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Pulitzer-Prize Winner in "Awe" of Historic Graduating Class

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Keynote speaker H.G. “Buzz” Bissinger, elated graduates and student speaker Tracey Betters.

The College marked a milestone on May 8, 2010, when 2,075 students graduated—more graduates than at any other time since the College first opened its doors in 1965.

Pulitzer Prize-winning writer H.G. “Buzz” Bissinger delivered this year’s Commencement address to a packed auditorium at Temple University’s Liacouras Center in Philadelphia.

Even the number of students who donned their caps and gowns and attended the graduation broke a record. More chairs had to be added at the last minute to accommodate the more than 1,100 students, faculty and staff who attended. The Class of 2010 included 30 international students from 18 countries, 15 police and correctional officers, and six College employees.

After listening for more than an hour as each graduate was introduced, Bissinger, who is known for his no-holds-barred commentary and tell-all best sellers about the world of sports, told the graduates that he was inspired by their perseverance and achievement. “Your ability to do this while juggling kids, jobs and a million other things leaves me in awe,” he said, joking that he lives alone and has trouble just taking care of his dog let alone young children.

On a more serious note, Bissinger urged the graduates not to waste what they learned at the College, but to build on their education and “use the self-esteem you have gained along with the degrees you have earned to excel.” Later, he added, “you define the essence of Philadelphia, and you are its foundation.”

Bissinger’s words were perhaps nowhere more evident than in graduate Tracey Theraldine Betters, Commencement’s student speaker. Betters told of how he moved to Philadelphia from Baltimore in 1997. The following year, he made his first attempt to enroll at the College, but he said he was too “scared” to complete the admissions process.

Thanks to a series of “unhealthy decisions,” he said his life fell into turmoil. It would be another decade before he would find the courage to go back and enroll at the College. “I am so grateful I made it back,” he said. Beaming with pride, Betters, a Behavioral Health and Human Services major, told of how he was graduating with honors and had received a scholarship to transfer to Chestnut Hill College. “I dedicated my life to improving my life, knowing if I did so I would become a positive role model in my children’s lives and make my mother proud of me,” he said.

President Curtis commended the graduates and said, “Whatever path you choose, make it your own. Realize your dreams. Give back to others. Embrace the future.” He also announced the winner of the 2010 Lindback Award for distinguished teaching—Aram Terzian, associate professor of Behavioral Health and Human Services. In addition, President Curtis presented A. E. Piscopo, president of the Community College of Philadelphia Foundation, whose term as board president ends in June, with an Honorary Doctorate of Humane Letters for his leadership of the Foundation during the launch of the College’s first-ever capital campaign.