A bright, sunny day matched the spirits of the guests gathered at the Chesapeake Campus of Tidewater Community College for the investiture of Provost Lisa Rhine and the dedication of the Chesapeake Student Center on April 25.

In full academic regalia, President Edna Baehre-Kolovani launched the program by acknowledging special guests and welcoming Chesapeake Mayor Alan Krasnoff.

“Helping to open new buildings is becoming a habit of mine,” Krasnoff said, adding, “The campus is a shining star in our city, and both President Baehre-Kolovani and Provost Rhine add value to others and bring a wealth of experience to the college and our community.”

Bruce Meyer, chair of the State Board for Community Colleges, noted that Virginia’s Community Colleges are serving more than 400,000 students and employing 12,000 people. “Students are our products, and with their success they, in turn, will impact the success of Virginia.”

Sharing on the personal academic journey of Rhine, Zebulun Davenport, vice chancellor of student affairs with Indiana University-Purdue University at Indianapolis and Rhine’s mentor, noted that Rhine faced many obstacles to learning, particularly lack of family resources.

“Passion, determination, resilience, unwavering commitment – those were her trademarks,” he said. “And while obstacles were many, Rhine went on to earn bachelor’s, master’s and Ph.D., and along the way, it was my privilege to work with her. I’ve learned as much from her as she has from me.”

In her remarks, Rhine said, “I come from a working-class family. My father had English as a second language and an eighth-grade education. I don’t know my mother. My father raised six kids, working three jobs to feed us. At times we were in foster care. My siblings turned to alcohol and drugs. I was the first one in my family to go to college.

“Education is the lever that can catapult a person out of challenging, even dire, circumstances and change his or her fate forever. My children’s lives are drastically different than my own, because of the opportunities afforded me by my education. Higher education truly serves as the catalyst that breaks the cycle of under-education and poverty and has allowed me to leave a legacy for my children.”

Rhine added, “While I wouldn’t have chosen the upbringing that I’ve experienced, I am entirely grateful for the gifts that have resulted from those struggles. They are serving me well in my position as provost. Every day is a good day by comparison. I can relate to the real student experience, as I see myself in our students, and I hope that I live my life so that they can see themselves in me.”

Baehre-Kolovani officially installed Rhine by giving her the key to the campus and a ship’s wheel to symbolize her leadership role as she steers the campus toward new levels of success.

Rhine’s first order of business was the dedication of the Chesapeake Student Center, a 60,000-square-foot building, which opened April 28. The multipurpose facility offers dining options, study areas, a fitness center, a full-court gymnasium, gaming rooms, a student leader development suite, a TCC Barnes & Noble distribution center, onsite child care and meeting spaces with state-of-the-art audio-visual equipment. Its aim is to enhance student engagement and improve academic performance and completion.

Hezroy Hammil, Student Government Association president noted, “A few years ago, we had a simple, yet revolutionary dream of having a place to call our own — a place where students could get away from the stresses of our academic pursuits and form a community through active engagement in campus life. Today I’m excited to be standing in front of the materialization of that dream.”

With large ceremonial scissors, Baehre-Kolovani and Rhine invited dignitaries to join them for the building ribbon cutting. Immediately following the ceremonial snip, students formed a flash mob and danced, skipped and shimmied up the aisles and in front of the stage, to Pharrell Williams’ “Happy” song. Confetti cannons and rounds of applause closed the program.

The Chesapeake Student Center is one of four student centers at TCC. The Norfolk Student Center opened in May 2011. The Portsmouth Student Center opened on Jan. 13 and held its official dedication on Feb. 14. The Virginia Beach Student Center opened on Jan. 13 and was dedicated on Feb. 26.