Jones, Virginia secretary for Commerce and Trade and former publisher of The Virginian-Pilot, reminded the graduates of the importance of building successful collaborative relationships. “The most enduring asset that you will have is the ability to understand and relate to people,” he stressed. “That is the muscle you should concentrate on the most.”
He then spoke affectionately about his grandfather, whom he described as the most powerful influence in his life. Despite a near-death experience with bacterial meningitis at the age of 85, Jones’ grandfather survived another 10 years. The lesson, Jones said, was resilience.
“We’re going to have bad days, folks. We’re going to win some. We’re going to lose some,” he said. “If we can bounce back, we’ll be all right. Based on what I know about your class and what I just heard from your classmate, I know that you have already had resilience-building experiences. Draw on them.”
The classmate he referred to, Katrina Crowe, had spoken a few minutes earlier. A high school dropout who earned her GED, Crowe overcame numerous obstacles en route to graduating with her Associate of Science in Social Sciences. She struggled with her grades, lost her financial aid for a time and had doubts about finishing her degree. The birth of her son inspired her to continue college.
She challenged her classmates to make sure their degrees make a difference.
“Whether you continue on with your education, enter the workforce and begin your career, or move up in your current career, the most important thing you can do is make sure you put what you have learned on paper to use,” she said.
“Have something more than a piece of paper,” said Crowe, who is already working toward her bachelor’s degree in human services at Old Dominion University. “Have an impact.”
The commencement ceremony, held at the Ted Constant Convocation Center, marked the debut of new caps and gowns for TCC graduates. The regalia is now blue, with a silver stole bearing the college’s seal. Students wore colored cords to denote their degrees or certificates, and honor graduates wore gold cords.
Military-affiliated students, wearing red, white and blue braided cords, were recognized by President Edna V. Baehre-Kolovani during her remarks. “Over 14,000 military-affiliated student attended TCC during the 2013-14 academic year,” she said. “That’s more than 30 percent of TCC’s enrollment.”
Kolovani lauded the Class of 2014 for its achievements. Nearly half of the class earned associate of science degrees, and 37 percent graduated with honors.
“When I speak with our graduates, I hear many remarkable stories of perseverance and triumph,” she said. “Some of you have overcome the loss of your job or physical illness. Some of you have come back to school after many years away from the classroom.”
Flashbulbs and raucous cheers from family and friends acknowledged the graduates’ achievements.
After crossing the stage and shaking hands with the president, graduates received TCC Alumni Association pins from Tamara Poulson, alumni relations manager. Garrett Berger, president of the college’s alumni board, welcomed the new members.
“Tonight you join nearly 120,000 alumni worldwide who share a common bond in TCC,” he said. “We hope you will embrace this common bond by giving back to those students who will come after you.” Berger, an accountant, started his college career at TCC and transferred to the University of Virginia, where he earned bachelor’s and master’s degrees.
59th Commencement Exercises Dec.18, 2014