Howard Community College Celebrates Graduates at 51st Commencement Ceremony
CATONSVILLE, Md. – Students, their friends and families, college faculty and staff, and elected officials gathered at Chesapeake Employers Insurance Arena on Friday, May 27, 2022, for Howard Community College’s (HCC) 51st commencement ceremony.
Dr. Daria J. Willis led the ceremony – her first as president of HCC and the first in-person commencement event in three years.
“It brings me such joy to see you here today in person!” she said, welcoming the soon-to-be graduates and attendees from around the world. “This moment is the culmination of years of hard work by our students, who represent the rich diversity of our community. Students come from all over … Howard County, the State of Maryland, and 104 different countries. They enrich our campus with their unique ideas, experiences, and cultures.”
This graduating class includes 1,163 candidates who earned 1,260 degrees and certificates. It also includes 18 dually-enrolled Jump Start students, who earned a college degree from HCC before they even earned their high school diplomas.
The ceremony featured several speakers and special guests, including Maryland Lt. Gov. Boyd Rutherford, Howard County Executive Calvin Ball, Howard County Council Chair Opel Jones and Christopher G. Marasco, chair of the HCC Board of Trustees.
Rutherford, a Howard County native and parent of an HCC graduate, encouraged graduates to continue learning in every stage of their lives.
“Whether you continue your education at a four-year institution, earn certifications, or go for that career-change or promotion you’ve been working toward, never stop learning,” Rutherford said. “Remember that each day, moment, and encounter you make can teach you about the world we live in and how you can make an impact in it.”
Ball shared a similar message, reminding students of the value in lifelong learning. He also told students with the strong foundation they created at HCC, anything is possible.
“I applaud you for being here today, because you have invested in yourself, your future,” he said. “You have recognized the value and empowering fire of education. You know what you need to do to achieve your goals, and you have taken a significant step to make your dreams a reality. Even if you don’t quite know how your story will unfold, you are better prepared than you ever were before.”
Across the arena, students listened intently as speakers shared words of wisdom and advice. Some even shared their own messages by decorating their caps with flowers, glitter, flags and quotes like “She believed she could, so she did” – the quote that adorned graduate speaker Rachel Carver’s cap.
Carver earned her first college degree in Virginia in 2013. But after seeing an HCC publication with a chef on the cover, the mom of two decided to return to college to pursue her love of baking. While taking classes, she worked part time and launched her own cake business.
“To say that I am graduating with a cumulative GPA of 3.9 from someone who was always just an average student in the past says a lot about this college and the faculty,” Carver said. “I really was given a ‘place to discover greatness in yourself and others.’ With that type of confidence, I was able to flourish as a student, a chef, and business owner. My goals are much bigger now than when I started, and I know that’s because HCC provided me with a pathway to success.”
Carver’s speech drew a standing ovation.
Rachel Adams, assistant professor of communication studies, and Terrell Bratcher, academic advisor and adjunct instructor, served as joint commencement speakers, offering a welcome mix of comedic, inspiring and thought-provoking words to the graduating class.
“Usually commencement speakers are from the community, so they have great knowledge and perspective on what it takes to be successful after college, but they haven’t nurtured and brought you up like we have,” Bratcher said. “In a funny, roundabout way, it’s like we’re seeing our own kids graduate today.”
The pair reflected on some of the challenges this graduating class has faced, including missed milestones due to the COVID-19 pandemic, and their ability to adapt and maintain focus during moments of uncertainty.
“You didn’t let a global shutdown stop you from getting to this day,” Adams said. “It was rough. It was lonely. You attended classes online …You gave speeches to a webcam. You took dance classes in your living room. You were interrupted by pets, siblings, parents, roommates, and kids … You did it. After this, you can do anything.”
Later in the ceremony, Marasco conferred honorary degrees for Susan Kramer, a retired HCC employee who helped create and grow the college’s student and community theater programs, and Patricia Turner, retired dean of science, engineering and technology at HCC.
Dr. Laura Cripps, interim vice president of academic affairs, recognized David Howard and Mary Green, who each graduated with a perfect 4.0 grade point average and received the Award for Academic Excellence, a $1,000 award provided by the Howard Community College Educational Foundation (HCCEF).
And then, by turning their tassels to left side of their caps, students officially became graduates and began the next phase of their promising lives and careers.
Find photos of the celebration on our website at www.howardcc.edu/photos.