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Jefferson Holds 53rd Commencement Ceremony

(l-r) Commencement speaker Dr. Richard L. Halpin, professor emeritus and founding director of the Center for Community Studies; Carole A. McCoy, College president; and student speaker Casey L. Hughes, of Watertown. 

Jefferson Community College held its 53rd annual spring commencement ceremony on Friday, May 19 at 7:00 p.m. in the McVean Gymnasium. Jefferson’s class of 2017 is comprised of 413 students who are candidates for graduation in May or August of 2017 pending satisfactory completion of coursework. Eight students will receive more than one diploma and/or certificate, bringing the total number of degrees and/certificates awarded to 421.  

Approximately 40% of graduates are adult learners, aged 25 years or older. Jefferson continues to be a strong educational partner of Fort Drum with 41% of the class of 2017 comprised of active duty soldiers and their family members and veterans. Jefferson’s active duty and veteran students, along with faculty and staff veterans, were distinguished during the ceremony by red, white and blue cords worn in recognition of their service to our country.

Jefferson Community College Professor Emeritus Richard L. Halpin delivered the commencement address. Dr. Halpin holds a bachelor’s degree in sociology, a master’s degree in counseling and personnel services, and a Ph.D. in higher education administration, all from SUNY Albany.

Dr. Halpin joined Jefferson in 1973 as director of student activities and cultural affairs and later, joined the social sciences department faculty. During his tenure, he served as chair of the social sciences department and chair of the Liberal Arts Division. Among his many achievements is the role he played in moving the Center for Community Studies from a “good idea” to the valuable resource it is today. He was appointed Center for Community Studies founding director in 1999 and continued to serve in this position until his retirement in 2002. He is author/supervisor of more than 20 community research projects conducted under the sponsorship of the Center for Community Studies.  In 1990, he received the SUNY Chancellor’s Award for Excellence in Professional Service, the College’s second recipient to receive the prestigious award. He served the College 29 years and was honored as Professor Emeritus in 2011. After retiring from Jefferson, Dr. Halpin worked at Cornell Cooperative Extension for 13 years serving as executive director of the Jefferson County site and interim director of Cornell Cooperative sites in Onondaga County and Monroe County. Since 1985, Dr. Halpin has worked with various organizations for strategic planning, leadership and organizational development and continues to offer his services today.

Dr. Halpin encouraged Jefferson graduates, “Go. Celebrate. Reflect. Give thanks. And make this community or whatever community in which you find yourself in a better place. That community will form and shape you, invisibly and silently; be sure you intentionally form and shape it in return to ensure that it is positive and strong and healthy and appealing and good. It is your obligation, and your opportunity.”

The student commencement speaker was Casey L. Hughes of Watertown. Hughes graduated with both an associate in science (A.S.) degree in mathematics and science with a concentration in allied health and an associate in applied science (A.A.S.) degree in individual studies. When Hughes came to Jefferson as a freshman, she already had 3 credits on her college transcript from participating in JCC’s concurrent enrollment program, EDGE (Education Demonstrating Growth and Excellence), offered to qualified high school students. Hughes earned Dean’s List honors while a student at Jefferson and is a member of JCC’s Tau Xi Chapter of Phi Theta Kappa Honor Society. She received the College’s 2017 Faculty Association Outstanding Student Award. As a student ambassador, Hughes provided assistance to campus visitors and led campus tours. She volunteered often at numerous campus events including spring and fall festivals, Leadership Day, open house, Higher Education Night and Super Science Saturday. A member of Student Government, she served as office manager and marketing manager and was a regular volunteer at Student Government led events. She is a member of the 2016 JCC Cross Country team. Additionally, she served as a resident assistant in East Hall. Hughes plans to transfer to St. Elizabeth’s College of Nursing in the fall.

Hughes encouraged graduates to “Think back to the experiences we have encountered here at Jefferson. All of our hard work has paid off and all of our crazy, hard, and memorable experiences will be something that we will hold in our minds for the rest of our lives. Being a college student isn’t easy, but we did it and we’re ready to take on the future.”

During the ceremony, President Carole A. McCoy and Nathan P. Hunter, vice chair of the Board of Trustees, presented the Jefferson Citation to the Northern New York Community Foundation (NNYCF).  Executive director Rande S. Richardson accepted the award on behalf of the NNYCF.  

The Jefferson Citation was established by the Jefferson Community College Board of Trustees to “recognize an individual or organization whose leadership and actions have demonstrated outstanding commitment to education and the vision and mission of Jefferson Community College.”  NNYCF provides ongoing support and encouragement to Jefferson and the JCC Foundation for capital and operating initiatives and has been a strong supporter of the Center for Community Studies surveys across the tri-county area. NNYCF has awarded since 1980 more than $14.5 million dollars in scholarships to students of Jefferson, Lewis and St. Lawrence counties including numerous students attending Jefferson Community College. NNYCF has partnered with the Jefferson Community College Foundation and Stephen H. Can through the Jefferson Can Community Scholars program to provide first year tuition at no cost to students coming to Jefferson who are in the top 15% of their high school graduating class.  

Several students, faculty and staff were recognized with academic awards and honors during the commencement exercises.

Two candidates for graduation were recognized for receiving the State University of New York (SUNY) Chancellor’s Award for Student Excellence earlier this year. This award acknowledges students who have best demonstrated the integration of academic excellence with other aspects of their lives: community service, athletics, creative and performing arts, leadership and career achievement. In April, Emily M. Bush of Gouverneur and Harry E. Werner, IV of Watertown, were chosen by SUNY for the 2017 Chancellor’s Award for Student Excellence.  Ms. Bush is graduating with an associate in science (A.S.) degree in mathematics and science with a concentration in allied health. She plans to transfer to Daemen College. Mr. Werner is graduating with an A.S. degree in engineering science and plans to continue his undergraduate education in aerospace engineering or engineering physics.

Mr. Werner, along with Abdul Y. M. Sanderson of Carthage, were recognized as members of the All-New York Academic Team for Phi Theta Kappa (PTK), the international honor society for community colleges.  To be chosen for the All-New York academic team, students must have a minimum grade point average of 3.25 and have a history of scholarly achievement and outstanding service to campus or community. Mr. Sanderson is graduating with an associate in arts (A.A.) degree in liberal arts and sciences with a concentration in science. His career goal is to become a foreign service officer.

The Jefferson Community College Honors Program offers students with exceptional academic skills the opportunity to receive enriched instruction and one graduating student completed this program. Honors program students elect three courses and enhance them as Honors Options by choosing a project for each and working directly with a faculty member to provide a unique and rewarding educational experience. Class of 2017 member who graduated with Honors Program designation is Eric M. Gibbs, Watertown, associate in science degree in physical education.

Six members of Jefferson’s faculty/staff were recognized as recipients of the SUNY Chancellor’s Awards for Excellence. The Chancellor’s Awards recognize extraordinary achievement and encourage the continuation of excellence. Gwendolyn Francis-Frey of Clinton,  associate professor of early childhood, received the Chancellor’s Award for Excellence in Faculty Service; Christine M. Grimes Topping of Sackets Harbor, assistant professor of English, received the Chancellor’s Award for Excellence in Scholarship and Creative Activities; Eleanor J. Minnick of Calcium, secretary, received the Chancellor’s Award for Excellence in Classified Service; Allen J. Speno of Chaumont, retention specialist, received the Chancellor’s Award for Excellence in Professional Service; Lori A. Tuttle of Theresa, adjunct instructor of sociology, received the Chancellor’s Award for Excellence in Adjunct Teaching; and Todd C. Vincent of Adams Center, professor of biology, received the Chancellor’s Award for Excellence in Teaching. Chancellor’s Award honorees received their medallions at the College’s Recognition Ceremony held on May 5, 2017. Additionally, one faculty member was recognized for earning SUNY Distinguished Faculty Rank this month. John F. Penrose of Watertown, professor of chemistry, received the SUNY Distinguished Service Professorship.

In December 2016, Jefferson Community College honored 204 candidates for graduation, combined with 421 students who are candidates for graduation in May or August of 2017 pending satisfactory completion of coursework, brings the total for the 2016 – 2017 academic year to 625 students who have or are candidates to graduate.