MORRIS COUNTY — County College of Morris (CCM) presented diplomas to the Class of 2019 on Friday, May 24, at Mennen Sports Arena during its historic 50th Commencement, with nearly 500 graduates participating in the 50th Anniversary ceremony.
The Class of 2019 includes approximately 1,400 students, many of who are transferring to top four-year institutions in New Jersey and across the nation to earn their bachelor’s degrees. The graduates received their diplomas in one of four degrees: Associate in Arts, Associate in Fine Arts, Associate in Science and Associate in Applied Science. The graduates consisted of those who completed their studies between August 2018 and May 2019, and those who will complete their studies this coming August.
Trish O’Keefe, Ph.D., RN, president of Morristown Medical Center (MMC), served as the keynote speaker. “The day I started at MMC as a bedside nurse, if someone had told me I would become president, I would not have believed it, but it only proves that hard work, committing to your goals one step at a time, dedication, and very long hours pay off,” said O’Keefe. “I know life will present each one of you with a series of opportunities – one step at a time. One of the greatest gifts you can give yourself – commit to your journey.”
Also providing remarks was Douglas Cabana, director of the Morris County Board of Chosen Freeholders. “Today, as we look back at CCM at 50, this special day is a beginning for you of many special days as you move through life, whether you choose to continue your education, begin a career, become an entrepreneur, explore new territories, or try your hand at other new experiences,” said Cabana.
During his remarks, CCM President Anthony J. Iacono spoke to the graduates about courage as he highlighted several students who completed their studies despite life’s challenges and obstacles.
Included among the students he highlighted were:
Amy Albin, of Morris Plains, who came to CCM from the Morris School District in the spring 2018 and in a year-and-a-half earned her associate degree with a perfect 4.0 GPA. A visually impaired student, she accomplished that, while “finding her way across CCM’s 220 acre campus, through more than a dozen buildings in good and bad weather.”
Paul Michael Corrente, Jr., of Roxbury, who earned his degree at the age of 15 because his mother recognized early on his advanced academic abilities and enrolled him at CCM first in the Challenger Program for high school students and then full-time as a college student.
Alejandra Linares Martinez, of Livingston, who came to CCM from Mexico on a student visa to study in the CCM’s design program. As a CCM student, she was inducted into the New Jersey All-State Academic Team for her success in the classroom and her contributions to the community.
Joaquin Mould, of Randolph, president of CMM’s chapter of the national honor society Phi Theta Kappa, who has lived and traveled around the world and “understands the meaning of courage by continuously embracing new cultures and people . . .”
“Be fearless in the pursuit of your goals and uncompromising of your values,” Iacono told the graduates. “Never stop learning and remember that success is not simply about doing things right but, more importantly, success requires the courage to do the right things. Your success is not for you alone – it is yours to help others through knowledge, skills, compassion and courage. Build a life, not a career.”
Trustee Chair Paul Licitra noted, “The awarding of your degree or certificate today is the result of your determination to live a life of meaning and contribution.”
Now-retired Congressman Rodney Frelinghuysen was presented with an honorary degree for his many years of service to the community and his support of education.
Standing with college tradition, the CCM Peace Prize was awarded at commencement. Nora Anton, of Randolph, was presented with the prize for the tile mosaic she created commemorating the “Survivor Tree” found at Ground Zero. The faculty mentor for her project was Professor Dorothy Salinas, Department of Biology and Chemistry. The creator of the winning entry each year receives a $1,000 award, provided by the CCM Foundation.
This is the 18th year the college has awarded its Peace Prize, which was administered this year by Professor Laura Driver from the Department of English and Philosophy.
Included among the colleges and universities members from the Class of 2019 will be attending next are Columbia University, Cornell University, Drew University, John J. College of Criminal Justice, New Jersey Institute of Technology, Rochester Institute of Technology, Rutgers University, and other top schools across New Jersey and the nation.
Along with numerous 50th Anniversary celebrations, the Class of 2019 saw many significant accomplishments at the college during their educational journey. PayScale, three years in a row, has rated the college number one in New Jersey based on the earnings of CCM graduates. Professor Venancio “Venny” Fuentes, chair of the Department of Engineering Technologies and Engineering Science, was selected as the sole recipient of the 2018 Northeast Faculty Award from the Association of Community College Trustees. The college received a Best Practice Award from the Commerce and Industry Association of New Jersey and a Business Achievement Award from Randolph Township. Additionally, the New Jersey Council of County Colleges presented CCM Trustee Joseph Weisberg with its Trustee Leadership Award.