CSM Observes 50th Spring Commencement

Family Tradition, Hallmark Day for Current Students, Graduates, Guests

The College of Southern Maryland celebrated 407 candidates for degrees and certificates during its 50th spring commencement ceremony held May 14 at the La Plata Campus. Since the college opened its doors in 1958, there have been nearly 17,000 graduates and thousands other students who have taken courses at the college’s three campuses or via distance education opportunities.

At the 2009 spring commencement, CSM awarded 416 associate degrees and 191 certificates. Of the candidates for graduation, 72 percent were female; 39 percent were from Charles County, 31 percent from St. Mary’s County and 26 percent from Calvert County; 4 percent were from outside the region. The ages of this spring’s recipients ranged from 17 to 64.

“We recognize that many of you have completed your studies while working, raising families and volunteering in your community,” said CSM President Dr. Brad Gottfried to the graduates. “You have chosen to make sacrifices in your life now in order to invest in a more promising future. We hope you are forever linked to CSM and to your community. This is your alma mater and we take great pride in your accomplishments,” Gottfried said.

Associate degrees were awarded predominantly in the fields of general studies, nursing and business administration. Most of the certificates were awarded in the areas of general studies: transfer, and basic and advanced accounting.

CSM’s most senior student receiving an associate degree this spring is Kathleen Fulchiron, 63, of St. Mary’s City. Fulchiron started her studies in 1981 with a psychology class. “I didn’t know what to put for a major because I hadn’t decided,” said Fulchiron. “So the counselor suggested general studies, which would satisfy the general education requirement if I wanted to transfer.”

Fulchiron worked full time at St. Mary’s College of Maryland while she worked toward her degree. “Getting my associate was on my checklist of things to complete when I retired. And I did complete it,” she said. Taking both face-to-face and online courses, Fulchiron said, “A lot changed since I started. Most of the classes then were evening classes with students who worked during the day. Then I took day classes with typical college-age students who asked me, ‘What are you doing here?’” she said.

One of her fondest college memories was the art history travel study class to Italy and Greece. “I like to call it my ‘Semester Abroad,’” she explained. She persuaded her next-door neighbor into auditing the class with her. They bonded with the other CSM students during the day and then went their separate ways in the evening, Fulchiron said.

“What I like about an associate’s degree,” Fulchiron said, “is that it’s a tiered degree that you can put on your resume—instead of ‘some college.’ It is a stepping stone,” she added.

Fulchiron’s wants to take a year off before deciding which is her next stepping stone. She is considering the University of Maryland University College because of the freedom of distance learning, she said. “I’m open to different things,” she said. “I started my degree and I completed my degree—it’s a good feeling.”

Alison Devine, 17, of Leonardtown also has a good feeling. The youngest in CSM’s spring class, Devine will graduate from college before she graduates from high school.

Devine was recognized as an exceptional student while in middle school and was chosen to enroll in CSM’s Gifted and Talented program. Throughout her high school years, Devine attended most of her classes in the evening, only recently taking an online course. Even with a full high school load and college courses, Devine pursued extracurricular activities at Leonardtown High School.

“I started with 10 clubs and then stuck with a few that really interested me,” Devine said. One club was the Africa Aid club started by a friend. “We had a member of the club who had been sponsoring a kid from Uganda for many years through Christian Children’s Fund,” she explained. “When he outgrew that program, we made the focus of our club raising money for him to go to college.”

Devine plans to continue her academic career at Swarthmore College in the fall where she will study English literature, history and maybe, she said, anthropology.

“I was nervous when I started at CSM as an 8th-grader, but now I am definitely more comfortable and confident around college students,” Devine said.

When Anthony Thenstead received his diploma at the La Plata commencement ceremony his family, including his aunt Vindelisa Folkes, were watching. Thenstead lived with Folkes as a child growing up in Jamaica and now, both U.S. citizens, he is the last of her charges to graduate from college.

Thenstead, 40, of White Plains, started his college education at York College in New York. Along the way, he served in the Navy, traveling to Australia, Israel and Greece on aircraft carriers. “I was an aircraft engineer mechanic,” said Thenstead. “I was the ‘final point checker’ before the jets catapulted off the deck,” he said.

He never lost a plane, and, he said, he has applied that same level of intensity to his studies.

Thenstead moved to Southern Maryland in 2001 and began working toward an associate degree in business administration at CSM in January 2007. “I am way more focused attending college now,” he said. “I am trying to show my two girls that I came back to school and gave it 100 percent,” even with the responsibilities of a full-time job, a family, and taking his youngest daughter to cheerleader practice, he added. “They will have it easier than me—just having to concentrating on college,” he said.

In addition to his CSM coursework Thenstead signed on to CSM’s chapter of the National Society of Leadership and Success.

The mother-daughter duo of Janelle and Lacey Martin of Lusby turned heads when they landed in the same class one semester. “It actually wasn’t that bad,” said Lacey Martin, 21, of sitting next to her mom in class. “Some of the other students wondered if we were sisters or related in some way. But they were cool with it,” she added.

“I was worried that my return to school would interfere with Lacey’s college experience,” said Janelle Martin. “I asked Lacey, ‘Are we going to sit together in class?’” she said when they faced their first class together.

It helps when your mom is your best friend, Lacey said.

Janelle Martin had been talking for years about returning to college, but she added, “It was not my plan to start back to college at the same time, the same college, as my daughter.”

“We registered together. My mom knew exactly what she wanted to do, but I was not sure. I switched my major three times before I saw that what my mom was doing was interesting to me. I tried a few IT classes and was hooked,” Lacey Martin said.

“I found myself working with computers a lot in my job,” said Janelle Martin of working in the Calvert County school system. “I thought when I went back to school it would be for a degree in education, but I had a real desire to learn more about graphics and website design,” she said.

They carpooled to classes at the Prince Frederick Campus and often reflected on in-class discussions during their ride home. At home, they parted ways to study on their own.

In her first semester class since high school, Janelle Martin found herself one of two women in an information technology class of 17 men under the age of 20. She was intimidated and thought, “How am I going to do this?” she said. She found herself taking the role of mom and organized a study group. “I’m still in touch with a couple of the guys from that class,” she said.

Last summer, Janelle Martin was recommended for an internship with Calvert Memorial Hospital by her IT instructors Renee Jenkins and Joe Burgin. When a job opened last fall, she applied and now holds the title of website and intranet coordinator.

By working through a nervousness about going back to college, an anxiety about taking tests that she carried from her high school days, and an obsession with getting an ‘A’ in every class, Janelle Martin graduated with highest honors. “I am so fortunate to have been able to share this experience with Lacey. She was so open and supportive of me,” Janelle Martin said. 

Now an intern working for the Navy at Patuxent River Naval Base, Lacey Martin said she’s been able to apply what she’s learned in class to real-world situations. “I’ve been given the opportunity to write some code and broaden my understanding of what I want to do after I graduate,” she said.

“I am so happy and fortunate to be where I am at this point in my life,” Lacey Martin said. “If I didn’t find my niche, if I didn’t have this opportunity, I’d still be working in a restaurant,” she said. “I tell people, ‘Once you find your niche, you’re set,’” Lacey Martin said of the time she spent exploring career paths.             

Janelle Martin received two associates in information services technology: in web development and in information services technology. Lacey Martin will receive her associates in information services technology: web development. Each will pursue a bachelor’s degree at UMUC.

The Pintos also have a family tradition of attending CSM. Andrew Pinto, 23, the middle son, graduated with three engineering degrees, May 14. Younger brother Mark, 22, is hot on his heels with the goal to also graduate with three degrees next winter. Older brother, Ruben, 26, transferred from CSM to Villa Julie College where he earned his bachelor’s degree in business and is currently working toward a master’s in business. Their mother, Mabel, also attended CSM for her childcare certification.

The family has lived in Waldorf for 13 years after traveling from South Dakota where Andrew was born, to California and Florida, before settling in Maryland.

Andrew Pinto discovered that he enjoyed drafting while he was a student at Westlake High School. After graduation in 2004, he started at CSM while working full time. “I have been working 40 to 50 hours a week since high school,” said Pinto who believes college is even more important in these difficult economic times.

“Thirty percent of our staff was laid off including two in my section,” he said. “The job only requires a high school diploma, but since I also have college I may have a little more job security.”  He plans to continue working toward a bachelor’s degree in engineering.

When he started taking engineering classes the ST Building on the La Plata Campus was not yet renovated. “The new building is beautiful,” said Andrew Pinto of the Francis P. Chiaramonte, M.D. Center for Science and Technology. “It has everything, and everything is new,” he added.

CSM also adds a new member of the Bowling family to its list of graduates. Welford Bowling of Charlotte Hall was the college’s very first graduate in its 50-year history. Now, at the 50th commencement ceremony, third cousin, Amy E. Bowling, 20, also of Charlotte Hall, received an associate degree in general studies.

“There are hundreds of other stories—actually over 400 of them—but they all have something in common,” said Gottfried. “Our students understood the importance of an education and they received a top-notch one here at CSM.”

During the nursing recognition ceremony held earlier in the day, Roberta Kissinger of Mechanicsville received the Academic Achievement in Nursing Award, given to the graduate with the highest grade point average in the nursing class. Laura Jean Bearjar of Lusby was awarded the Achievement in Nursing Award, presented to the graduate who demonstrates academic achievement, clinical competence, community service and leadership potential.

Special awards announced during commencement included the Board of Trustees’ Distinguished Service Award, presented to four area hospitals.

Formed in 1994 by Calvert Memorial Hospital, Civista Medical Center and St. Mary’s Hospital, the Chesapeake-Potomac Healthcare Alliance works to ensure Southern Maryland citizens have quality healthcare. The Alliance has given more than $233,000 to support CSM’s “Campaign for the Next 50 Years,” nurse training programs and the creation of state-of-the-art hospital simulation labs. Accepting on behalf of Civista Medical Center was Vice President of Patient Care Service, Nurse Executive Cathy Delligatti. Vice President Robert McWhirt accepted on behalf of Calvert Memorial Hospital and CEO Christine Wray accepted on behalf of St. Mary’s Hospital.

Committed to education and healthcare for many years Dr Francis Chiaramonte, founder of Southern Maryland Hospital Center, was recognized as an outstanding advocate for quality healthcare services. Chiaramonte donated the largest gift in CSM’s history, $1 million to the CSM Foundation for nursing and healthcare initiatives.

“Every semester all four hospitals serve as training grounds for our student nurses,” said CSM Board of Trustees Chair Jamie Raley. “This is where our students, your future nurses, receive their hands-on training and mentoring before graduating from CSM’s Nursing Program,” Raley told graduates and guests.

 The Faculty Excellence Award was presented to Professor of Mathematics Tom Seremet 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.

Seremet is completing his 40th year in education in Southern Maryland and has just completed 25 years as a full-time faculty at CSM. He served as chair of math, physics and engineering for 10 years.

Now back in the classroom, Seremet took on a research project to determine the explanation for the high withdrawal rates and below-average grades in intermediate math courses. Seremet attended brain research seminars and incorporated techniques he learned into a teaching model. By ramping up engagement among students through active learning and collaborative activities, and by incorporating strategic reading techniques into his math lessons, Seremet has seen a substantial drop in both the withdrawal rate and number of below average grades in his classes

Seremet has been active in curriculum development at CSM as well as with high school teachers in the tri-county area. He is active outside Southern Maryland as an elected Maryland State Delegate to the American Mathematics Association of Two Year colleges and as the former vice president of the Maryland Mathematics Association of Two Year Colleges.

The keynote speaker at CSM’s commencement ceremony was retired Judge of the Seventh Judicial Circuit of Maryland Theresa A. Nolan. A lifelong resident of Prince George’s County, Nolan served as Judge of the Seventh Judicial Circuit of Maryland from June 1997 until her retirement in July 2000.

Nolan began her legal career as a legal secretary in Upper Marlboro, entering Prince George’s Community College in 1967 when the youngest of her 11 children was 2 years old. Throughout her college and law school education, she continued to work full time to help support her family. She graduated from the University of Baltimore School of Law and with the help of her employers, set up a private law practice.

“With a dream, ordinary people can do extraordinary things,” said Nolan. “I was 36 years old, with a high school education, 11 young children and working full time when the dream of my life took hold. I determined I wanted to be a lawyer and despite the many nay-sayers and the lack of money and time and the overwhelming responsibilities, I not only reached my goal but landed far beyond,” she said.

Nolan described using every spare moment to study, keeping lecture notes nearby to study when standing at the bus stop, bringing a textbook when meeting with her boss in case he was interrupted by a phone call and putting important information on tapes to listen to while driving home, folding clothes or ironing.

Nolan appealed to the graduates to support and assist others in their personal growth and not to be afraid to ask for assistance for themselves as they continue to pursue their goals.

The first woman elected president of the Prince George’s County Bar Association, Nolan also served as district director of District 4 of the National Association of Women Judges. A recipient of the 1986 Business and Professional Woman of the Year award and recognition as one of Maryland’s Top 100 Women for 1998, Nolan has been an instructor in the paralegal programs at the University of Maryland University College, Prince George’s Community College and the United States Department of Agriculture.

After retirement Nolan started a mediation business. She resides in Annapolis.

At the college’s May 13 Honors Convocation, 22 students were recognized for achieving highest honors (3.9-4.0 GPA), 35 for high honors (3.75-3.89 GPA) and 58 for honors (3.5 to 3.74 GPA). Departmental awards were presented to 30 students whose academic work in specific areas of study is meritorious. Trisha DeGroot of Port Tobacco,  Carla Egner of Waldorf, Benjamin Q. Fix of Waldorf , Lianna M. Pilesky of California, Katherine L. Gochnour of Waldorf,  John Heard of Callaway, Janelle Martin of Lusby,  Franz Lozada of Lexington Park, Edward Sealing of Indian Head, Julie Vanderslice of Cobb Island , Gregg Miller of Lexington Park, Rachel Emerson of Lusby, Mary Babiarz of Waldorf, Shaun Kistler of Abell, Diane Payne of Waldorf, Amanda Schmeltz of La Plata, Nareesa N. Shorter of Waldorf, Joanna Kalinowski of Hollywood, Roberta D. Kissinger of Mechanicsville, Laura Jean Bearjar of Lusby, Shelia Stout of Lusby, Charles H. Smith of Port Tobacco, William D. Burch of Charlotte Hall, Adrienne C. Brunger of Hollywood, Lois I. Deal of White Plains, Michelle Raynor of Owings, Kimberly D. Denton of Port Republic, Doris Ball of Waldorf and Rhonda Milhouse of Waldorf.  

For graduation photos, visit  http://www.csmd.edu/News/MediaResources/09SpringGrad.html. The following students were recognized as candidates for associate’s degrees or certificates at the commencement ceremony; See attached list.

CSM Observes 50th Spring Commencement

College’s Graduates Represent More Than 400 Success Stories


The following students were recognized as candidates for associate’s degrees or certificates at the College of Southern Maryland’s 50th spring commencement ceremony, held May14 in the Physical Education Building of the La Plata Campus. Of the 407 candidates, 38.5 percent were from Charles County, 31.2 percent from St. Mary’s County and 26.2 percent from Calvert County. For graduation photos and features, visit www.csmd.edu


Calvert County