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Nothing but Sunny Skies Ahead

January graduates celebrate their achievements

Katherine Noll,

Winter Commencement 2018

On January 27, 2018, Northampton Community College (NCC) celebrated not only the achievement of its students, but also the tenth anniversary of winter commencement ceremonies at the college. In 2008, the decision was made to add an additional ceremony to allow August and December graduates to have a day of their own, providing room for more family members and friends to share the milestone with them.

However, winter weather can be dicey. In the past ten years, the threat of snow and ice has kept watchful eyes on the forecast, and even once a rescheduling of the event. Yet bad weather has never stopped NCC students from walking across the stage to claim their diplomas.

The soon-to-be grads didn't have to worry about overcoming yet another challenge this January 27. Instead, they were greeted with blue skies and sunshine as they gathered with their families at the Spartan Center for the ceremony, on an unusually warm and bright winter day.

The weather, Robert R. Fehnel, '75, chairman of the board of trustees, said, was one reason to celebrate. The other was the  "hours of hard work and years of dedication" that students put into reaching this milestone.

The sentiment was echoed by Dr. Carolyn M. Bortz, the vice president of academic affairs, who also credited faculty and staff with helping students achieve their dreams.

Numbering more than 600, the graduates ranged in age from 18 to 71, hailing from as far away as Malaysia and as close as Bethlehem Township. 31 graduated with a perfect 4.0 GPA.

Noting that many of the graduates had to overcome obstacles to make it to this day, including dealing with financial hardships, raising families, coping with illness and injury, and working two, three, or in some cases more jobs, NCC President Dr. Mark Erickson shared some good news. "That grit, internal strength and drive to achieve that I see in you is exactly what employers and four-year colleges are looking for."

Matthew Bartholomew, assistant professor of counseling

A popular professor who was introduced by Dr. Bortz as a "rock star" and a leader in NCC's efforts to engage students in academic planning was chosen to speak on behalf of the faculty. Matthew Bartholomew, assistant professor of counseling, has worked at NCC since 2004. "I never thought I'd be called a rock star," Bartholomew said. "The stars of today are you, our grads."

Looking over the sea of grads in their mortarboards and gowns, Bartholomew said. "The talent, skill and potential in all of you gives me great hope for the future. You can believe that we will never forget you. You motivate us, you inspire us, you are the reason we exist."

Commencement speaker Mayor Salvatore Panto of Easton talked about how his career path changed. He was working as a teacher when he was first asked to run for office. Advice from former heavyweight champion Larry Holmes helped him become the youngest mayor in Easton history, and he shared it with the graduates.

"Dreams are only achieved by hard work. If you want to win, you need to work."

Mayor Panto also urged the graduates to get involved. "You are the leaders of tomorrow. You now have a responsibility of helping our country achieve the dream of equality for all. Make our world a better place, environmentally, socially and even politically. Whether you are 18 or 71, get involved. You may fail, that's okay. As long as it is one less time than you get back up."

Mayor Sal Panto

Catina Chevonne Gordon filled the gym with a beautiful rendition of The National Anthem that brought tears to the eyes of many in the audience. She also performed NCC's alma mater.

After the graduates were each recognized by name and received their diplomas, they were welcomed into the ranks of alumni by Arthur C. Antonioni '69. Antonioni taught social studies at Saucon Valley Middle and High Schools, and was assistant principal of Saucon Valley High School for 12 years before retiring.

"My NCC degree laid the foundation for my success as an educator," he said. He urged the graduates to "remember the joy is in the journey."

Joy, like sunshine, was in abundance for the new graduates on their special day. 

View complete commencement coverage here, including the list of all graduates and the live social media wall that was on display before the ceremony started.

View photos from Winter Commencement in this photo gallery.

Read Sara Satullo's article  about graduate Giyaina "Gigi" Munoz Lopez  at lehighvalleylive.com.

Read Howard Frank's article about graduate Travis Miller in the Pocono Record.

Winter Commencement 2018