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White Mountains Community College celebrates tenacity of graduates

Union Leader Correspondent

May 20. 2018 10:30PM
White Mountains Community College President Charles Lloyd, left, and Dr. Ross Gittell, chancellor of the Community College System of New Hampshire, lead faculty members and soon-to-be graduates to the 51st commencement exercises of the White Mountains Community College on Friday afternoon. (John Koziol/Union Leader Correspondent)

Red flowers on a mortarboard added to the color of the 51st commencement exercises at White Mountains Community College on Friday. (JOHN KOZIOL/UNION LEADER CORRESPONDENT)

BERLIN — On a bright, warm, and dry afternoon that President Charles Lloyd called “the final ending to winter,” White Mountains Community College on Friday bid adieu and Godspeed to the 195 graduates of the Class of 2018.

Overseeing WMCC’s 51st, and his first commencement since being unanimously confirmed as president in February by the Board of Trustees of the Community College System of New Hampshire, Lloyd began by announcing to the soon-to-be WMCC alumni, that he was going to “tell you about you.”

Of the total number of graduates, 18 have dual majors, said Lloyd, while 57 percent are women. The oldest graduate is 63, he said, while the honor for the youngest is shared by a septet of 18-year olds.

“Seventy-six of you are over 25,” Lloyd continued, adding that some of the graduates came from Maine, Vermont, and New York, whereas the majority were from New Hampshire, and the more northerly counties in particular.

The graduates include veterans and their families, working parents, people who regularly commuted more than an hour to WMCC, and/or its academic centers in Littleton or North Conway, Lloyd continued, summing up that the Class of 2018 was a testament to tenacity and overcoming obstacles.

Among its members, he said, is a person who overcame both homelessness and addiction and that person, like his or her fellow graduates, “did not get here alone” but only with the help of others.

While they are better prepared to face the world thanks to WMCC, Lloyd did not sugar-coat the fact that at times, life “won’t be fair” nor would it all be “rainbows and unicorns” for the graduates. Nonetheless, he encouraged them to try something scary “once in a while,” because they would be better people for going through the experience.

In his keynote address, Steve Griffiths, WMCC ‘91 and now the Culinary Institute program director at Estrella Mountain Community College in Avondale, Ariz., said success for him came after lots of hard work and, occasionally, physical pain.

“I can’t tell you how many times I cut or burned myself,” Griffiths joked about his career which has included cooking at the former Balsams Grand Resort Hotel, Pinehurst Resort and Country Club, The Crowne Plaza Hotel, and Legal Sea Foods of Boston.

A native of Claremont and a graduate of Stevens High School, Griffiths, who earned an associate degree in culinary arts at WMCC and later returned to teach there before heading West, said the “biggest challenge about success,” according to a poet-friend of his, “is shutting up about it.”

Griffiths recalled that in coming to WMCC for the first time, “the place was comfortable, it felt like home,” which was a sentiment shared earlier by Elizabeth Avery, the president of the WMCC Student Senate who, like him, was a culinary arts major.

Avery, who is from Wolfeboro, said she plans to return to WMCC to earn additional degrees that will allow her to teach culinary arts at a career-technical school. She said she’d always expected to go to a large university after graduating high school, but instead found herself at a small school “that gave me big aspirations.”

Joshua Martin, who earned a medical assistant degree, told his 2018 classmates that his deciding to attend the Littleton campus was borne of a family tragedy, the death of his “Nana,” who often asked when he’d go back to school to further his education, in 2013.

Ambitionless and working what he called a “dead-end job,” Martin was at the hospital holding his Nana’s hand when he had to do “the hardest thing” ever in his life, which was to tell her “to let go and go to heaven.”

Subsequently, Martin enrolled at WMCC and when he graduated, his Nana was with him.

“I know that she is here and smiling and so proud of what I’ve accomplished,” said Martin.

Berlin Commencement

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