For spring 2020, Northampton Community College’s (NCC) commencement ceremony had to move to a virtual celebration due to COVID-19. The hope of everyone that winter commencement would be held in person could not materialize.
“The fact that we are online again for this ceremony does not in any way take away from this great and glorious occasion or the extraordinary accomplishments of each of you, our students,” Dr. Mark Erickson, NCC president, said in the recorded commencement celebration that was broadcasted on NCC’s website.
Dr. Erickson believes these obstacles have positioned the Class of 2021 as uniquely prepared to face any challenges they will face after graduation.
“You are, indeed, a very special class at a pivotal moment in our country’s history. We need you. Your leadership, your spirit, your persistence, and resilience. Now more than ever,” he shared. “The skills you have demonstrated this past year and throughout your time at NCC will serve you well no matter what you may do.”
Bethlehem Campus Student Speaker: Brooke Coonrod
Brooke Coonrod spoke on behalf of the Bethlehem Campus students. An outstanding student and leader at NCC, Coonrod wants others to know that “even those who seem to have it all together are struggling, too.”
Diagnosed with clinical depression at the age of 12, she says, “My younger self would have never dreamed I would be here today. I’ve had many setbacks, but something that at one point almost claimed my life now becomes the power that drives my success.”
Coonrod credits her NCC experience and professors for helping ignite in her a passion for science and teaching her how to believe in herself. She will continue her education at Moravian College, with plans to obtain a bachelor’s degree in biochemistry, with a goal to one day teach and pursue medical research.
Monroe Campus Student Speaker: Melissa Benzinger McGlynn
Returning to school as an adult student at the age of 29 after a debilitating car accident, Melissa Benzinger McGlynn earned high honors at NCC. That included being named to the All-PA Academic Team, which came with a full scholarship to any Pennsylvania state college. Her next step is East Stroudsburg University for degrees in animal biology and environmental science.
“My age difference was never an issue, and everyone always made me feel like a member of our campus,” McGlynn shared.
A wildlife artist, her desire to help the birds that inspired her on her journey is what made her enroll at NCC as a biology student. One of her favorite recollections was participating in a bird banding demonstration for young children. She hopes her fellow grads will go forward with cherished memories of their time at NCC, too.
“No matter what your major, background, or social circle, we come together today to celebrate all we’ve accomplished together. We may be tuning in from all over rather than walking in person, but our hearts are here together,” she said.
Faculty Speaker: Professor of English Nancy Trautmann
For more than three decades, English Professor Nancy Trautmann has been as loved and respected as much by her colleagues as she has her students. She offered two salient points from her years of experience.
“First, be curious. When you hear about something new, get curious,” she encouraged the graduates. “Curiosity and learning make life interesting and worth living. I hope that you will be curious and keep learning and striving.”
The next might have come as a surprise to some of the graduates. “Second, keep teaching. You may not think of yourself as a teacher, but you are. I am not urging you to get a job as a teacher but pass on what you have learned and be an example to others. You may not realize this, but you have been teaching the faculty as well as learning from us – by sharing yourself and your stories you teach us about your abilities and your challenges and your life and culture.”
Trautmann ended by sharing lyrics from Phil Collins’s song “Son of Man:”
“In learning you will teach
And in teaching you will learn
The time is drawing near now
It’s yours to claim it all”
The Awarding of Diplomas
The 719 students, ranging in age from 19-78, including 40 who had achieved a perfect 4.0 GPA, were then virtually awarded their associate degrees, diplomas, and certificates, with each participating graduate’s name being read out loud during the broadcast.
Graduating student Juanita Shockley sang the National Anthem before the ceremony began, and it ended with Erica Dickson singing the NCC alma mater, “Oh Northampton,” with music and lyrics by Mario Acerra, professor of radio/TV, who accompanied her via Zoom on the piano, and Carlo Acerra, adjunct professor of communications, playing bass.
Congratulations to all NCC graduates!