Grand Rapids Community College held their 103rd commencement ceremony in honor of the 2020 graduates. In lieu of the COVID-19 pandemic it was a virtual celebration and held months after it was originally scheduled.
GRCC President Bill Pink and members of the Board of Trustees underscored the great accomplishments of the graduating class, particularly given the unusual circumstances.
“You showed resilience to adapt to the new learning procedure from classroom construction to online learning. You showed stamina to stay with your classes and finish all of your requirements,” Trustee Cynthia Bristol said in a prepared video package. “Both attributes are assets which brought you to this point and will continue to guide your success.”
Pink talked about the adversity students were met with and the way they chose to react. They “chose to innovate, to be creative,” Pink said.
“Survival means you made it. Thriving means you continue to go,” the president said.
“Not only did you innovate, you survived and you thrived because you finished. Being able to finish means that you, indeed, were that person who decided paralysis is not for me.”
“I feel very lucky to have the virtual graduation option,” said one GRCC graduate, Kelly Pratt. “I personally don’t think it takes away from the accomplishment, but I am an older graduate. I did think the drive thru event was a lot of fun, this makes me feel like my graduation is real and I was being celebrated.”
Throughout the livestream of this ceremony, the chat function on the YouTube webpage was inundated with praise and well-wishes from proud parents and family members as well as staff and faculty.
Provost and Executive Vice President for Academic and Student Affairs Brian Knetl awarded Duane Davis with the Faculty Emeritus honor after his 26-year tenure at GRCC and impact on the community.
“Known nationally as a vocal jazz educator, conductor and arranger, Davis spends his ‘retirement’ teaching through clinics, conducting at Carnegie Hall and other prestigious venues, and directing honors choirs throughout the United States,” Knetl said of the ongoing work the former professor does.
The college granted Nkechy Ezeh the Distinguished Alumni award. Ezeh earned a degree in child development at GRCC and went on to Grand Valley State University where she completed her bachelor’s and master’s. She has a doctorate in child and youth studies from Nova Southeastern University in Florida.
After a video commemorating her achievements completed, Pink said, “To all of our graduates, please know what you just saw in that video with Dr. Ezeh in being named the Distinguished Alumni. I hope one day we’re able to recognize you in the same way for the great things that you will do as you pass through these doors and as you go onto what your ‘next’ is.”
Michael Vargo, Dean of the School of Arts and Sciences presented students receiving a degree in Associate of Arts, Associate of Fine Arts, Associate of Music, Associate of Science, Associate of General Studies, and certificates, for consideration.
Amy Mansfield, Dean of Workforce Development presented students receiving a degree in Associate of Applied Art and Sciences, Associate of Business, Associate of Nursing, and certificates, for consideration.
The president said he was pleased to award all students presented for consideration with their respective degrees, titles, and certificates.
“In many ways we are all statistics. We fit some data points, multiple data points,” Pink said in closing. “…What’s interesting are those statistics that we decide to be a part of, and that’s what you’ve done. You decided to be a part of a most interesting statistic. What is that statistic? College graduate. You are a college graduate.”