CSM Celebrates 14th Winter Commencement

Ceremony Marks 20,000 CSM Graduates

The College of Southern Maryland (CSM) recognized 632 candidates for degrees and certificates during its 14th Winter Commencement held Jan. 18 at the La Plata Campus.

“[The College of Southern Maryland winter graduating class] is a diverse group—diverse in their backgrounds, in their goals and where they are in their life span. Our youngest graduate is 18 and our most mature is 63,” said CSM President Dr. Brad Gottfried telling 122 of the graduates who participated in the evening ceremony. “What I’m really impressed with is that these students have so many challenges—many of them work, many have families, many have community obligations—and here they are. They understand what an education is all about You’ve made many sacrifices to be here this evening, but you understand what an education is all about—it’s a future, a bright future,” Gottfried said.

            CSM awarded 565 associate degrees and 361 certificates: 39 percent of the students receiving awards are from Charles County, 33 percent are from St. Mary’s County and 23 percent are from Calvert County while 5 percent are from outside of the region. Nearly one-quarter of all associate's degree candidates for graduation earned a 3.5 grade point average or higher.

The ceremony also marked CSM’s milestone of more than 20,000 graduates. Representing the 20,000 graduates was Bertha Aurora Rodriguez, of Waldorf, who received an associate’s degree in engineering technology: drafting and a bouquet of flowers from Gottfried. “What is especially gratifying is that it took eight years to add 5,000 graduates to take us from 10,000 to 15,000, but only six years to go from 15,000 to 20,000 graduates and that means that our enrollment is growing but also a higher percentage of our students are going on to graduate. They realize the importance of getting a certificate, getting an associate degree. Whether they are transferring or not, having that associate degree is absolutely critical,” Gottfried said.

Associate degrees were awarded predominantly in the fields of general studies, business administration, and arts and sciences, while general studies: transfer and advanced and basic accounting topped the list as the most popular certificates. Of the graduates, 67 percent were female.


Oldest Graduate Mike Luginbill

The most senior graduate, Mike Luginbill, of Leonardtown, already had a bachelor’s degree in political science from Frostburg University and a master’s degree in clinical social work from the University of Maryland School of Sociology in Baltimore, but for him the learning never stops. When he needed a better understanding of business administration for his job as a social services administrator he started taking business courses at CSM. And when he rediscovered his love of music and joined local community bands, he started taking music classes at CSM. He graduates with associate’s degrees in business administration and music.

            Luginbill has lived in Southern Maryland since 1973 and has worked for social services for St. Mary’s County and Charles County; he was a department head in Charles County Government and worked for the D.C. Department of Children and Family Services. He retired from state government and has been working part-time for Civista’s Emergency Psychiatric Services.

            Over the years, Luginbill has joined community bands such as Cosmic Chamber Orchestra, and CSM’s Solid Brass and Latin bands. It was through his association with Solid Brass, and band leader Randy Runyon that Luginbill felt he needed to know more about music and began taking courses. He started playing trombone in the fifth grade and through high school before putting his instrument down for more than 20 years. “It has been great hanging out with other performers of all ages,” said Luginbill, of the wide range of ages and abilities in the CSM bands. “The Music Department is excellent and Dr. [Stephen] Johnson and the other professors do a good job teaching the fundamentals of music.”

            “My family has been oriented toward education—my dad had a PhD, my mom had three master’s degrees, and my siblings are all college educated. They are amazed that I am pursing more degrees, but the learning never stops,” he said, adding that it helps to have a supportive family such as his wife Nancy, a retired nurse, and his daughter, Elizabeth, a teacher.

            Continuing on as a life-long learner, Luginbill will continue with upper-level music courses at St. Mary’s College of Maryland.


Youngest Graduate Amanda Blakley

Amanda “Mimi” Blakley, 18, of White Plains is the youngest graduate for the Winter Commencement. From an early age she knew that she wanted to be a teacher and business owner, so as a high school senior she opted for dual enrollment at CSM.

“I had the most phenomenal experience at CSM. The instructors were so willing to help and work with me when I had questions. I felt I had access whenever I needed help through email,” Blakley said. She singled out Assistant Professor Erich Hintze as an instructor that challenged her. “I needed an English class to fulfill my high school requirements and thought that his poetry class would be an easy “A” but I couldn’t have been more wrong. He could see what I was capable of and he [challenged] me. I wanted to drop the class a time or two, but now I am so appreciative.”

Blakely has transferred to East Carolina University where she is pursuing a bachelor’s degree in early childhood education with a minor is business. She plans to teach while she works toward a master’s degree and then open her own childcare center.


Nursing Recognition

CSM’s ninth winter class of nursing students participated in a recognition ceremony earlier in the day. Health Services Chair Dr. Laura Polk presented an Academic Achievement in Nursing Award to Jean Fleming of Prince Frederick and Travis Roberts of La Plata who graduated with highest honors. Fleming received the Achievement in Nursing Award which is given by CSM faculty to a student who has demonstrated advanced clinical competence, service and dedication to the community, leadership within and outside of the classroom, and academic excellence. For more on the Nursing Recognition Ceremony, visit http://www.csmd.edu/News/MediaResources/13janGrad.html.


Student Speaker Aleigha Hammons

Giving the student address was CSM winter 2013 graduate Aleigha Hammons of Lusby, who said that she may have played it safe by coming to CSM, but that once she got into such a supportive and encouraging environment she felt comfortable trying new things, branching out and even taking some risks—like speaking at her graduation.

“I’m sure I speak for all of us soon-to-be CSM alums when I say CSM has offered us a learning experience we will always treasure and will always look back on fondly when sharing where we got our start,” Hammons said as she addressed her fellow graduates.

“In 2008, if you had asked me, I would have said that I couldn’t see myself being here, right now on this stage about to accept my associate’s degree in criminal justice. But CSM did see me here. My family saw me here. Every professor that pushed me, challenged me and held me to high standards could see me here, graduating. And, CSM, to this day, has been the greatest decision of my life,” Hammons said.


Keynote Speaker Dr. Romergryko Geocadin

Commencement keynote speaker Romergryko G. Geocadin, MD, the director of Johns Hopkins Neurosciences Critical Care Unit. Geocadin is a graduate of the University of the Philippines and earned his medical degree from the University of the East-Ramon Magsaysay College of Medicine in the Philippines and post-graduate internship at the University of the Philippines-Philippine General Hospital. Subsequently he completed both an internship in internal medicine and a residency in neurology at the New York University School of Medicine after which he came to Johns Hopkins as a fellow in neurological critical care.

Geocadin told graduates and guests his personal story that spanned two countries, one dream, far too many tragedies and far too many people saying he could not do it. Thinking that he would follow in his father’s footsteps and become a lawyer, Geocadin told how his family’s experience with doctors, hospitals and bankruptcy following his young sister’s death from a brain tumor propelled him toward a career in medicine. Through bumps, turns, closed doors and slightly cracked windows, Geocadin said that he made his way from the Philippines to America. “Your path doesn’t have to be a straight arrow,” he said, adding “sometimes you make wonderful mistakes.”


Trustees’ Distinguished Service Awards

            CSM’s Board of Trustees recognized the arts councils in Calvert, Charles and St. Mary’s counties with Trustees’ Distinguished Service Awards for the significant impact they have made in the community, at CSM and on its students.

            “Through the Maryland State’s Arts Council, the Arts Council of Calvert County, the Charles County Arts Alliance and the St. Mary’s County Arts Council have contributed more than $35,000 in total to CSM for arts-related programming during the past 10 years,” said CSM Board of Trustees Chair Austin Joseph Slater Jr.


Faculty Excellence Award Recipient Linda Fitzgerald

            The annual Faculty Excellence Award Honoring Adjunct Faculty was presented to clinical nursing instructor Linda Fitzgerald of the Health Sciences Division. She has a background as a critical care nurse and worked as program coordinator for Civista Hospital’s Cardiopulmonary Rehabilitation Department. Fitzgerald is in her seventh year teaching nursing students and has become a leader in clinical nursing education.


Winter Commencement Candidates for Graduation

The following students were recognized as candidates for associate’s degrees or certificates at the commencement ceremony: (See attached listing)

For photos and additional stories from commencement, visit http://www.csmd.edu/News/MediaResources/13janGrad.html.

For captions, see attached listing.

For information about the college, call 301-934-7765 or 301-870-2309, 240-725-5499 or 443-550-6199, Ext. 7765 or visit www.csmd.edu.