DSLCC Hosts Annual Commencement Exercises
Dabney S. Lancaster Community College hosted its 51st annual commencement exercises Friday night in the DSLCC Convocation Center on the Clifton Forge campus. One hundred eighty-six graduates were awarded associate degrees, certificates, and career studies certificates to a standing-room-only crowd of family members and well-wishers.
“Draw energy from the hardest time in your life, draw passion from the time you felt knocked down, set your goals, set your dreams, with the end in mind,” advised entrepreneur and guest speaker Christopher Wood of Staunton, who recounted the traumatic experience he lived through when he was held hostage by a deranged gunman – the nation’s first suicide bomber – in 2003 while working at Discovery Communications in Silver Spring, MD. “I had to go through something incredibly painful and awful to realize where regret feels the worst. I’m sharing it with you so you don’t have to.”
“Surround yourself with good, successful people,” he also advised. “And they will help you achieve the goals you set…It may mean you need to cut ties with those who don’ t build you up, don’t support you, and only tell you what you want to hear versus what you need to hear.”
Wood said he failed at three-fourths of the business ideas he attempted before his 30th birthday. “Life doesn’t stop when you fail, it keeps right on moving…work, bills, kids, family, and that is where people often get scared. What if you fail?...you pick yourself up, brush yourself off, wipe away the tears, jump back on to try again.”
“Most people think success is when you reach your goal…but real true success is defined in what you do when you’re at the bottom.” Lessons in failure, he said, must be felt and learned ..and “it’s your responsibility and yours alone.”
Graduate Page Michaela Terry of Cloverdale, who served as student speaker, spoke about herself as an average student who had been able to achieve her goals at DSLCC. As a child growing up in Fincastle, she said a meal out was a big treat. Terry got a laugh from the audience when she said that while other kids aspired to be doctors or lawyers or firemen, she said her dream was to work at McDonald’s, because those workers were the dispensers of happiness. Her goals have changed somewhat since then, she noted. Terry earned an Associate of Arts and Sciences Degree in General Studies, as well as the General Education Certificate from DSLCC. She plans to attend Hollins University to earn a doctorate degree in Psychology.
DSLCC President Dr. John Rainone recognized two longtime educators who are retiring: Chuck Bartocci, Program Head of Advanced Technology Systems, and Gary Appel, Mathematics instructor.
Megan Leigh Humphries of Covington was honored as the recipient of the coveted Gary Lee Miller Outstanding Graduate Award. Humphries, who earned an Associate of Applied Science Degree in Nursing, is a member of Phi Theta Kappa, the Nursing Student Association, and has organized countless fundraisers for local organizations such as Safe Homes, the American Heart Association, Project Horizon, Catawba State Hospital, the Community Services Board, and Lewis-Gale Alleghany Hospital. Additionally, she has served on the Virginia Nursing Student Association’s Board of Directors, organized local events to raise awareness for various health-related issues, and planned a campus-wide fundraiser to support the victims of Hurricane Harvey.
The Gary Lee Miller Award honors First Lieutenant Gary Lee Miller, a Covington native who was killed in action in Vietnam. He attended DSLCC before joining the United States Army. On February 16, 1969, while Lt. Miller was 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, in spite of his wounds, Lt. Miller threw himself on the grenade to save his men. His battalion nominated him for the Congressional Medal of Honor, which was awarded to Lt. Miller posthumously. In addition to this building being named for Lt. Miller, Miller Hall stands at Fort Benning, Georgia in his honor.
Covington businessman John Stone was recognized as this year’s recipient of the Distinguished Alumni Award. A 1975 DSLCC graduate and 1977 graduate of Virginia Tech, Stone is owner and operator of John H. Stone Nationwide Agency, which was established by his father, Med Stone, in 1959. He is active in the Alleghany Highlands community, as a member of the Kiwanis Club, Jackson River Enterprises Board, Alleghany Highlands Chamber of Commerce and Tourism Board, Izaak Walton League, Salvation Army Board, and Treasurer of the DSLCC Educational Foundation Board. He has been instrumental in the success of the Foundation’s most recent major gifts campaign and was influential in establishing the Ovella Worsham Educator’s Scholarship through a gift from Temple Baptist Church, of which he is a member, on behalf of Ms. Worsham.
“I was fortunate to receive a very good start at my college education, even on this small campus, because bricks and mortar are not what make a college – that much has not changed, for it will always be the people and relationships that form the real basis of a good education. We are so blessed to have this fine institution right here.” He said while he remembered a few of his instructors at Virginia Tech, he remembers all of the ones he encountered at DSLCC.
Stone said the main reason he serves on the Educational Foundation Board is “to help make available the scholarships that allow our talented, local students the opportunity to attend college locally at little or no cost.” He recalled that his tuition at DSLCC was a whopping $225 a year.
Addressing the graduates, Dr. Rainone remarked that “those with an associate degree will earn approximately 33 percent more in earnings over a lifetime that just having a high school diploma…that’s over half a million dollars. Your degree or certificate is an important signal to the world that you’ve worked hard: you have sought-after skills that will lead to better careers and better lives. However, your degree doesn’t entitle you to success; it lets you play in the game. Your character is your success factor. We know that DSLCC graduates have that character.”
“We have veterans who have served this country with distinction; we have graduates who work two or three part-time jobs to make ends meet; we have graduates who needed to juggle work, family, and school, and we have graduates here tonight despite of their disabilities….we are incredibly proud of all of you.” Stay in touch with each other, he added: “always remember that this community is a place you can call home.”
Following the awarding of diplomas, Dr. Rainone closed by recognizing:
Joseph Mayes Jr. of Clifton Forge and Morgan Linsin of Covington, the first two graduates of the Early College program;
A number of high school juniors earning Career Studies Certificates in Math and Science;
Shaniece Crouch of Iron Gate and Mary Jo Oliver of Alleghany County, who were named to the All-Virginia Academic Team;
Marie Shiraki of Buena Vista, the 2017-18 Valley Proteins Scholar from the Virginia Foundation for Community College Education;
67 percent of the class who earned Associate Degrees;
40 percent of the class who started with high school dual enrollment classes;
22 percent taking classes primarily at the DSLCC Rockbridge Regional Center in Buena Vista;
and 80 percent who are either employed or planning to transfer to a four-year college or university.
Mahaley Reyns, a 2016 DSLCC graduate, sang the National Anthem, while James and Nancy Mathias performed the DSLCC Alma Mater, accompanied by Joanne Hayslett.
Eddie Graham greeted the audience on behalf of the DSLCC College Board; Dr. Benjamin Worth, Vice President for Academic Affairs, announced the names of all the graduates while Dr. Rainone handed out diplomas.