Montcalm Community College celebrates 50th commencement ceremony

By Emilee Nielsen • Last Updated 12:33 pm on Monday, May 08, 2017

Montcalm Community College President Bob Ferrentino welcomes graduates and family members of graduates to the college’s 50th commencement ceremony on the Sidney campus Friday evening. — Daily News/Emilee Nielsen

SIDNEY — Fifty classes of Montcalm Community College (MCC) students have walked across the stage to receive their diplomas.

Those students came from all walks of life and worked toward receiving their associate’s degrees for myriad reasons.

On Friday evening, about 70 members of the 2017 class of graduates — which was comprised of a total of 317 students — received diplomas and certificates on the Sidney campus of MCC.  Speaking at the ceremony were early college graduate Heather Simon and former Grand Rapids mayor George Heartwell.

During her speech, Simon likened her early college journey to the journeys characters in fairytales make.

Former Grand Rapids mayor George Heartwell gave the commencement address during Montcalm Community College’s 50th commencement Friday evening.

“Now that I am grown and, unfortunately, too old to be whisked away to Neverland, I realize that these fairy tales read to me as a child will never come true,” she said. “However, there are three key elements that all fairy tales hold that also ring true for any journey through life.”

Those elements, she said, are friends and foes, a problem to be solved and a lesson to be learned.

“Despite the people who stood in our way and the obstacles that we overcame, we as a class represent dreamers who have finally reached the end of this chapter in the fairytale that is life,” she said.

Simon noted it wasn’t just “faith, trust and pixie dust” that got them through, like J.M. Barrie wrote in “Peter Pan”, but “a couple gallons of coffee and a few all-nighters.”

“Once upon a time there was an MCC graduate, degree in one hand and dream in the other, ready to reveal to the world what they are capable of accomplishing,” she said. “We are those graduates and today is that day.”

After Simon finished speaking, Heartwell took the stage. Heartwell was the mayor of Grand Rapids for 12 years and was known as a champion of sustainability. He currently is the part-time community sustainability coordinator for Grand Valley State University.

“Funny word, commencement,” he said. “It means a beginning. Yet this feels like more of an ending, doesn’t it? You’re done with this phase of your life. You’ve taken what this amazing institution has to offer you. Now you’re ready to line up and get your diploma. Community college is over. What comes next?”

Heartwell went on to talk about the uncertainty of the future.

“With that uncertainty comes a strange mixture of apprehension and exhilaration,” he said. “The future is veiled and behind that veil lies opportunity and frustration…maybe in equal measures. It is all there now to be explored.”

Life is a spiral, Heartwell said, and not just a straight line from birth to death. He encouraged graduates to “raise the community with you as you go.”

“I know that wherever you go that place will be a better place if you are continuously learning and growing and improving,” he continued.

After the speeches were finished, two faculty awards were presented: The Leslie K. Morford Faculty Recognition Award and the Outstanding Faculty Adjunct Award.

Kimberly Holt, the nursing simulation coordinator and faculty advisor to the nursing club, was awarded the Leslie K. Morford Faculty Recognition Award. Graduates from the nursing program stood to cheer for Holt.

“Her knowledge and expertise have been integral to improving the program with equipment and technology,” said Bob Marston, vice chairman of the MCC Board of Trustees.

F/Lt. Kevin Sweeney, commander of the Michigan State Police Lakeview post and adjunct faculty member of MCC, received the Outstanding Faculty Adjunct Award.

“He provides quality hands-on experiences, guest speakers and field trips to keep his students actively engaged in the learning process,” Marston said. “He works to provide them with a feel for the realities of the criminal justice field.”

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