SWCC Alumni Office
2017 Spring Graduation
2016-2017 SWCC COMMENCEMENT
Southwest Virginia Community College graduates heard a message of inspiration from Dr. Glenn DuBois, chancellor of the Virginia Community College System, who was the speaker for the college’s 50th Anniversary Commencement Ceremony. Over 550 students were candidates for graduation from SWCC this year.
“To the class of 2017, this is a big day for you. This day will stick with you for a long time, and do you know why? Because, you are now on a launch pad,” said DuBois. He continued, “Graduating from college is not easy. Finishing with a degree puts you in a minority in America today.”
He also shared his personal story with the graduates. Of how he went from having only the inspiration to rise from a dishwasher to a bus boy at the restaurant for which he worked. But, because of the insistence of someone who knew his potential, his mother, he finally filled out an application to his community college and his aspirations changed.
“I was shocked when I got the acceptance letter in the mail,” said DuBois. “I actually had the letter in my pocket when I arrived on campus, because I was sure they had made a mistake.” Through the guidance of excellent teachers, he decided to be a teacher himself. He rose through the ranks and is now the leader of one of the largest community college systems in the country.
“Inspiring teachers made the difference for me,” said DuBois “I am sure that at least one teacher made a difference to you,” he said. He equated the community college to Ellis Island, in its role as a beacon of opportunity.
He praised teachers of excellence and noted that, like any great leader, they have three common traits. The first is that they know that anything good is gained through hard work. The second trait is that great teachers and leaders are always looking for a way to improve. The third and last trait is that great teachers and leaders can get more out of a person than they can themselves.
DuBois pointed to Dr. J. Mark Estepp, president of SWCC, as an example of a successful academic leader. He praised him for being a fierce advocate of the college and of its students. He also commented that he excelled on every assignment that he is given.
He finished his presentation by telling the graduates, “No matter where your journey takes you, be a great leader and teacher.”
Dr. Thomas Brewster, SWCC Liaison for the Virginia Community College System State Board, brought words of welcome to the audience. “On behalf of the VCCS State Board, we commend you, the graduates, on a job well done.”
Peggy Lowe, interim chair of the SWCC Local Board, also welcomed the graduates, their family and friends to the event. “SWCC has stood as a ‘Beacon on the Hill’ for 50 years,” said Lowe. She continued, “SWCC has allowed you to reach for the stars and create a foundation on which you can make your dreams come true.”
Todd Hill, president of the SWCC chapter of the Phi Theta Kappa Honor Society, introduced the 2016 recipient of the SWCC Distinguished Alumnus Award, Sue Woosley Hillman. She was the first graduate to ever receive a degree from SWCC. She graduated in 1969 and continued her studies at what was then, Clinch Valley College, in education. She has been an educator in local school systems for 18 years.
Todd Hill, then introduced the 2017 recipient of the SWCC Distinguished Alumnus Award, Anthony D. Shrader. He earned a degree in radiologic technology from SWCC and has gone on to a steller career in the medical field. Over 25 years, he has provided radiation treatment to over 3,000 patients. As a medical dosimetrist, he works as part of the radiation oncology team, helping to treat patients fighting cancer.
Dr. Barbara Fuller, vice president of Academic and Student Services, presented the candidates for graduation. She was honored during the ceremony for her distinguished career in education by Dr. Estepp. She had announced her impending retirement earlier this year.
Dr. Estepp conferred the degrees and certificates with the assistance of Dyan Lester, dean of student success; Windell Turner, vice president of financial and administrative services; Cathy Smith-Cox, dean of the Health Technology, Humanities, Mathematics, Natural Sciences and Social Sciences Division; James Dye, dean of the Business, Engineering and Industrial Technology Division, Dr. Michael Henry, director Student Support Services, and Susan Lowe, executive director of the Educational Foundation and Development.
Dr. Thomas Conley, member of the SWCC Local Board, gave the invocation and Dr. Michael Henry gave the benediction. Professor Douglas Branton served as Marshal for commencement.
Dr. Dana Burnett, Professor of Practice Emeritus, Department of Education Foundations & Leadership, Darden College of Education, at Old Dominion University (ODU) joined Elaine Hardin, ODU Site Director, to confer degrees.
Music, Processional, Recessional and National Anthem was performed by members of the SWCC Wind Ensemble, under the direction of Dr. Joseph Trivette, the Gaynelle Lockhart Albert Endowed Chair in Music at SWCC. The words of the “Fanfare and Recessional on Alma Mater” were written by Adda Leah Davis and arranged by Dr. Trivette.