Almost 200 graduates were recognized by family, friends, faculty and staff during Dabney S. Lancaster Community College’s 52ndCommencement Exercises, held May 10 on the DSLCC Clifton Forge campus.
One hundred ninety-one graduates, many of whom earned multiple credentials, received a total of 130 Associate Degrees, 109 Certificates, and 106 Career Studies Certificates from DSLCC. Those numbers include both Fall 2018 and Spring 2019 graduates.
DSLCC President, Dr. John Rainone, introduced guest speaker Robin Sullenberger of Highland County, who serves as the chair of the State Board for Virginia’s Community College. While he spoke about the challenges of rural communities, he also told the graduates not to forget that they each have the tools to make the world a better place. “Each of you can make a difference,” he said.
“The key to better success in life is education,” noted Dr. Rainone in his remarks, “the more education you attain, the more doors will open for you.” He also reminded the graduates to remember the importance of collaboration in their future endeavors.
Distinguished Alum Award
This year’s DSLCC Distinguished Alumni Award was presented to Julie Persinger-Gardiner, a 1991 graduate of DSLCC, where she received an Associate Degree in General Studies. She later earned an Associate Degree in Forensic Science from New River Community College and transferred to Georgia State University to earn a Bachelor’s Degree in Criminal Justice, followed by a Master’s Degree from Columbus State University.
She is employed by the George Bureau of Investigation, where she has worked her way up from medical examiner investigator to Assistant Deputy Director. She currently is the Case Administrator and works directly with district attorneys and law enforcement agencies throughout the state of Georgia. Ms. Persinger-Gardiner, the daughter of Berkley and Joyce Persinger of Covington, has two children, Haley, who will be attending Savannah College of Arts and Design in Savannah, and Andrew, a rising 9th grader.
She congratulated the graduates on their success in a very brief speech: “You earned this, you deserve it, go out and live it. You are the next step.”
Gary Lee Miller Award
Seventeen-year-old Emily S. Bartley was chosen as this year’s recipient of the Gary Lee Miller Outstanding Student Award.
The daughter of Darryl and Phyllis Bartley of Covington, Emily has been an active member of Phi Theta Kappa, as well as National Society of Leadership and Success. She also volunteers with the Valley View Animal Rescue, Callaghan Elementary School, the Salvation Army, the local Christmas Mother program and at Fincastle Baptist Church. She also was chosen for the All Virginia Academic Team.
Dr. Benjamin Worth, DSLCC’s Vice President of Academic Affairs, noted that Emily is graduating from DSLCC – technically before graduating from high school - with an Associate of Arts and Sciences degree in General Studies with a 3.8 GPA. She will attend Liberty University in the fall. “She received four nominations from DSLCC faculty and staff, was selected by a body of her peers, and embodies Lt. Miller’s spirit of service,” said Dr. Worth.
The award is named after First Lt. Miller, a Covington native and 1965 Covington High School graduate who was killed in action in Vietnam in 1969. He attended DSLCC before joining the US Army.
While on patrol with his battalion, they were attacked, and he was seriously wounded. During the engagement, an enemy grenade was thrown at the patrol, and despite his wounds, Lt. Miller threw himself on the grenade to save his men. He was awarded the Congressional Medal of Honor posthumously for “extraordinary courage and selflessness”. Miller Hall stands at Fort Benning, GA.
High School Students Earn Credentials
A total of eleven area high school students who received the prestigious Governor’s Medallion were recognized by Dr. Rainone: Madison Brown, Allison Brown, Kathryn Haymaker and Anthony Moses, all from Alleghany High School; Emily Bartley and Evan Rose, from Covington High School; Briana Baldwin of James River High School; Sarah Gardner, DiLaina Huffman and Jacob Zimmerman, all from Parry McCluer High School; and Josie Elliott of Rockbridge County High School. The Governor’s Medallion is awarded to high school students who have earned associate degrees or certificates concurrent with their high school career.
Shaun Thomas Hammond of Iron Gate, who served as the student speaker, told his fellow graduates that education is one thing that no one can take away. “The best investment we can make is in knowledge,” he said. A member of Phi Theta Kappa Honor Society, Hammond is a member of Boy Scout Troop 2, and has earned the Eagle Scout Award. He received the Associate of Arts and Science Degree in Business Administration, as well as a Certificate in General Education, and will attend Roanoke College in the fall.
Kyle Keyser, Chair of the DSLCC College Board, welcomed the audience, the national anthem was sung by Mahaley Reyns, a 2016 DSLCC graduate, and the DSLCC Alma Mater was performed by Nancy and James Mathias, accompanied by Joanne Hayslett.
Also recognized was Ralph Sass, Assistant Professor and Head of the Business and Economics Program. Sass is retiring this year and served as the Commencement Marshal.
Commencement Flag Bearers were Emily Bartley and Anthony Moses; student marshals were Kayla Perron and Teanna Sowers.