By Sarah Plummer
New River Community and Technical College as well as its nearly 300 graduates proved Samuel Johnson’s assertion that “Great works are performed not by strength, but by perseverance” during the college’s 10th commencement exercises Saturday at the Chuck Mathena Center in Princeton.
College president Dr. L. Marshall Washington asked the graduating students to stand if they began their coursework within two years of graduating from high school.
Unlike at other colleges, few stood.
Most students stood and indicated they began their coursework between five and 20 years after graduating from high school and one member of the 2013 graduation class finished despite a 50-year gap.
Most of the 300 who graduated Saturday are parents, and several are grandparents. At Washington’s request, more than half indicated they were the first in their immediate family to attend college and received financial aid, grants or other types of assistance through the school.
“Each year a commencement ceremony allows the college community to reflect on all the reasons why we love our school and to understand the impact we have on the community,” he said.
“We reaffirm our dedication to improving the lives and destinies of those we serve in a nine-county region — Fayette, Greenbrier, Mercer, Monroe, Pocahontas, Nicholas, Raleigh, Summers, Webster.
“I have seen the power of transformation that so many of you display on a daily basis, and it inspires me. We graduated 233 during the 2011-12 year and serve an area the size of Connecticut and Rhode Island combined, much of it rural, inaccessible, and scarcely populated,” explained the president. “We are challenged to develop programs that are accessible to students in remote areas. We are finding ways to reach students who would otherwise not go to college.”
Washington said that while the commencement ceremony is meant to highlight the graduates’ achievements, he understands that many of them could not have pursued their degrees without the help of friends and family.
With thunderous applause and cheers, the graduates stood and recognized their family and friends.
Dr. David Perkins, who served as the first president of New River after the college was created by the Legislature in 2003, delivered Saturday’s commencement address.
He told those graduating that it is “always better to work at something than not to work at all.” With an increasingly difficult job market, he told them to work at something, regardless of what it is, while waiting to attain their dream job.
He then told them to never stop learning: “Continuing your education is critical for the success of your career and life.”
And lastly, he told them they must possess “unrelenting perseverance” to reach their goals, and perseverance only comes with “the kind of self-discipline that causes us to do what needs to be done when it needs to be done.”
Perkins was presented with a framed picture of New River’s five campuses for his work in establishing the West Virginia Community and Technical College System.
While the graduates are prepared to go into the workforce or continue to a four-year institution, Saturday’s ceremony marks the end of New River Community and Technical College’s infancy.
Leslie Baker, chair of the college’s Board of Governors, said New River will “begin its second decade with as much excitement as we began its first.”
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