The excitement was palpable in the Collins Arena, as family, friends, faculty, staff, and distinguished guests applauded graduates for their achievement, at Brookdale Community College’s 43rd Commencement on May 16. Two ceremonies were held this year to provide the 555 graduates who participated the opportunity to invite multiple guests. More than 2000 Brookdale students celebrated the successful completion of their academic programs this year.
Dr. Maureen Murphy, President of Brookdale, presided over her first graduation ceremony at the College, where she congratulated graduates, highlighted many academic and personal successes, and shook their hands as they proudly marched across the stage to receive their degree.
Quoting a graduate who recently participated in the Allied Health Pinning Ceremony, Murphy asked is it possible to achieve your educational aspirations in spite of the challenges? “Well the answer is yes! For all the stay at home moms or dads, if you lost your job or want to change your job, if you’re fresh out of high school, middle aged, or older, it is possible. Just work hard and take it, it is yours just waiting for you.”
Brian Butch, Chairman of the Board of Trustees, commended the graduating class for their perseverance and dedication, and recognized the family members and loved ones who helped make this day possible.
In the morning ceremony, which began at 10am, the Associate in Arts Degrees were conferred. Graduate Khomotjo Nkoana, a native of South Africa who came to the United States in 2009, greeted the graduating class offering encouraging words about her dream of pursing higher education, the challenges she overcame to obtain her degree, and the reasons she decided to come to Brookdale. “I knew that Brookdale welcomes students like me who are culturally diverse and willing to work hard in order to succeed in life. I was committed to doing so with all my peers and professors. The support I received from Brookdale faculty, students and clubs was incredible and unforgettable.”
Distinguished alumnus Michael Ausiello, class of 1992, was recognized for his career success. His accomplishments include working as a media relations coordinator for Entertainment Tonight; a senior news editor for “Soaps in Depth” and senior editor for TV Guide. Outstanding student awards were presented to graduates Natalia Wybraniec from the English and Reading Division, and Zachary Eisenberg, from the Social Science & Education Division.
In the afternoon ceremony at 3pm, Associate in Science Degrees, Associate in Fine Arts Degrees, and Academic Certificates were conferred. Graduate Courtney Griffin provided class greetings, and stressed the importance of setting goals, both academically and personally.
“It’s not about the awards, or having the highest G.P.A., or competing to be the best. It’s about the individual you are and the morals and values you learn through the process of reaching for your goals while gaining your own personal satisfaction,” said Griffin. “It’s about exceeding your limits and taking chances to explore new heights while having a positive attitude and sharing it with the others around you. Having Brookdale as my stepping-stone, taught me this.”
The afternoon ceremony continued with the presentation of an honorary degree to Risa Clay, principal of Red Bank Regional High School (RBRHS) since 2010, for her commitment to education. Clay started at RBRHS as a student assistance coordinator in 1999. Some of her achievements at RBRHS include co-founding and serving as director of The SOURCE, a school-based youth services program that provides counseling, academic support and preventative health care to young people and their families; founding the Puente al Futuro (Bridge to the Future) scholarship program, and helping to develop and expand the AVID (Advancement Via Individual Determination) program, where she served as director for two years.
Susan Ralph, class of 1998, was recognized as a distinguished alumna for her positive community impact. Ralph’s full-time position as a graduate program coordinator at Manna House, a transitional housing program based in Monmouth County for women and children who would otherwise be homeless, allows her to assist women to move from dependency and homelessness to self-sufficiency and hope. In 1998 while attending Brookdale, Ralph started an internship at Manna House. The agency was so pleased with her performance, that she was hired as a part-time coordinator. In 2003, she was appointed to her current position.
Outstanding student awards were presented to Julia Guerrero from the Arts and Communication Division, Ralph Casbarro, from the Business and Technology, Nicole Galgano from the Mathematics Division, and Courtney Griffin from the Science and Health Science Division.
Congratulations to the Class of 2013!