05/13/07 — Class of 2007 claims 489 WCC diplomas

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Class of 2007 claims 489 WCC diplomas

By Phyllis Moore
Published in News on May 13, 2007 2:02 AM

Wayne Community College celebrated firsts, lasts and futures during its annual commencement exercises Friday and Saturday.

On Friday night, 120 adult high school graduates and 250 general educational development (or GED) students received diplomas. During ceremonies held Saturday morning, another 489 graduates were recognized, including 345 associate degrees, 50 diplomas and 94 certificates.

The occasion also marked Wayne Community's 50th anniversary and represented the last such event under the leadership of Dr. Ed Wilson, president of the college for the past 15 years.

Natasha Wiley, immediate past president of the Student Government Association, reflected on the life of a college student, which included "early morning wake-ups, late-night studies and the mid-day caffeine sixes. That mixed with the pop quizzes and the six-page papers on books you've never heard of, equals a normal WCC semester."

Elizabeth Rizzo, who received her adult high school diploma, offered a different perspective as guest speaker Friday night.

Born in 1950, she returned to college about 15 months ago to obtain the high school diploma she had once dismissed. Now the wife, mother of three and grandmother of six is on the fast track, officials said, continuing her education at the college later this month to study medical transcription.

Several years ago, Ms. Rizzo said, she began thinking about what she would have liked to have done differently. Without a high school diploma, though, they seemed impossible.

"One day I realized that I was like a car in park," she said. Poor choices like dropping out of school and becoming distracted in other directions caused her to be "like a car on the side of the road with four flat tires waiting for someone to come along and fix them."

Had she worked on her education, she might have had the tools to better herself, she said. Wayne Community's adult high school program enabled her to accomplish that.

And now, she said, "I can say that the car is fixed and I am moving toward what I really want to do. ... Quitting is not in my vocabulary and I am going to enjoy every day of my life."

Saturday's speakers encompassed each decade of the college's history.

Grace Lutz, who earned a business administration degree in 1967 and worked there for 30 years before retiring in 2006, recalled the era when the school was known as Wayne Technical Institute.

"It was back when beach music was the favorite and the shag was the dance. We brought in the mini-skirts you girls are wearing today," she said, expressing her appreciation that polyester leisure suits did not last as long.

Ms. Lutz has seen many changes at the college over the years, from the old campus to the new, from a time when there were no computers to the present, when opportunities for students abound.

Jimmie Ford holds two degrees from the college, business administration in 1971 and mental health in 1974. He has worked at the college in several capacities, as well as having served as a county commissioner, legislator and now member of the state community college system's board of trustees. Much happened at Wayne Community, he said, a place that "jump-started me, my career, my life. It changed me. "

Vicki Dowell Simmons and Earnest Richard represented the 1980s.

Ms. Simmons, a dental assistant with two degrees from the college, challenged the graduates to "take what you have learned here to put into practice or to use as a stepping stone to the future."

Richard, a machinist who owns his own business, said a wrong turn resulted in his career choice.

At age 18, he had a penchant for mechanics but while trying to locate a classroom at the college, accidentally ended up in the machine shop. The next year, he enrolled in the machine technology program.

Wayne Community, he said, remains an important resource. His wife and sister, both graduates of WCC, work with him, as does his son, currently a student. Richard has also taught at the college and continues to assist in training and working with co-op students.

"The right turn for me was choosing WCC as the foundation to success," he said.

Gary Smith, a 1997 graduation with a pre-engineering degree, credits the college with launching his teaching career. He later taught at Wayne Community and N.C. State University.

"If I could relive the past, I would still go to WCC," he said.

Two years ago, Jason Parker earned his Associate of Applied Science degree in forest management technology. It has taken him a little while, but he realizes the value of a college degree, he said.

"One of the great things about WCC is the faculty and staff," he said. "They're all dedicated to the success of each person here."

Another highlight of the curriculum graduation was the announcement of the 22nd recipient of the George E. Wilson Excellence in Teaching Award. Nursing instructor Patricia Pfeiffer received a $4,000 cash award and funds to attend a national conference for outstanding teachers.