NCC’s First Graduating Class of the New Decade

Winter 2020 Commencement

A little (okay, a lot!) of rain couldn’t stop the resilient Class of 2020, Northampton Community College’s (NCC) very first graduating class of the new decade, from crossing the stage at the Winter Commencement ceremony on January 25, 2020.

What makes NCC students resilient?

In the faculty welcome, Dr. Gina A. Turner, professor of psychology, describes the journey she sees students take that helps them learn resiliency, the ability to recover quickly from difficulties. It’s an attribute, she says, that helps make people healthier both mentally and physically.

Resilient people, she said, share the following traits:

  • Positive attitudes: “I see your positive attitudes when I look at your faces the first week of class, and hear your stories of what you hope to achieve with the class and your degrees, and in your lives.”
  • Problem solving: “I see you setting realistic goals and managing incredibly busy schedules with grace and humility, some of you juggling multiple challenges.”
  • Bouncing back from failure: “I see you growing as students and learning from your mistakes.”
  • Giving and receiving help: “I see the friendships you make with each other in class, chatting thoughtfully with each other and discussing your commonalities.”

“I’ve been inspired by how strong, flexible, persistent, and determined you all can be. You are now models of resilience and will contribute to a healthy future for us all!” Turner told the soon-to-be-graduates.

That resiliency shows in how “many of you have overcome significant obstacles to be here. You’ve had to deal with financial hardships, some working two, three or more jobs while earning your degree. Others are parents, raising families while you juggled your studies and jobs, Still others have endured illnesses, injuries and personal challenges,” Dr. Mark H. Erickson, president of NCC, told the students. “You should all take great pride to be walking across this stage. Well done!”

Robert R. Fehnel ’75, chair of the Board of Trustees, acknowledged the role that the family, friends and loved ones in attendance have had in that resilience.

“Your support, be it financial, material or emotional, contributed to the success of your students. Today is a shared victory of which many of you have played a role and enabled in some way,” he said.

Dr. Carolyn M. Bortz, vice president of Academic Affairs, took a moment to recognize the role that faculty and staff play in that shared victory. “Your support, encouragement, and sacrifice helps students learn and grow.”

The commencement address was given by Rev. James J. Greenfield, OSFS, president of DeSales University.

He began by making the audience laugh. “I know I am standing between you and your degree. My speech is only one piece of paper,” he said, holding it up.

DeSales University is one of the top transfer schools for NCC students. “I am thrilled so many NCC grads over the years have chosen DeSales University to obtain a baccalaureate degree.  Please keep on coming – you are among our finest students as NCC prepares you well!”

Greenfield acknowledged that most of the students have spent the majority of their lives with a smart phone. “You are super-connected, data-rich, and may be checking your phone right now!” he said to laughs.

“But don’t let your devices keep you from 20/20 vision! You need to see the wide-screen of your life emerging before you. Let your smart phone be a tool you use and not a tool that uses you.”

He exhorted students to “master your story, ensuring that the most significant chapters, even those insignificant to others but priceless to you, are written with your singular grace, grit and compassion. Now, more than ever, our world thirsts for your story and its joy, humor and sheer humanity that only you can bring. Keep on living, because today marks just the opening chapters of the volumes of your lives.”

The 632 students, ranging in age from 19 to 69, including 38 who had achieved a perfect 4.0 GPA, were then awarded their associate degrees, diplomas, and certificates.

After the graduates were each recognized by name and received their diplomas, they were welcomed into the ranks of alumni by Rebecca C. Zavilla '17. Zavilla is director of marketing and group sales for the Hilton Garden Inn Allentown/Bethlehem Airport.

“Your hard work, all-nighters and constant multi-tasking have finally paid off,” she told her fellow NCC alumni. “Dream big, set bold goals you are passionate about and pursue them relentlessly.”

With the resilient Class of 2020, all things are possible!

Juanita R. Shockly opened and closed the ceremony with her powerful voice, first with The National Anthem and ending with NCC’s alma mater.

View complete commencement coverage here, including a list of all graduates.

View photos from Spring Commencement in this photo gallery.

Read Sara Satullo's article about graduate Ashley Barrasso at

View video from the commencement ceremony at