CSM Observes 49th Spring Commencement

Established in 1958

College’s First, Last Graduates Represent More Than 16,000 Success Stories

The College of Southern Maryland celebrated its 400 candidates for degrees and certificates during its 49th spring commencement ceremony held May 22 on the lawn of the Administration Building at the La Plata Campus. Since the college opened its doors in 1958, there have been more than 16,000 graduates and thousands other students who have taken courses at the college’s three campuses or via distance education opportunities.

The ceremony culminated in the linking of the college’s first graduate, Welford Bowling of Charlotte Hall, with the college’s latest graduate, Mary Jane Rossi of Leonardtown, both of whom have a passion for education.

Rossi was the last of 208 graduates participating in the ceremony. Receiving an associate degree in secondary teacher education and a certificate in general studies transfer, she is a media clerk at Leonardtown Middle School.

At the age of 49 Rossi is excited to be the first of her siblings to receive an associate degree. She follows in the footsteps of her daughter, Janette Badia, a CSM alum who received her associate degree in nursing last spring. “My father always wanted his children to get a degree and I’m halfway there,” said Rossi who will attend University of Maryland University College in the fall to pursue a degree in English.

Her goal is to ultimately obtain a master’s degree in education with an emphasis in library science. “I am hoping to teach. I needed something new in my life after drawing housing plans for many years,” she said. Deciding to substitute at Leonardtown Middle School to validate her desire to teach, she discovered, “I got hooked. I just love being around middle school-aged kids,” she said.

“The college being here in Leonardtown has been so convenient for me,” she said. “My mother moved in with us shortly after we moved here and the college being so closeby made it easier for me to get an education at this time in my life when I was working full-time and taking care of my mom.”

The college’s first-ever graduate, Bowling began his studies at the community college when the college opened its doors September 17, 1958. He had grown up raising tobacco on the family farm and after serving in the military he worked at a truck stop and drove a dump truck during the day while he attended college in the evening. “I didn’t know the dickens what I was going to do after getting out of the Air Force, but if the college had not been there, I would not have gone to school,” the 73-year-old Bowling recalls.

His goal was to become a teacher. After receiving his associate degree in education, he transferred to Towson. He returned to Charles County where he taught for three years, and then served as a principal in the county for 23 years until 1989 when he retired as the principal for Walter J. Mitchell Elementary. “I enjoyed working with the kids because number one, they keep you young…and it’s just a pleasure being around them,” Bowling said.

"College is what you make of it,” he said. “The opportunity is here to succeed…I would not have been a principal if it hadn't been for the community college."

At the 2008 spring commencement, CSM awarded 406 associate degrees and 136 certificates. Of the candidates for graduation, 73 percent were female; 41.5 percent were from Charles County, 32 percent from St. Mary’s County and 22 percent from Calvert County; 4.5 percent were from outside the region.

Associate degrees were awarded predominantly in the fields of general studies, business administration and accounting. Most of the certificates were awarded in the areas of advanced accounting, general studies – transfer, and basic accounting. The ages of this spring’s recipients ranged from 60 to 17.

CSM’s oldest graduate this spring is Sharon Gross, 60, of Port Republic. ”I took courses in the 1960s and ‘70s but I was raising seven children and there just wasn’t enough time to do everything I wanted to do,” said Gross, who returned to college not only to enrich her life but that of others. “I started Youth of Calvert County, a youth program that brings students into contact with mentors and teachers. Kids come out and participate when there is talent around, so we host concerts and art events that help them learn about us and what we do. I took art, theater and history classes at CSM so I could offer more to these kids,” said Gross.

Attaining her associate degree will not deter Gross from continuing studies at CSM. “I am still interested in so many topics. I want to take more black history and literature classes, economics, criminal justice. I want to be able to educate these students, help them understand where they came from and the struggles of generations before them. The more students are exposed the more likely they are to participate in the community,” she said.

The youngest graduate is 17-year-old Daniel Schindel of Bryantown. Schindel volleyed between attending traditional high school and home-school but always wondered if “they can get school done in three or four hours, why are we there all day?” His parents decided based on his mindset and tendency to be a self-motivated independent worker that early admission to college might be the answer. At the age of 15, Schindel passed his GED test with honors. After two years of study at CSM, he received three associate degrees, in general studies, English and communication. He plans to pursue a bachelor’s degree in communication with a minor in film studies at Olivet Nazarene University, Bourbonnais, Ill. this fall.

Other graduates include Tony Griffith of Hagerstown, who is one of three graduates celebrating a 50th birthday as the college celebrates its 50th anniversary year. Griffith received a degree in human services. He credits CSM for helping him get a new start in life and preparing him to work as a resident advisor with the Maryland Department of Juvenile Services where he helps juveniles find “the right avenues to turn themselves around.”

“At 37, I developed congestive heart failure and everything I knew—my job, the works—went away. I felt sorry for myself for a long time and then I thought, ‘if I go back to school, I can recapture myself.’ So I went to an information session in Prince Frederick and the grace of God placed me in the path of Jody Simpson, my future advisor. She took the time to get to know me, nurture me, cultivate my progress and was always compassionate. Without her I would have dropped out,” he said. “Jody Simpson and CSM gave me the chance to reach for the sky, and I thank them from the bottom of my heart.”

During the nursing recognition ceremony, held earlier in the day, Linda Kersnick of North Beach received the Academic Achievement in Nursing Award, given to the graduate with the highest grade point average in the nursing class, and Nina Roth of Lusby was awarded the Achievement in Nursing Award, presented to the graduate who demonstrates academic achievement, clinical competence, community service and leadership potential.

Kersnick decided to pursue a college degree after eight years as a stay-at-home mom. She said that educational experiences have provided her with the self-confidence and strength that she “can do anything I set my mind to.” She has accepted a position at Calvert Memorial Hospital and will be working on the telemetry unit as she continues her education to earn a bachelor of science in nursing.

Previously in the Navy for five years, Roth returned to college to prepare for a second career in the healthcare field. She is a recipient of two scholarships–the James T. Mitchell and Grace E. Brown nursing scholarships–as well as a member of Phi Theta Kappa and has been nominated for the All-USA Academic Team.

“When I first began this pathway, it was an interest. Now that I have reached this point, it has become my passion. I like the idea that I can make a difference in someone’s life by teaching them how to better take care of themselves and live healthier lives. That is what drew me to nursing. Along the way, I have found that nursing is a career that holds infinite possibilities for professional growth and development. Many paths are open to me now, such as emergency room care, surgical nursing, obstetrical nursing, school nursing, home health care and hospice, research, and the list goes on. Without a question, nurses are needed everywhere,” she said.

“I have loved my time here at CSM. I have learned more here than I had ever imagined I would, shared some great experiences and developed some life-long friendships. I look forward to moving on; however, I will always look back at CSM with fondness, gratitude and the realization that if I can do this – I can do anything,” she added.

Special awards presented during commencement included the Board of Trustees’ Distinguished Service Award, presented to Jane and Walter Grove of White Plains by Board of Trustee Chair Jaime Raley. “Jane and Walter Grove have been intimately involved with the college since establishing the Walter B. Grove II Memorial Scholarship Endowment in loving memory of their only son Walter Grove II, who like his father was also an alumnus of this college. Shortly after graduating, Walter II reflected that he was happy at the college [and] that his art teachers at the college were the best he had in his years as a student,” Raley said. “For these reasons, his parents and extended family chose CSM as the most appropriate place to establish an endowed memorial scholarship fund in their son's name for students pursuing programs in the visual arts.”

In addition to the endowed scholarship fund the college with the help of the Groves founded the Walter B. Grove II Memorial Student Art Gallery in the Fine Arts Center in which students from beginning and advanced art classes are able to exhibit their artwork. “The generosity of Jane and Walter Grove and their son's memorial scholarship fund has benefited dozens of art students, allowing them to further their education in art and pursue their dream in higher education,” Raley said.

The college also presented an honorary degree to longtime Charles County resident and Greater Waldorf Jaycee Dick Gregory, whose community service within the county over the past 41 years has been exceptional. He has been recognized with the John Bloom Citizen of the Year Award and the Enduring Spirit award. “Some have said that one person cannot make a difference, but Dick shows that is not the case,” Raley said. “Through his tireless activities as a member of the Greater Waldorf Jaycees, and a number of other non-profit organizations, he has changed the lives of thousands of citizens.”

 Serving in the U.S. Air Force for 20 years, he was selected in 1973 as one of 12 Outstanding Airmen in the United States Air Force. After his military career, he worked with Mantech International, retiring in 1998 as the assistant to the chairman of the board.

A Jaycee since 1970, Gregory has served as the chairman for the community and youth action committee, and has been involved in addressing the need for facilities and professional programs for the developmentally disabled. He has served as president of the Greater Waldorf Jaycee Foundation and chaired the Jaycee Scholarship program in partnership with the CSM Foundation, which has provided more than $528,000 in scholarships for Charles County students. Other projects with which he has served a leadership role include the Boy Scouts of America, the Charles County Disaster Relief Fund, the Indian Head Industrial Alliance, the Economic Development Commission, and the Civista Hospital Foundation.

 The Faculty Excellence Award was presented to Nursing Professor Dr. Laura V. Polk by Faculty Senate President Ron Brown. This award is peer-nominated and presented to a faculty member who demonstrates instructional excellence and a commitment to the college/community, and who strives for professional development. Polk, who has taught at CSM for six years, was recognized for her commitment to exploring and implementing new teaching methods and technologies in her classroom that allow students to explore and understand their own learning style.

In addition to her numerous teaching and committee duties at the college, Polk is a member of the Society of Pediatric Nurses, the Sigma Theta Tau Honor Society for Nursing and NANDA-International (North American Nursing Diagnosis Association) which develops language standards for nursing professionals. She is the author of numerous journal articles and lecture presentations. Locally, she donates time to provide first aid to Girl Scout troops and the Girl Scout Camp Winona. She has also presented nursing topics and career information for Diggs Elementary School’s Career Day.

The keynote speaker at CSM’s commencement ceremony was Calvert County Commissioner Wilson Parran, who encouraged graduates to maintain their optimism in times of adversity. “The feeling of uncertainty cuts across nearly every walk of life,” he told graduates as he listed challenges of rising foreclosures, gas prices, the environment and the Middle East. “It’s times like these when we must remember there are always times like these…Solving these problems brings great opportunity. Remember we are to be servants to a world in need. Use your intellect, your creativity and your enthusiasm to make a real difference,” he said.

At the college’s May 21 Honors Convocation, 36 students were recognized for achieving highest honors (3.9-4.0 GPA), 25 for high honors (3.75-3.89 GPA) and 56 for honors (3.5 to 3.74 GPA). Departmental awards were presented to Kristi Mitchell of Huntingtown, Sabine Grosz of Lexington Park, Deborah A. Kersey of Waldorf, Joseph Koffley of Lexington Park, Sherri M. Fimiani of Brandywine, Matthew P. Tettimer of Port Republic, Jessica Ramos of La Plata, Dana Corbett of Waldorf, Ana-Alecia Stauffer of Waldorf, Laura Hupp of La Plata, Megan Anderson of Waldorf, Rebecca Schmeltz of La Plata, Michael Godfrey of Lusby, Kristin Lake of Issue, Susan Bearns of Huntingtown, Solomon Abiola of Hughesville, Kahmala Campbell of Waldorf, Charles Mills of Prince Frederick, Chase Windsor of Saint Leonard, Jo. E. Proctor of Chesapeake Beach, Samantha Harrison of Lusby, Stacey Griffin of Bushwood, Ute Borland of Lusby, Nikki Lachelle Breckenridge of Waldorf, Vito Ferrara of California, Joshua Trumpower of Great Mills and John Rounsavall of La Plata.

For graduation photos, visit http://www.csmd.edu/News/MediaResources/Spring2008Commencement.html . The ceremony will be re-broadcast on cable channels 98 in Charles and St. Mary’s counties and cable channel 6 in Calvert County. For a complete schedule visit www.csmd.edu/csmtv. The following students were recognized as candidates for associate’s degrees or certificates at the commencement ceremony;


Calvert County

Chesapeake Beach

Brandy Altice

Pamela Marie Dennis

Melvina Lorraine Frazier

Sherry L Huston

Samantha Ann Key

Erin J Werner

Amy Elizabeth Woodell

Deanna Helen Zook



Lisa Marie Dzialoski



Melissa M Baione

John Richard Henson

Rebecca C Houser

LaPortia Rae Lewis

Jenna A Long

Kevin Louis Peil

Magdalena Gluch



William D Unkle



Michelle Abuelhawa

Weston Sterling Hedrick

Krista Lagiewski

Bradford Randall Nash

Marc A Pirner

Jordan E Remeniuk

Kattie A Schallmo

Jessica A Sullivan

Hillary Ann Vehrs

Brian L Ward

Chelsea Nichelle Wilson



Christine Denice Baker

Ute Borland

Bridget Yvette Britt

Cory Daniel Brown

Jolene O Brown

Cory Daniel Brown

William C Garrity

Victor J Goeller

Mary C Grimes

Samantha L Harrison

Douglas M Hunter

Faith A Hurt

Joelle Leigh Jordan

Rachel Lauren Lake

Jennifer Langford

Erika R Lorenson

Kelly Jean MacDonald

Shannon D Morley

Nina Nicole Roth

Raymond A Solt

Rebecca S Stange

Christopher Francis Troescher

Heather L Vaughan

Ashley P Vaughan



North Beach

Stacie M Bender

Heather L Elmore

Sharon D Flesher

Linda Sue Kersnick

Jessica Delores Selba



Colleen Megan Hollenczer

Morgan M Walker


Port Republic

Sharon R Gross

Edith M Hoover

Matthew Pierce Tettimer

Patricia N White


Prince Frederick

Mary E Bennett

Joshua Ryan Bowen