At HCC, 1000-plus graduates not afraid to work for their dreams 

1,000-plus graduates mark accomplishments

  • Graduate Martha King-Devine gives the student address during the Holyoke Community College commencement ceremony Saturday at the MassMutual Center in Springfield. —DAN LITTLE

  • Alex Kresock, 21, exits the stage after receiving his diploma during the Holyoke Community College commencement ceremony Saturday at the MassMutual Center in Springfield. —DAN LITTLE

  • Jonathan Santos, right, receives his diploma from college president Bill Messner during the Holyoke Community College commencement ceremony Saturday at the MassMutual Center in Springfield. —DAN LITTLE

  • Adam Waskiewicz, center, processes into the MassMutual Center with his fellow graduates during the Holyoke Community College commencement ceremony Saturday in Springfield. —DAN LITTLE

  • Graduate Brittany Bousquet performs a song during the Holyoke Community College commencement ceremony Saturday at the MassMutual Center in Springfield. DAN LITTLE

  • College president Bill Messner speaks during the Holyoke Community College commencement ceremony Saturday at the MassMutual Center in Springfield. —DAN LITTLE

  • Over one thousand graduates fill the MassMutual Center for the Holyoke Community College commencement ceremony Saturday in Springfield. —DAN LITTLE

  • Graduates process into the MassMutual Center during the Holyoke Community College commencement ceremony Saturday in Springfield. —DAN LITTLE

  • Israel Rivera, right, receives his diploma from college president Bill Messner during the Holyoke Community College commencement ceremony Saturday at the MassMutual Center in Springfield. DAN LITTLE

  • Graduates line up to receive their diplomas during the Holyoke Community College commencement ceremony Saturday at the MassMutual Center in Springfield. —DAN LITTLE

  • Graduate Martha King-Devine gives the student address during the Holyoke Community College commencement ceremony Saturday at the MassMutual Center in Springfield. DAN LITTLE

  • Mathematics professor Ileana Vasu gives the commencement address during the Holyoke Community College commencement ceremony Saturday at the MassMutual Center in Springfield. —DAN LITTLE

  • College president Bill Messner listens to a speech during the Holyoke Community College commencement ceremony Saturday at the MassMutual Center in Springfield. —DAN LITTLE

  • Graduates line up to receive their diplomas during the Holyoke Community College commencement ceremony Saturday at the MassMutual Center in Springfield. —DAN LITTLE

@JackHEvans
Published: 5/28/2016 2:31:31 PM

SPRINGFIELD — First came the call of bagpipes, then the jazz combo riffing on “Pomp and Circumstance.” And then they were filing onto the floor of Mass Mutual Center, two by two, shoulders square, backs straight.

There were 1,002 of them, the women and men who made up the 69th graduating class of Holyoke Community College. As the music and cheers and chatter turned to a smear of excited noise Saturday, they raised their arms and waved to spectators, light bouncing off their black gowns and gold sashes.

They found themselves aglow.

The graduates ranged in age from 18 to 70, HCC President Bill Messner said in his opening remarks. They came from 74 Massachusetts cities and towns, 12 states and eight countries.

Messner was joined by a host of speakers — including students, faculty and government representatives — who reiterated themes of overcoming obstacles and reaching personal heights.

“Standing in front of more than a thousand people is terrifying, and that’s why I had to do it,” student orator Martha King-Devine told the crowd. “The absolute most important thing I learned here was personal growth and empowerment come from doing things that scare me.”

Starting HCC two years ago marked her fourth attempt at college, King-Devine said, and she arrived determined to stay in her comfort zone. But a friend introduced her to the college’s Student Senate, where she challenged herself — first with tasks like collecting signatures from strangers and eventually by becoming Senate president.

Now, she said, she’s a smarter, stronger person. She’s eager to scare herself.

“All our accomplishments at HCC and beyond are due to our ability to overcome discomfort,” she said. “After all, if it wasn’t difficult, it wouldn’t be an accomplishment.”

Ileana Vasu, a mathematics professor, received the Elaine Marieb Faculty Chair for Teaching Excellence and gave a commencement address asking the students to remember the people who have made sacrifices for them. She detailed her emigration from Romania as a teenager — describing how, in helping her and her sisters leave, her grandparents accepted loneliness in exchange for better lives for their grandchildren.

She also incorporated mathematical ideas. Rational numbers — simple expressions like six or 11 or two-thirds — are appealing, she said, because they’re easy. But compared to complicated, irrational numbers like pi, they’re exceedingly rare.

“Rational numbers are simple but false,” she said. “Reality is more complex. We need to revel in its messiness. We need to celebrate this diversity. That is what I ask of you today.”

After more remarks, a musical performance and a gift of a rocking chair to Messner, who is retiring, the students filed to the front of the room to cross the stage and complete the ceremony.

Charlotte Dobiecki, 32, of Springfield, stood in a corridor outside the stadium floor after receiving her diploma. She’d finally graduated after 14 years of college, she said, which included changes in majors and schools and breaks from school to serve in the Army.

She landed at HCC two years ago and found a major that suited her — communications. In the midst of that, 16 months ago, she had a son, Maximus.

She said finally getting a degree — and doing it while being a mother — is fulfilling.

“I was able to do this with every obstacle thrown my way,” she said. “I was able to do this even after having a son and the sleepless nights and all the things that come with a child.”

She didn’t know what memory would last from this day, she said, but she guessed it would be one she hadn’t made yet but was planning for, a memory of an after-commencement photograph — one of a 16-month-old boy and his mom, the college graduate.

Indiana University junior Jack Evans is an intern at the Gazette. Email: jackevan@indiana.edu.


Jobs



Support Local Journalism


Subscribe to the Daily Hampshire Gazette, your leading source for news in the Pioneer Valley.


Daily Hampshire Gazette Office

115 Conz Street
Northampton, MA 01061
413-584-5000

 

Copyright © 2020 by H.S. Gere & Sons, Inc.
Terms & Conditions - Privacy Policy