No Ordinary Commencement

By: Heidi Butler
May 24, 2012

More than 800 excited graduates + thousands of proud family members + one beloved college president officiating at his last commencement before retiring = one extraordinary evening.

Commencements are always special, but the ceremony held at Northampton Community College on May 24 was extra special.

The standing ovations began before the ceremony officially started as the crowd rose to applaud the Class of 2012 after they filed in to a Spartan Center filled with family members and friends.

They continued as Karl Stackhouse, the chairman of the Board of Trustees, saluted Susan Kubik, the retiring vice president for institutional advancement who devoted her 37 year career at Northampton to raising money that "helped keep tuition affordable, built buildings, and gave NCC a margin of excellence."

A few minutes later the audience was on its feet again, applauding the College's retiring president, Dr. Arthur Scott, before he even began his commencement address.

The students led the standing ovation that followed his speech, moved by his recognition for individual members of the class who exemplify perseverance, curiosity and kindness, and by his call to kindness and to lives devoted to helping others.

In her comments Vice President for Student Affairs Mardi Closson noted that with 1638 members, the Class of 2012 was the largest in Northampton's history and also one of the most engaged. Their enthusiasm was evident as they reacted to her examples of academic and athletic "firsts" that occurred during their years at NCC, including the selection of one of their members for a prestigious national scholarship, and the women's basketball team's trip to a national tournament.

They also applauded loudly for this year's Trustee Award recipient, LaToya Brown, a nursing major and student leader who graduated with a 3.92 academic average after being told in high school that she was not college material.

At the end of the ceremony, Donna Taggart, a member of the Class of 1973 who now is president of an urban revitalization consulting business in Bethlehem, welcomed the graduates to membership in NCC's Alumni Association. Earlier in the evening, some of the Association's 40,000 members had placed the banners of each of the preceding classes behind the stage to symbolize alumni support for the graduates and for the College.

As the faculty speaker at Commencement, Dr. John Leiser, the 2011 Pennsylvania Professor of the Year, recalled that some members of the Class of 2012 had shown up for their first day of classes in pajamas. In progressing from pajamas to gowns, he said they were ready to be "true students of life."

Commencement, Leiser said, "is a great day of beginnings and endings." And so it was.

Enjoy photos from the evening here.

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