wellness program, and all of the chapter’s service and outreach activities. St. Pierre was awarded a liberal arts and science A.A. degree.

Raul Jimenez, a native of Worcester, Mass., and now resident of Hartford, received the President’s Student Award. Despite a diving accident that left Jimenez paralyzed from the waist down, he enrolled at Manchester Community College with the idea of pursuing his dreams in graphic design. He began with taking one class per semester to improve his English language skills and now, as an “A” student, he is enrolled for two design classes for next fall’s semester. The President’s Student Award recognizes a student who has demonstrated unusual perseverance in spite of difficulties, obstacles or challenges.