×

Pura urges GCC graduates to ‘build a better tomorrow’

  • Members of the Greenfield Community College class of 2017, move the tassels on their caps from the right to the left side after receiving their diplomas at their commencement Saturday, June 3, 2017. Recorder Staff/Matt Burkhartt—Matt Burkhartt

  • Robert Cohn, of the Greenfield Community College Class of 1971, and the chairman of the board of trustees, addresses the Class of 2017 at commencement Saturday. Recorder Staff/Matt Burkhartt

  • Simon Jun Young Hwang Carlos, of the Greenfield Community College liberal arts class of 2017, receives his diploma from his father, Leo Hwang Carlos, the dean of humanities, at the commencement Saturday, June 3, 2017. Recorder Staff/Matt Burkhartt—Matt Burkhartt

  • Penelope Davis, of the Greenfield Community College criminal justice class of 2017, shakes President Robert Pura’s hand after receiving her diploma. Recorder Staff/Matt Burkhartt

  • Penelope Davis, a member of the Greenfield Community College criminal justice class of 2017 with Leo Hwang, the dean of humanities and her first professor before their commencement Saturday, June 3, 2017. Recorder Staff/Matt Burkhartt—Matt Burkhartt

  • A member of the Greenfield Community College Class of 2017 greets a high five after receiving her diploma at the commencement Saturday. Recorder Staff/Matt Burkhartt

  • Greenfield Community College president, Robert Pura address the class of 2017 at their commencement Saturday, June 3, 2017. Recorder Staff/Matt Burkhartt—Matt Burkhartt

  • The Greenfield Community College class of 2017 waits before their commencement Saturday, June 3, 2017. Recorder Staff/Matt Burkhartt—Matt Burkhartt

  • Members of the Greenfield Community College class of 2017 receive their diplomas at their commencement Saturday, June 3, 2017. Recorder Staff/Matt Burkhartt—Matt Burkhartt

  • Cristin Carpenter, Greenfield Community College professor of English and gender and women’s studies, addresses the Class of 2017. Recorder Staff/Matt Burkhartt

  • Brendan Braithwaite, of the Greenfield Community College liberal arts class of 2017, addresses his classmates at their commencement Saturday, June 3, 2017. Recorder Staff/Matt Burkhartt—Matt Burkhartt

  • Members of the Greenfield Community College class of 2017, move the tassels on their caps from the right to the left side after receiving their diplomas at their commencement Saturday, June 3, 2017. Recorder Staff/Matt Burkhartt—Matt Burkhartt



For the Gazette
Monday, June 05, 2017

GREENFIELD — Speaking before 340 graduates Saturday afternoon, Greenfield Community College President Robert L. Pura saw the value of higher education, a resource to society he feels is being threatened by a lack of financial resources.

Since 1980, Pura said, investment in higher education has declined by about 40 percent. He likened the situation to that of a sinking ship.

“Our vessel is leaking, the middle class is sinking and far too many Americans still live on the outskirts of hope,” he said.

As part of his parting words to graduates, Pura asked they “build a better tomorrow” by reinvesting in education. After all, he said, education is fundamental to preparing individuals to take an active role in society.

“The outcome of a strong education is a stronger democracy,” he said. “It is also the bedrock of our liberty.”

Everyone can make a difference toward reinvesting in education, Pura said, offering five suggestions: vote; attend town meetings and advocate for public education; vote for those who support education and vote out those who don’t; work to realign our nation’s values with our resources; and “fight for the schools, colleges and communities that we deserve.”

Of the 340 graduates, themselves products of higher education, 37 percent were among the first in their family to go to college, Pura said. They ranged in age anywhere from 18 to 75.

Both student speaker Brendan Braithwaite and faculty speaker Cristin Carpenter talked about what being a part of the GCC community has meant to them. For Carpenter, who is retiring this year, the care shown at GCC has allowed for more lasting relationships with faculty and students.

“It’s something we all need and give each other, and find it missing when it’s not there,” she said. “Community colleges feel among the most caring, democratic institutions we have in this country.”

For Braithwaite, being a GCC student has been a transformative experience, providing him with a second chance to obtain an education following a high school experience that left him feeling alone and lacking confidence. He was able to raise his grade point average from below a 2.0 in high school to a 3.9 upon his graduation from GCC.

“GCC brings out the best in people,” he said, hoping his classmates would continue to promote the school’s ideals of kindness and compassion.

And, though the future may sometimes look bleak to Braithwaite in the face of challenges, like climate change, he expressed his belief in his fellow graduates to make a difference.

“The people of this community give me hope that together we will overcome these challenges,” he said.