After 11 straight days of rain, Saturday, May 9, dawned sunny and dry, making an already special day even more so for the 2009 graduates and their families and friends attending the College’s 43rd Commencement at Temple University’s Liacouras Center.
President Curtis praised the more than 1,780 graduates for the “hard work, desire and determination” that helped them reach their goal. “Today, you will join the ranks of our talented and diverse alumni, and, along with them, create positive change for the future,” he said.
This year’s Commencement also celebrated the many and varied accomplishments of faculty members, as well as the College’s talented students, administrators and staff—known collectively as the College family. It is a family as diverse as Philadelphia, with students from Argentina, China, France, Italy, Peru, St. Lucia, the Ukraine, Venezuela and Vietnam.
Many of the Class of 2009 are the first in their family to attend college, and they chose many different educational paths. More than 70 different associate’s degrees and certificates, from business, health care and technology programs to liberal arts, were awarded this year.
“Commencement is also a special day for our faculty and staff, who have worked hard to help, inspire, guide, challenge, nurture and educate students,” President Curtis said before announcing the Lindback Outstanding Teacher Award to Thomas Ott, professor of English. The Christian R. and Mary F. Lindback Foundation is the sponsor of the award, which includes a certificate and a cash stipend. “This recognition of teaching excellence is especially important, for teaching is the very heart of our enterprise,” President Curtis said.
This year’s Commencement speaker was M. Elaine Tagliareni, Ed.D., R.N., president of the National League for Nursing (NLN), which sets the standards for nursing education nationally. A faculty member at the College for more than 25 years, Tagliareni was named the Pennsylvania Professor of the Year in November 2008 by the Council for Advancement and Support of Education and The Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching. She is the first NLN president from a community college.
Tagliareni has left an indelible mark on the students and communities she serves as NLN president, director of the national Fostering Geriatrics in Associate Degree Nursing Education project and as Independence Foundation Chair in Community Health Nursing Education.
“Encouraging students to always do their best and follow their dreams, Dr. Tagliareni has made an enormous impact on her students and the rest of the College Family,” President Curtis said. “Her passion and work ethic continue to inspire students and colleagues to never stop seeking knowledge and to aim for excellence.”
The 2009 Student Speaker, Sabina Michell Joseph, recalled how scared and nervous she was at orientation day at the College. But the orientation leaders, and later her teachers, helped the native of the sunny island of St. Lucia overcome her timidity. “The College provided numerous opportunities for academic growth. My professors demanded nothing but the best in my work, and I am sure it was the same for all of you,” Joseph told her fellow graduates.
The day was a life-changing milestone for outgoing Student Government Association President, Mary Anderson, who graduated with honors and an associate’s degree in Education. Anderson, 38, dropped out of school in eighth grade but never gave up on her dream of going to college despite her struggles with poverty, abuse and depression. She was the single mother of three teenage children when she decided to take classes at the community learning center where she received her GED. She then came to Community College of Philadelphia.
Anderson, who was selected as a 2009 All-Pennsylvania Academic Scholar, will attend West Chester University where she hopes to earn a bachelor’s degree in Education with the help of a full state scholarship. The hardworking mother recognized that she was not alone in her struggles. “Today, we are honored for our academic achievements, which have been no small feat, because we still have our outside responsibilities, such as children, jobs and everything in between,” Anderson said.
The increased earning power represented by their academic achievements will make the struggle worthwhile, she said. “You will earn 23 percent more than you would have as a high school graduate, you will contribute thousands of more volunteer hours, your children are more likely to succeed in school and because of this, you have just improved the overall quality of Philadelphia, as well as the world. With more than 1,000 graduates here today, this is no small thing!”