MANCHESTER, Conn. (May 30, 2019) – Manchester Community College conferred 853 degrees and certificates to 775 graduates at Manchester Community College’s 55th annual commencement ceremony held Wednesday, May 29, at the Central Connecticut State University Welte Auditorium for the first time.
Graduates were awarded associate in science degrees, associate in art degrees and certificates. Forty-seven graduated summa cum laude, 70 were magna cum laude and 148 graduated cum laude. The youngest graduate was 18, and the oldest was 69. They hailed from 89 Connecticut towns as well as and eight other states.
The Class of 2019 valedictorian is Ryan Harvey, of Manchester; the salutatorian is Heidi L. Bzdyra, of Glastonbury.
Harvey’s student focus is molecular biology, and while at MCC he participated in a joint program with the National Science Foundation and Princeton University to do research alongside Princeton faculty. He is, however, not a biology major, but an engineering major. He credits MCC’s faculty and advisors with helping him see the connection between the two. He is continuing his education at UConn, with career plans to engineer systems that apply to DNA and RNA disease cures.
Bzdyra came to MCC after earning a bachelor’s degree from UConn in horticulture. She is graduating a second time, now with a degree in occupational therapy. The mother of two grown children, she was told that she was too old to go back to school. Not only did she earn her degrees, but she rose to the level of salutatorian. For this success, she credits her mother.
Both 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. Other Medallion recipients are Diane AmEnde, of Amston; Lindsay Helfrich, of Norwich; and Paul Mozzicato, of South Windsor.
Connecticut Attorney General William Tong delivered the Commencement Address to the graduates. Tong is the state’s 25th Attorney General and the first Asian American in Connecticut to be elected a constitutional officer at the statewide level. Before his election as Attorney General, he served for 12 years in Connecticut’s General Assembly, representing the 147th District, which includes North Stamford and Darien. Most recently, he served as chairman of the Judiciary Committee. Tong is a Connecticut native who grew up in the Hartford area and attended West Hartford schools.
Hans Weiss was presented with an associate degree in humane letters honoris causa. Weiss, a local artist who lives with his wife Lottie in Vernon, has owned the Weiss Gallery in Manchester since 1980. He has served on the board of directors of MCC Foundation since 1990. Over the years, the named gallery space at MCC has exhibited work by emerging and acclaimed local and international artists, as well as student art. In 2004, he pledged $100,000 to establish the Hans Weiss Arts Scholarship and, in 2011, he was the recipient of MCC Foundation’s Hall of Fame Award.
The Class of 2019 recipients of the Regional Advisory Council and CEO’s Student Awards were also recognized. Rahil Chaluwala, of East Hartford, is the Regional Advisory Council Award winner, and the CEO’s Student Award went to Marissa Petitto, a Bolton resident. The Regional Advisory Council Award honors a graduating student who has given outstanding service to the college, whether through community service, on-campus activities or all-around service to the community. The CEO’s Student Award honors a student who has made exceptional efforts in his or her life or has shown unusual perseverance in spite of difficulties, obstacles and challenges.
Students of any age who possess the desire to pursue higher education are welcome at Manchester Community College. MCC is proud of its academic excellence, new facilities, flexible schedules, small classes, low tuition and faculty with both academic and “real world” credentials. The college offers over 80 certificates and programs, transfer options, financial aid and scholarships, as well as access to baccalaureate degrees through guaranteed admissions programs with several universities. The park-like campus, which is easily accessible from I-84, is also the home of Great Path Academy, a middle college high school, serving grades 9-12.