Commencement: the proudest day of the year at CCC

5/30/07


By Kenneth Ender, Ph.D.

I particularly enjoy commencements because the faces of family members, friends, college employees and community leaders always glow with pride as they salute the graduates’ accomplishments. And Cumberland County College’s recent commencement, which honored a record-setting 458 graduates, was as inspiring as any commencement that I have ever attended. These are a few proud moments that jumped out during my favorite day of the year.

Kurt Gallucci received a thunderous, standing ovation as he received his associate’s degree in Mathematics/Science. Kurt was born with cerebral palsy, but that didn’t stop him from graduating with a 3.8 grade point average. A photo of Kurt that was included in The Daily Journal’s outstanding commencement coverage on May 18 - captured the sheer joy of this moment. Kurt’s brother, Kevin Gallucci, also graduated this year.

A husband and wife team, Christina and Dean DiPietropolo, were honored. Christina earned an associate’s degree from CCC in 2002. This year, she received a master’s degree from Fairleigh Dickinson University at CCC’s commencement. Christina earned this degree at Cumberland’s campus through a University Partnership program between FDU and CCC. Dean was inspired by his wife to enroll at Cumberland, and he earned an associate’s degree with honors last December, which was presented to him at commencement. Dean is now a junior at Richard Stockton College of New Jersey.

Many more such success stories will be celebrated at CCC in the future. Construction began last month on CCC’s Shirlee and Bernard Brown University Center, which will open in January 2008. This is incredible news because residents will be able to earn bachelor’s and master’s degrees at the center. In the meantime, University Partnerships are thriving at CCC. During commencement, 38 students received bachelor’s or master’s degrees from FDU, one student received a bachelor’s degree from Franklin University in Ohio, and 13 students received master’s degrees from Montclair State University. They earned these degrees on CCC’s campus.

There were other inspising moments at the commencement, too.

George Gregowski, 89, who is retiring after 15 years service, also received a standing ovation. George was the dedicated laboratory assistant and every science professor’s right-hand man.

And our student speaker, Shane Morgan, is inspirational because he seized the opportunity to attend and excel at CCC. In high school, Shane earned School Counts! certificates, which made him eligible for a CCC scholarship. A Phi Theta Kappa honor student, Shane was president of CCC’s Criminal Justice Society. Shane’s remarks captured the mood of the evening: “My fellow graduates, let’s go out and make a positive difference in our community. Never submit to the enemy called ‘average.’”

There were many proud moments at this year’s ceremony. That’s why commencements are my favorite days of the year.