CSM Observes 55th Spring Commencement


College Awards 943 Degrees, Certificates to Largest Class Ever

The College of Southern Maryland celebrated 598 candidates for 943 degrees and certificates during its 55th spring commencement ceremony held May 15 at the La Plata Campus.

“The College of Southern Maryland graduates represent the best of what this college—and really this region—is all about. Tonight’s graduates are a diverse group; diverse in their backgrounds and in their goals. I am truly inspired by our graduates,” said CSM President Dr. Brad Gottfried. The graduating class, CSM’s largest ever, consisted of students who while working, raising families and supporting their communities through volunteer efforts earned academic honors, said Gottfried.

CSM awarded 636 associate degrees and 307 certificates: 42 percent of the students receiving awards were from Charles County, 30 percent from St. Mary’s County and 23 percent from Calvert County with 5 percent from outside of the region.

Associate degrees were awarded predominantly in the fields of general studies, arts and sciences, business administration and criminal justice, while general studies: transfer, and general studies accounting: basic and advanced were the most predominant certificates. Of the graduates, 66 percent were female. The ages of this spring’s associate degree candidates ranged from 17 to 58.


Youngest Graduate Victoria P. Miller

The youngest candidate for graduation is Victoria P. Miller, 17, of Hollywood, who earned associate degrees in general studies, and arts and sciences with highest honors.

            Miller was diagnosed with AML (Acute Myelogenous Leukemia) at age 12 and spent most of her seventh grade year at Children’s Hospital. Because of her experience, she would like to work with children one day and ultimately become a physician. Her college career began at age 14 when she entered CSM’s dual enrollment gifted and talented program taking classes at CSM while she was being homeschooled.

“I was unsure of what to expect at first, but I became super comfortable and excited once I started,” Miller said, who added that she had many memorable professors, advisors and mentors at the college. “[CSM Mathematics Professor Sandra Poinsett] was instrumental in allowing me to be part of the STEM program even though I was dual-enrolled; [Part-time Faculty Ann Reagan] was an amazing professor and I loved learning about physics through her class; and [CSM Leonardtown Campus Student Success Coordinator Beverly Russell] has been a great advisor and mentor,” Miller said.

Miller has been accepted at St. Mary’s College of Maryland and plans to start in the fall. 

“Eventually, I would like to do some mission work as a doctor somewhere sharing the love of Christ. He is the reason I exist and I want to give Him all the glory,” Miller said.


Oldest Graduate Timothy L. Walters

The most senior candidate for an associate degree is Timothy L. Walters, 58, of Port Republic, who earned an associate degree in computer programming with highest honors.

While growing up, Walters became the go-to guy for everything mechanical—learning basics from a neighbor and teaching himself by going to the library and checking out books on electronics and all sorts of gadgetry. He loved tinkering with cars, and anything with wires, nuts and bolts.

Being self-taught was no problem in his field as an electrical technician until he needed to develop a resume for a job search. “I wasn’t a great student in high school but I was good at the things I liked to do. When I returned to school to work on my degree, I turned education into a project—like all my other projects,” Walters said.

Walters decided on enhancing his knowledge of computers. He took most of his classes online, one at the Leonardtown Campus and four at the Prince Frederick Campus. Pursuing a degree while working full-time was made easier, according to Walters, because the campuses were close to home. Walters plans to continue picking up computer skills and certifications to keep his resume current.


Student with Disabilities

In addition to work and other responsibilities, students with disabilities face various challenges that may impact their ability to navigate the education arena, but are able to successfully do so through assistance from Disability Support Services.

“Sometimes, it takes the efforts of a team of volunteers and tutors to help a student achieve their goals,” said CSM Academic/ADA Coordinator Glennis Daniels-Bacchus.

That was the case for James McKissick, 46, of Waldorf, who graduated with high honors with an associate degree in accounting.

“I could not have done this without the help of CSM and my tutors,” said McKissick, who suffered severe brain trauma in a 1996 automobile accident and was in a coma for more than two months.

McKissick had dropped out of school in the ninth grade and later earned his GED. He was in a good-paying job working for an insurance association in Washington, D.C., and felt he was on top of the world. In an instant, he said, his world shifted on its axis and his life changed.

Although he had visited CSM before his accident, he never enrolled. A job placement advisor at the Maryland Department of Rehabilitative Services encouraged McKissick to return to school. In 1998, he took his first courses, Principles of Accounting and College Success Skills. “At first I didn’t want to visit the college’s disability office because I wanted to be perceived as normal as possible,” McKissick said. “After a 12-year gap in school, I was unsure if I would be able to do this.”

Over the next 16 years, McKissick estimates that he received help from more than 10 tutors. Two stand out because they stuck with him for years and now rejoice in his accomplishment. Dan Sandsbury and Joe Bokser, both retired from the federal government, volunteered to work with McKissick for up to two times a week for semester after semester. When McKissick faced his nemesis mathematics course, required for graduation, Bokser and Sandsbury began tutoring sessions over the summer so that McKissick could hit the ground running on the first day of class in September.

CSM faculty Elizabeth Rourke, Leslie Tuttle, Kenneth Swann and Mathematics Department Chair Andrea Ronaldi were exceptionally patient and giving of their time, said McKissick.

“No matter how poor, no matter how rich—people need people,” said McKissick. “I feel so blessed and I commend CSM for their efforts in helping me.”


Student Speaker Deveraux Smith

“Deveraux Smith, of Waldorf was the student speaker for CSM’s 55th Spring Commencement.

“[Smith] used his time here at CSM very wisely by becoming deeply involved in the La Plata Student Association, the Black Student Union, Phi Theta Kappa and the National Honor Society of Leadership and Success (NSLS). Rarely have I met a student that is more committed to his fellow students,” said Gottfried.

Smith told his fellow graduates that there are no guidelines to what success looks like. “Success is truly what you make it. As for me, success is based on a man’s service to his community,” Smith said.


Keynote Speaker Michael Chiaramonte

            The keynote speaker was MedStar Southern Maryland Hospital President and Senior Vice President of MedStar Health Michael J. Chiaramonte.

            Chiaramonte expressed his appreciation for the long-standing relationship with the college and imparted three recommendations to the 2014 graduates. He encouraged them to embrace the power of their education, adopt an entrepreneurial spirit; and learn and grow from their failures.  

Honorary Degree to John “Junior” Harris

An Honorary Degree was presented to John “Junior” Harris by CSM Board of Trustees Chair Michael Middleton for his accomplishments and contributions that have made the community a better place to live and work.

Born and raised in Charles County, Harris focused his energy and talent on peacefully overcoming racial barriers and making positive changes in his community.

“Junior Harris is living proof that when we work together we can achieve more in life. He has led by example. By advocating community service and by helping people in need, he has proven that you can change the world one community, one person at a time,” Middleton said.


Annual Faculty Excellence Award Honoring Permanent Faculty to Professor Rex Bishop

The Annual Faculty Excellence Award Honoring Permanent Faculty was presented to Professor of Business and Economics Rex Bishop by CSM Faculty Senate President and Economics Professor Michael Green.

“Rex believes that outstanding instruction engages students by utilizing active learning techniques that encourage deeper understanding illustrating not only what is happening but also why it is relevant,” said Green.

A professor at CSM for 28 years, Bishop’s accomplishments include developing the business administration A.S. degree program, achieving national accreditation for all CSM business programs and creating CSM’s Faculty Mentoring Program, which has been used as a “Best Practice” by schools nationwide.


Nursing Recognition Ceremony

            During the nursing recognition ceremony held earlier in the day, Rachel Brandt, of Leonardtown, was recognized with the Academic Achievement in Nursing Award, given to the graduate with the highest grade point average in the nursing class. Ashley Jones, of Lexington Park, was recognized with the Achievement in Nursing Award, presented to the graduate who demonstrates academic achievement, clinical competence, community service and leadership potential. This spring’s nursing program graduated 27 students.


Honors Convocation

Nearly one-fourth of all candidates for graduation achieved academic honors. At the college’s May 14 Honors Convocation, 41 students were recognized for achieving highest honors (3.9-4.0 GPA), 34 for high honors (3.75-3.89 GPA) and 74 for honors (3.5 to 3.74 GPA).

            Divisional awards were presented to the following students: Business Programs Student of the Year, Alexander J. Colaciello; George Flynn Memorial Accounting Award, Aroba Siddiqui; Outstanding Engineering Technology Student, Chad Robuck; Outstanding Computer Science Student, Carly E. Huseman; Outstanding Information Services Technology Student, Ronda L. Jacobs; Excellence in Biology Award, Jason D. Williams; Distinguished Honors in History, Dillon S. Banis; The National Society of Colonial Dames of America History Scholarship Award, Dillion S. Banis; Outstanding Art Student of the Year, Katharina Fleming; Walter Grove II Memorial Art Scholarship, Katharina Fleming, Abbie Fahnestock and Alan Frampton; Distinguished Honors in Music, Daniel A. Chaloux; Academic Achievement in Nursing, Rachel Brandt; Achievement in Nursing, Ashley M. Jones; Outstanding Physical Therapist Assistant Graduate, Elizabeth M. Lake; Outstanding Massage Therapy Graduate, Shayna M. Washington; Outstanding Physics Student, Keirstynn L. Romero-Willie; Outstanding Engineering Student, Joseph P. Holman; Outstanding Mathematics Student, Cody D. Graham; Mathematics Progress Award, Sony Ninan; Outstanding Achievement in the Social Sciences Award, Deveraux C. Smith; Outstanding Academic Achievement in Teacher Education, Caitlin Dieguez; and Outstanding Academic Achievement in Early Childhood Development, Bliss A. Shores.

            The following students at the College of Southern Maryland are candidates for degrees or certificates from the 55th spring commencement held May 15 at the La Plata Campus.


Calvert County


Chesapeake Beach

Kathleen Cecilia Bischof

Erica Lynn Bliss

Brooke Alexandra Garner

Carly Elizabeth Huseman

Angela Hill Jones

Kenneth Graham Jones

Brandon Joseph Lane

Austin Rieker Nielsen

Chad Robuck

Erin Renee Sens

Dina M. Spence-Foreman

Kurtis Ryan Wilkerson



Elizabeth Marie Lake

Rebecca Lake

Lori Ann Matsudaira

Aroba Siddiqui



Amanda Leigh Barber

Andrew Ryan Barber

Elizabeth Dare Brown

Brett Anthony Darmstead