Raritan Valley Community College awarded associate degrees and certificates to approximately 1,100 graduates at its commencement, held on a rainy Saturday, May 16, on the soccer field.
New Jersey Lt. Governor Kim Guadagno received an honorary degree during the ceremony and delivered the commencement address.
“I’m going to be about an hour and a half,” Guadagno joked. “When a friend heard I would be giving this address, he said, ‘Be quick, because you are one of the last people standing between the graduates and done!’ So with that wise advice in mind, I’ll do my part to be one fewer thing in the way of your commencement, your beginning.”
She then spoke of how the graduates “own” their actions and future. “RVCC has worked hard to inspire and support you from day one - for some even during high school. After all, one of the college’s core values is that RVCC must provide support for student success, but students are responsible for their own achievements. I especially like that last part: ‘students are responsible for their own achievements.’ Put another way, after today, you own it.”
Dr. John Sichel, RVCC Assistant Professor of Music, of Mountainside, NJ delivered the faculty address. “Congratulations to you all. I would like to make one extemporaneous point here. What inspires our faculty here is you…Take a little time to be proud of yourselves, remember those whose sacrifice and support made it possible for you to be here, and…keep on learning.”
The commencement featured Stanley Asiegbulem of Bound Brook, NJ as Student Commencement Speaker. Asiegbulem, who emigrated from Nigeria, served as President of the Black Student Alliance at RVCC. He has been active in social justice programs on campus. He is an Educational Opportunity Fund (EOF) student and recently received the EOF Award for academic achievement, the EOF Perseverance Award and the EOF Graduate Award. An English major, he plans to transfer to Emerson College to study creative writing and film.
As Asiegbulem approached the podium, he proclaimed, “As a participating member of the selfie generation I’m going to have to take a picture of this moment and capture it with the graduate students.” He then posed and took a cell phone video with DeAnna Nicholson, who introduced the Commencement Speaker, and Ryan Roberts, who introduced the Faculty Speaker.
Asiegbulem went on saying the graduates hold the future. “We have a seat at the table. We do have our work cut out for us now. It didn’t start with us and it doesn’t end with us, it continues, with us. That is the purpose of this experience, to secure the future. Today represents our first stride forward. We are ready. We are lions. Thank you and congratulations to us all for today’s milestones.”
RVCC President Michael J. McDonough welcomed the graduates, guests, faculty, administration and dignitaries at the beginning of Commencement. After the RVCC Chorale’s performance of the National Anthem, Dr. Paul J. Hirsch, Chairman, RVCC Board of Trustees, gave his Greetings.
“Our graduates range widely in age, come from a variety of previous experiences. Some are directly out of high school, some years later, some beginning careers, some continuing or resuming careers and many to continue their education at some of the finest colleges and universities in the nation.” One graduate who took advantage of of RVCC’s International Transfer Agreement is heading to the University of Greenwich in England.
John King, Director, Hunterdon County Board of Chosen Freeholders, encouraged the crowd to be better than he can be. “I can say this with conviction and mark this with a promise. You will be better than I can be. It’s up to you to prove me right.”
King closed with the words of electronic rock band, AWOLNATION, in the song, “Kill Your Heroes”:
“Well, he said, one thing, before I graduate…never let your fear decide your fate."
Patricia L. Walsh, Deputy Director, Somerset County Board of Chosen Freeholders, said community college students reflect a true melting pot of all ages, cultures, beliefs and life experiences. “It gives me great pleasure to look out into this audience and see such a diverse cohort of graduates. The beauty of community college is that they are there for you.”
Walsh talked of the advice her mother gave her. “A gift isn’t a gift until you give it away. So I challenge each one of you to find your gift and share it with the world.”
Walsh closed her talk saying, “My fellow Freeholders and I are very proud of your accomplishments and your sacrifice. We thank your family and friends who supported you on this journey and wish you a long happy and successful future.”
In the audience several RVCC faculty wore stickers saying “Support Public Education & Public Employees,” a reference to a letter the union representing faculty sent to Gudagno questioning the funding of pensions and public education. Neither faculty nor Gudagno addressed the letter at Commencement.
The full video of Commencement can be found here.
Photos of Commencement
Featured image caption:
Stanley Asiegbulem, DeAnna Nicholson and Ryan Roberts at Commencement.