ELYRIA — Lorain County Community College awarded 1,362 degrees Saturday — the most in the school’s 50-year history, said LCCC President Roy Church during the college’s commencement.
Last year, 1,245 students earned degrees.
Church, who addressed the 554 graduates in attendance Saturday, told students they should be proud of their work, which he said led to the growth of the institution.
“Graduates, your hard work has helped Lorain County Community College have the fourth-highest growth rate of associate’s degrees awarded in Ohio from 2003 to 2012, growing 76 percent during the past 10 years.
Simply amazing,” he said.
This year marked the 50th anniversary for LCCC, which was founded in 1963 after a charge for a community college in Lorain County led by the League of Women Voters. The college was meant to serve a national need for community-based higher education for veterans returning home from World War II.
“Since that time, Lorain County Community College has been an ever-changing institution. That’s what a community college does. We are shaped by our environment; responding to the evolving needs of our community,” Church said. “It’s only with that gift of insight and direction that we then are able to re-shape our own future. I’m proud to see the impact Lorain County Community College has had on this community in its 50 years.”
This year’s commencement theme was “Impacting Lives through Quality Education, Economy through Innovation and Community through Partnerships.”
Church spoke about the impact students are already having on their communities, including 17-year-old Victoria Soewarna, who received an associate of arts degree from LCCC as an Early College student.
“We’re delighted to have her represent Lorain County Community College nationally and to call this campus home,” he said.
Soewarna was the youngest student on the All-USA Academic Team — a team compiled of 20 students picked from 800 community colleges across the nation. She is also the principal investigator for an HIV/AIDS research group at LCCC — a group who is researching a cure for the disease using gene mutation therapy.
Soewarna said Early College was a good opportunity to further her education and to test her skills before she attends The Ohio State University for a degree in biology.
“It was challenging,” she said of the program. “It wasn’t what I was expecting… Eventually, I got a routine down where I knew what I was doing.”
Soewarna said her research at LCCC helped her overcome her fear of public speaking. She plans to attend medical school after Ohio State for a career in anesthesia or surgery.
Church also recognized student Amanda Hoover, who took advantage of the University Partnership Program to finish her bachelor’s degree. Hoover went on to join the Enactus Team at LCCC, a community of student, academic and business leaders who apply business concepts to form community outreach programs.
After graduation, Hoover plans to pursue a job in marketing and work on her MBA.
The commencement’s keynote speaker was Professor Bruce Weigl, a professor at LCCC, who was a Pulitzer Prize finalist for the second time after receiving the nomination for his poetry book titled “The Abundance of Nothing,” which was based of his experiences as a soldier in Vietnam.
Weigl discussed his similarities to many of the students at LCCC.
He grew up in South Lorain, graduating from Admiral King High School in 1967. Weigl said he was one of the first in his family to receive a college education — an education that he said wasn’t initially planned.
“I know how important your time with us has been because I’m like you. I’m like you because I put my faith in the college to provide me with a vital and liberal education,” he said.
Weigl spoke highly of LCCC, and he congratulated the students who received degrees.
“My position here is enviable, even among my colleagues, because I am entrusted with the care and nurturing of our most creative students in the creative writing classroom,” he said. “But all of us here on this side of the room are grateful for all of you out there. For your hard work, for your devotion to the principles of our community college vision, for your good natures and for your remarkably creative spirits.”
Students who earned degrees spoke excitably about the end of their hard work. But for many, graduation was also a time to reflect on what they’d be leaving behind.
“It’s a little bittersweet, leaving somewhere you’ve been for a while,” said Cristy Plas, who earned a bachelor of arts degree through the University Partnership Program.
Plas said she is excited to start a new chapter of her life, however, and maybe even return to the college.
“I hope to come back to Lorain County Community College one day and teach,” she said.
Contact Chelsea Miller at 329-7123 or firstname.lastname@example.org.