Graduates,Distinguished Service Award Recipients Honored
The College of Southern Maryland (CSM) recognized 285 candidates for degrees and certificates during its ninth winter commencement, with keynote speaker St. Mary's County Commissioner President Francis “Jack” Russell.
“It may be raining outside, but boy, the stars are shining tonight. The College of Southern Maryland graduates represent the best of what this college is about. They are a diverse groupdiverse in their backgrounds and in their educational goals, and diverse in where they are in their life span I am inspired by you,” said CSM President Dr. Brad Gottfried as he welcomed the family and friends gathered to celebrate the 123 graduates who participated in the college's first graduation ceremony of its 50th anniversary year held Jan. 17 at the La Plata Campus.
CSM awarded 277 associate degrees and 84 certificates: 40 percent of the students receiving awards are from Charles County, 27.7 percent from St. Mary's County, and 24.6 percent from Calvert County; 7.7 percent are from outside of the Southern Maryland region.
Of the graduates, 71.2 percent are female and 28.8 percent are male. Associate degrees were awarded predominantly in the fields of clinical nursing, general studies and business administration. Certificates were awarded predominantly in the areas of advanced accounting, general studies: transfer and basic accounting. The ages of this winter's graduate and certificate recipients ranged from 18 to 66.
Harry Swank, 66, of Waldorf received his associate's degree in general studies: criminal justice. Swank, who had previously worked in the fields of security and communication, including 20 years with the U.S. Coast Guard, said going to college was something he had always longed to do.
“When I graduated high school, from a small logging town in Oregon, there were no local jobs and if you didn't have money you couldn't go to college. My father was a deputy sheriff and I was interested in law enforcement so I joined the Coast Guard, where I was exposed to law enforcement on so many levels,” said Swank, who followed his time in the Coast Guard with positions with Validity Corporation and EDS where he did computer and communication system testing until he retired in 2004.
“I couldn't just sit at home or I'd be dead pretty quick. At first I pursued an information technology systems degree but then I thought what am I doing?' So I followed my life-long interest in criminal justice. I never really thought about it in terms of potential employment but rather as something I could do for me,” he said.
“It's never bothered me that I have been the oldest student in a lot of my classes,” said Swank, who has attended classes and training sessions off-and-on at CSM for more than 17 years. “It's never too late and you are never too old to go to school,” he added.
Joshua Mora, 18, of Hollywood started his college education early and will earn a certification in computer aided drafting in the process. Mora, who graduated from Leonardtown High School last year, was encouraged by his mentor, Ken Smith, supervisor for career and technology education at St. Mary's County public schools, to take drafting classes at CSM after he showed promise in his classes and a mechanical drawing contest through the Dr. James A. Forrest Career and Technology Center.
“I love to work with computers and create things. Three-dimensional design has always interested me. The transition from high school to CSM was easy. CSM classes were the perfect size and there was a lot more work in the classes,” said Mora, adding that he enjoyed the challenge and is planning on applying to colleges offering architecture and mechanical design programs.
CSM's fourth winter class of nursing students participated in a recognition ceremony earlier in the day. Nursing and Health Technology Department Chair Sandy Genrich presented an Academic Achievement in Nursing award to Julia Thompson of Prince Frederick, who graduated with highest honors, and an Achievement in Nursing award to Shannon Bass of Indian Head. The Achievement in Nursing award is awarded by CSM faculty to a student who has demonstrated advanced clinical competence, service and dedication to their community, leadership within and outside of the classroom, and academic excellence.
From a first graduation class of four in 1960, the college now has celebrated more than 15,600 graduates. In its 50-year history, the college has grown to be the centerpiece of Southern Maryland, becoming an integral part of the community it serves with campuses in Calvert, Charles and St. Mary's counties and more than 21,000 annual enrollments.
In recognition of the role that faculty play in the college's continued success, the first Faculty Excellence Award for part-time faculty was presented Edith G. Carron, who teaches biological and physical science.
Faculty Senate President Ron Brown announced the award, recognizing Carron for her commitment to provide students with a solid foundation in the sciences while encouraging them to explore the ever-evolving field of biology. Carron utilizes scientific reports and articles and develops mini-lectures and seminars on current biological issues relevant to student lives such as animal cloning, multi-drug resistant bacteria, West Nile Virus and Bird Flu to gain and maintain student interest. She has taught part-time at CSM since 2003.
Other honorees during commencement were CSM Board of Trustees' Distinguished Service Award recipients John and Dianne McWilliams. The award is given to community leaders who donate their time and resources in support of the college.
John and Dianne McWilliams were recognized for their family's long-term commitment to the college. Mrs. McWilliams served on the college's Board of Trustees in many capacities, including vice chair, from 1990 2000. Following her tenure, Mrs. McWilliams devoted herself to raising money for the St. Charles Children's Learning Center which opened on the college's La Plata Campus two years ago. Mr. McWilliams served on the college's foundation board for nearly 10 years and helped plan many recognized college events such as the annual golf classic. The McWilliams with other family members established a family endowment, the McWilliams Nursing Education Endowment Fund, to help advance nursing and healthcare programs at the college.
The commencement keynote speaker was St. Mary's County Commissioner President Francis “Jack” Russell, who is also the owner of a skipjack sailboat and conducts skipjack tours for middle school students to learn about the Chesapeake Bay. “You will never forget the importance of this day and you should truly be proud of your achievement. I have spent a lifetime navigating vessels on the Chesapeake Bay. Tonight you will receive your license to navigate your vessel any place that you want to go in the world,” he said as he encouraged the graduates in the power of education, to believe in themselves, stay focused and create meaningful relationships.
The following students were recognized as candidates for associate's degrees or certificates at the commencement ceremony:
For information about the college, call 301-934-7765 or 301-870-2309, Ext. 7765 for Charles County; 240-725-5499, Ext. 7765 for St. Mary's County or 443-550-6199, Ext. 7765 for Calvert County or visit www.csmd.edu.
St. Mary's County
Prince George's County
Nicole D. Close
Justin W. Leonard
Robert Brian Chapman
Joanna Rosamond Helwig
Kevin W. O'Donnell
Dana Raye Gregory
David Brian Hiland