Onondaga Community College held its 52nd Commencement ceremony Saturday, May 16 in the SRC Arena and Events Center. More than 1,500 students were eligible to walk across the stage and receive their degrees.
College President Dr. Casey Crabill addressed graduating students, telling them this accomplishment was just the beginning of their journey. “Earning your certificate or degree is not the end of your learning. You’ve achieved a significant milestone, but the most valuable thing you’ve achieved is you’ve learned how you learn. It’s something you will need to continue to do for the rest of your life in order to remain successful. You’ve learned to set a goal for yourself. You can manage your time and effort. You can bring resources together and you can get the job done.”
Graduating student Dewayne Garner Jr spoke to his classmates about his own journey from Cicero-North Syracuse High School to Onondaga. He admitted coming to OCC wasn’t his first choice but it wound up being his best. “I was an average student with an extraordinary dream of becoming a biomedical engineer. As time went by I saw that attending OCC was the best decision I have ever made. It has prepared me to achieve success.” Garner is a Mathematics and Science major who plans to transfer to a four-year institution, major in biomedical engineering, then advance to a Ph.D. program.
The Class of 2015 included the College’s first-ever group of graduates in the Nuclear Technology major. The program was started in the fall 2013 semester in response to a workforce demand. Of the 13 graduating students, 11 have secured employment at local nuclear plants. The two other students are considering job offers and higher education opportunities. OCC is one of only 36 colleges in the nation to offer this degree program.
Other unique stories included Gladys Thomas, a 74-year-old cancer survivor who earned a degree in Professional Communication. “Miss Gladys,” as she is affectionately known, does volunteer work with women in her church and raises three adolescent grandchildren.
One of the youngest graduates was Shannon Houghton. In June 2014 she earned her high school diploma from Cicero-North Syracuse. Less than one year later she graduated from OCC with a degree in Humanities and an Honors Minor. Houghton came to OCC with 36 college credits which were earned through a combination of AP Classes and OCC’s College Credit Now program. During her one year on campus Houghton was inducted into international honor society Phi Theta Kappa. In the fall she will attend Binghamton University and pursue a bachelor’s degree in psychology. Her goal is to earn a master’s and become a psychologist.
A colorful display of large posters which highlighted stories of graduating students greeted commencement attendees. The posters were placed around the second floor of the SRC Arena.
Retiring faculty members Ken Bobis and Sue Lamanna were co-Grand Marshal’s for commencement. Bobis was a professor in Architectural Technology and Interior Design who started at OCC in 1979. Lamanna was a professor in the Nursing major who began teaching at the College in 1998.
Honorary degrees were given to Timothy C. Penix, Vice President of the SUNY Syracuse Educational Opportunity Center (EOC) administered by Morrisville State College, located in Syracuse, and Deborah Stanley, President of SUNY Oswego.