Family and friends shuffled past each other as they jockeyed for a prime spot on the balcony inside Proctors. Peering down to the stage, they steadied their phones and snapped a shot as their sibling or child entered the next phase of their life.
“There he is, I see him,” one woman shouted from the crowd. One student, draped in gown and topped with cap, mouthed, “Love you mom,” to the crowd. A group of students donned firefighter helmets as they celebrated their specialty degrees.
The Schenectady County Community College Class of 2016 took center stage Thursday afternoon, with nearly 300 of the almost 500 graduates walking across the stage.
Student, faculty and guest speakers at the 46th SCCC commencement Thursday urged graduates to live a life of character, constantly questioning norms and searching for solutions to society’s deepest problems.
“When you are a forever student, you are constantly looking for ways to engage old and new authors, subjects, topics and conundrums,” Professor Alicia Richardson told the graduates. “Have you been asking questions? Have you been looking at your world differently to makes changes in small and big ways?”
President Steady Moono also apologized at the top of the ceremony for the “distraction” caused by attention swirling around his May 5 arrest for impaired driving and guilty plea Wednesday night to a reduced charge of driving while ability impaired.
After making his apology – received with a scream of “Love you” and applause from the audience – Moono steered the proceedings back to the students and the potential that lay before them.
The graduates ranged in age from 18 to 64, included dozens of military veterans, a trio of international students and carried a collective average GPA of over 3.00, Moono said. There were nearly 500 graduates celebrated Thursday, including December graduates.
“Everyone walked a different path to get here today,” Moono said. “Every one of you should be proud of it.”
University of Albany President Robert Jones in his keynote address told the graduates that their SCCC degrees and training can serve as the foundation for their careers and help them create the world of tomorrow.
“You will build that future,” Jones said.
And student speaker Daniel Pierce, student government president, used a biblical metaphor to emphasize the importance of persistence and strong personal character.
“Character is more important than anything else,” Pierce said. “It is the foundation on which life is built, without it everything else falls apart.”