CSM Observes 51st Spring Commencement

Hallmark Day for Current Students, Graduates, Guests

The College of Southern Maryland celebrated 364 candidates for degrees and certificates during its 51st spring commencement ceremony held May 20 at the La Plata Campus. Since the college opened its doors in 1958, there have been more than 17,700 graduates and thousands of other students who have taken courses at the college’s three campuses or via distance education opportunities.

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.

At the 2010 spring commencement, CSM awarded 372 associate degrees and 155 certificates. Of the candidates for graduation, 71 percent were female; 41.5 percent were from Charles County, 31 percent from St. Mary’s County and 24.5 percent from Calvert County; 3 percent were from outside the region. The ages of this spring’s recipients ranged from 18 to 74.

 “The College of Southern Maryland graduates represent the best of what this college is about,” said CSM President Dr. Brad Gottfried. “They are a diverse group—diverse in their backgrounds and in their goals, and diverse in where they are in their life spans.”

CSM’s most senior student this spring is F. Ellsworth Geib, 74, of Newburg who received an associate’s degree in art. A retired physicist learning to live alone following the death of his wife in 2005, Geib decided to look into taking some classes. What started with registration in CSM Professor Larry Chappelear’s Color Theory course, developed into much, much more. “I already had a bachelor’s degree in physics from the University of Maryland (UMD) and a lot of graduate credits,” said Geib. “When I found out that I could transfer my math and English credits from Maryland toward an associate’s degree, I pressed forward. That’s sort of backwards from the way most students are working, but it allowed me to concentrate on art courses.”

“I have always been interested in art—I have had a hobby of model railroading for years,” said Geib on his choice to pursue art, but he added, “My family and friends were somewhat flabbergasted that I was working toward a degree.”

Along with drawing and painting courses, Geib took graphic design courses which are helping him compile and label family photos, 35mm slides and videos into digital files for his children and grandchildren.

Geib regrets that he was not able to attend his graduation from UMD due to work and family obligations, but now, more than 45 years later, he’s happy to be able to don a cap and gown to receive his diploma at CSM.

Katie Doran, 18, of Chesapeake Beach was CSM’s youngest graduate, receiving an associate’s degree in business administration. Doran began taking classes at CSM while a sophomore at Huntingtown High School where she was part of the Academy of Finance. She graduated last June and in the fall began taking daytime classes full time, switching to evening classes this spring.

Attending college while still in high school, Doran said that she felt “pretty comfortable,” and that her professors were surprised and excited that they had a high school student in their class. CSM is a family tradition in the Doran family, her father takes classes “every now and then,” her older brother, Danny, takes classes toward a degree in education and younger brother, Michael, is anticipating taking classes as a high school junior this fall.

Katie Doran is still exploring careers but is sure that whatever it is it will involve crunching numbers. She is transferring to the UMD this fall where she will major in economics.

Sisters Jessica Rainey, 32, and Jamie Beckman, 28, both of Marbury, didn’t head off to college together, but through circumstances and what they described as “a fluke” they graduated together. Both enrolled in college after high school, Rainey at CSM in 1996 and Beckman at UMD in 1999. Then through some twists, turns and bumps in the road they found themselves working toward degrees together at CSM.

 “I guess you can say that ‘life’ happened,” Rainey said of the events that sidetracked the sisters from pursuing their degrees full-time. “But we always knew that we wanted to get our degrees.”

They fit classes and studying in whenever they could, said Rainey, noting that they both work for their mother’s bus company driving Charles County students to school each day. “We finish our morning rounds at 9:30 then have until noon without distractions to do homework—then it’s back to do the afternoon rounds.”

There may not have been competition, but there was encouragement and a little prodding. “I would call my sister and say, ‘I just registered for my classes for the semester—when are you registering?’” said Beckman, “I guess I may have pushed her a little bit.” This spring when Beckman called Rainey, she said, “I’ve signed up for my last class.” She learned then that her sister had, too.

Rainey graduates with an associate’s degree in accounting and plans to continue toward a bachelor’s degree in accounting at University of Maryland University College (UMUC) while still driving her mom’s bus and helping with payroll. Beckman graduates with a degree in elementary education and is enrolled and taking classes through a partnership between CSM and the College of Notre Dame. The College of Notre Dame’s Weekend/Accelerated College for education majors brings together a cohort of up to 30 students at the Prince Frederick Campus every Wednesday night where they earn three credits every five to eight weeks until their graduation in August 2012.

For one night, the sisters left their buses parked next to each other in the lot to converge one last time as CSM students.

Once Tanja Brown, 34, of Waldorf, set her sights on her college goal it was full-steam ahead. While working full time at a Georgetown law firm doing paralegal work, Brown decided that she needed a college degree to take her career to the next level. Working 50-plus hours a week and taking five classes per semester, Brown studied whenever and wherever she could, “sometimes to the irritation of others,” she said. She worked on a research paper while in a doctor’s office treatment room and memorized poetry by reciting on her commute into the city, she said. When her co-workers saw her studying before work they assumed she was working on a law degree. “They were surprised that I was finishing my undergrad degree,” she said, adding “I never felt confident because I didn’t have a degree. Graduating is amazing.”

It is also amazing that while working full time and taking a full semester of classes, Brown has maintained a 4.0 grade point average and received highest honors. She is a new inductee in CSM’s Chapter of Sigma Kappa Delta, the National English Honor Society for two-year schools, and a member of Phi Theta Kappa, an international honor society for two-year college students. Brown graduates with an associate’s degree in general studies and has received scholarships to UMUC where she will begin to pursue a bachelor’s degree in business administration before transferring to Catholic University Nighttime School of Professional Studies on a 50 percent scholarship.

“I’ve really enjoyed CSM,” said Brown. “It is a college that works for the working person.”

            Kelly Lynn Marie Clontz, 28, of Mechanicsville, appreciated the flexibility of CSM’s evening and weekend courses. “From day-one, I had to work to pay for college,” she said. After high school, Clontz worked in a dentist’s office while taking dental hygiene classes at CSM. She gave it a year, but she wasn’t sure that it was the career for her. Then, Clontz went to work with her father as an electrical estimator for a commercial electrical contractor business. When she started working in the traditionally male-dominated world of construction, she discovered a career field that she loved.

“All along, I knew I wanted to go back to school, but I couldn’t find a program that I wanted to pursue,” she said. Then, she discovered CSM’s newly created associate’s degree in construction management. “That’s what I’m going to do,” she told herself and began taking classes in fall 2008. She didn’t have any reservations about returning to college, saying that most of her evening classes were made up of students of all ages, but she did have some doubts about being the only female in most of her classes. “At first, the guys would say, ‘Who is this girl?’ Then, because I had experience with construction, computers and the Internet, I became the go-to person,” she said. “Everyone seemed to want to be on my team [for class projects].”

Following graduation, Clontz wants to explore her options but feels that to be competitive in her field she will need to learn mechanical estimating, plumbing estimating and project management. She will need a bachelor’s degree to complete her educational background. She’s looking at UMUC’s bachelor’s degree program in environmental science.   

Anacamila Figueroa, 20, of Waldorf graduates with three associate’s degrees in journalism, speech communication and communication, and a transfer certificate. In high school Figueroa discovered a love for theater and media arts, she said, and wanted to explore the career options through studies at CSM. During a course on intercultural communications taught by CSM Professor Damion Quaye, Figueroa discovered her passion. “This is what I love,” she said about the course that explored racial and ethnic similarities and differences among populations.

Figueroa paid her tuition by working several jobs at CSM, through a stipend she received as president of the La Plata Student Association, and through scholarships and a Pell Grant.

Figueroa participated in club activities not only because they offer a great way to connect with other students, but also as a way to gain experience. “I was not used to public speaking, but after speaking at college events and in front of my peers, I am now very comfortable and confident,” Figueroa said, adding that her friends from high school are very surprised by her transformation.

“A lot of people look at community college as the 13th grade and they miss out when they don’t take advantage of student government and clubs that help you grow up,” said Figueroa. “Being active on campus not only looks good on your resume, but it really makes you a better person.” 

Figueroa will be the first person in her family to graduate from college. She will transfer to Salisbury University this fall.

            Two students came great distances to attend CSM. Liudmyla Petrovna Jones, 35, was born in Ukraine, and is now living with her husband in Cheseapake Beach. She is graduating with highest honors, receiving an associate’s degree in pre-dental hygiene. Gulrukhsor ‘Guli’ Nazirova came an even farther distance—from Tajikistan, a country that shares Afghanistan’s northeastern border. An exchange student living with a family in Calvert County, Nazirova took advantage of every opportunity at CSM and thrived, according to CSM Physics Professor Dr. Richard Beers.

            Nazirova also graduates with highest honors, earning an associate’s degree in business administration. She will transfer to Old Dominion University where she wants to study U.S. government.

             “There are so many other stories—more 300 of them—but they all have something in common,” said Gottfried. “These students understand the importance of an education and they received a top-notch one here at CSM.”

The commencement ceremony’s student speaker was Nathan Hurry, 20, of Mechanicsville, president of the Student Government Association. Hurry is a tutor for higher-level mathematics, physics and energetics; a member of the CSM Math Team; an inductee and founding member of CSM’s chapter of Sigma Alpha Pi, the National Society of Leadership and Success; and performer in CSM theater productions—all while maintaining a 4.0 grade point average.

The National Anthem was performed by CSM student Eugene V. Dorestal of Waldorf who sings with the Latin Ensemble.

An Award of Professor Emerita Status was given to Shirlee Levin for her service as a faculty member in the Division of Languages and Literature and for her contributions to the success of the college from 1980 to 2008.

An Honorary Degree was given to Ed Greer, director, developmental test and evaluation within the Office of the Secretary of Defense. Greer has made outstanding contributions to his chosen field and has given outstanding service to the college and community, according to CSM Board of Trustees Chair James K. Raley, Jr.

Himself a transfer student from CSM to the Clark School of Engineering at UMD in 1976, Greer was instrumental in standing up the new Southern Maryland engineering program, in 2008, allowing students to begin their studies at CSM and after two years transfer to the Clark School of Engineering. In addition, Greer and his wife Phyllis, have established a program to fund scholarships for CSM engineering students.  

 The Faculty Excellence Award was presented to Tom Russ 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. Russ, a professor of biology and environmental science, has taught at CSM for nine years and has integrated Internet-accessed lectures and online guest lecturers into his classrooms. Russ involves his students in the same problem-solving exercises and work that professional scientists face through short research papers and site/scenario evaluations which include engineering calculations and technical drawings. “The subjects of environmental science and management are dynamic, so I am always updating and revising my courses to keep them technically current and relevant to my students,” said Russ.

 The keynote speaker at CSM’s commencement ceremony was Francine Dove Hawkins, an education advocate, life coach and entrepreneur. A lifelong resident of Southern Maryland, Hawkins has been the owner of Hawkins and Associates LLC for 26 years, training hundreds of adults in the Washington, D.C. region in leadership development, interpersonal communication, and writing and presentation skills for career advancement.

Hawkins gave the graduates a “five-point plan of action to consider” as they moved forward in their lives: enjoy the present; continue the pursuit of knowledge; take the road less traveled; focus on the good things in life; and show your love and respect for everyone through service.

“Many of you in the Class of 2010, had to work at least one job, attend to your children, spend time with your spouse or a significant other, take care of parents, raise grandchildren, share cars to get to school, support friends and scrimp to pay for your classes as you paid for your living expenses—all this at the same time you were pursuing your degree,” she said. “In pretty language, this was a challenge. In real language, this was a struggle.”

During the nursing recognition ceremony held earlier in the day, Christine Taylor of Hollywood received the Academic Achievement in Nursing Award, given to the graduate with the highest grade point average in the nursing class. Laura Greenawalt of La Plata was awarded the Achievement in Nursing Award, presented to the graduate who demonstrates academic achievement, clinical competence, community service and leadership potential.

At the college’s May 19 Honors Convocation, 20 students were recognized for achieving highest honors (3.9-4.0 GPA), 29 for high honors (3.75-3.89 GPA) and 55 for honors (3.5 to 3.74 GPA). Departmental awards were presented to 27 students whose academic work in specific areas of study is meritorious: Jonathan Crook of King George, Va., Li S. Deng of Indian Head, Courtney Sanders of Lusby, Paige Blankenship of Hughesville, Maureen Brooks of California, Erin Tennyson of Hollywood, James A. King of Mechanicsville, Tiffani M. Blackwell of Callaway, Thomas L. Shorts of Lexington Park, Ed Winson Acosta Delmoro of Great Mills, Paige E. Folkman of St. Leonard, Katherine Anne Alden of Chesapeake Beach, Kelly Clontz of Mechanicsville, Diana Luehe of La Plata, India Maureen Cox of La Plata, Kodie Hayes of Nanjemoy, Chelsey Danielle Proctor of Charlotte Hall, Robert Hamilton of Chesapeake Beach, Christine Taylor of Hollywood, Laura Greenawalt of La Plata, Sean Stinson of Waldorf, Matt Sanders of California, Wesley Wathen of Mechanicsville, William McGinnis of Huntingtown, Eileen Thomas of Waldorf, Krisanne A. Bentley of Hollywood and Tracy L. Case of Owings.

For graduation photos, visit http://www.csmd.edu/News/MediaResources/10SpringGrad.html.

The following students at the College of Southern Maryland are candidates for degrees or certificates from the 51st spring commencement.


Calvert County

Chesapeake Beach

Heather L. Brady

Kaitlyn M. Doran

Robin Lynn Gerlach

Crystal Harding

Nicholas James Harrison

Liudmyla Petrovna Jones

Anita M. Lewis

Steven T. Smith

Justine Allan Watson



Carrie M. Wright



Natalie L. Cox

Carie Ann Jones

Shelley P. White



Sarah Renee Flynt

Alison Rene Helie

Shane Lawrence Knowles

Rachel A. Manning

William Hudson McGinnis

Kevin R. McMillan

Thirza H. Morgan

Ryan Moser

Gulrukhsor Inomovna Nazirova

Danielle L. Pike

Bivor Shrestha

Michael C. Smith