JCC hosts 63rd annual commencement ceremony

By Gavin Paterniti

Special to the OBSERVER

JAMESTOWN For 762 college students, future goals, dreams and ambitions are now one step closer than they were a day ago.

Saturday morning, Jamestown Community College hosted its 63rd annual graduation ceremony, which awarded associate degrees to 513 spring 2013 graduates, 189 December graduates and 60 summer 2012 graduates.

As the students waited in anticipation of receiving written confirmation of their successful degree completion at the college, they were welcomed by Greg DeCinque, JCC president, and keynote speaker, Anita Cizek Moore. Moore, program director of research quality improvement at the University of Maryland and a JCC alumna, praised the value of a JCC education and encouraged the graduates to savor the moment.

“During my days at JCC, I learned leadership skills,” Moore said in her commencement address. “I was inducted into Phi Theta Kappa, was an international representative to Washington, D.C., and I served as the president of our local chapter (during) my last year as a student here. I gained the confidence that I was never able to attain before.”

Moore is a native of Coudersport, Pa., and graduated from the nursing program at JCC’s Cattaraugus County campus in 1997. While a student at JCC, she received the Carnahan-Jackson scholarship, Seager presidential scholarship and a JCC Trustee award. She was also awarded a JCC Alumni Nurse of Distinction award last year. She has authored or co-authored several research papers on clinical trials, including a chapter, “Good Clinical Practice: Clinical Research Best Practices,” for the Oncology Nursing Society Manual for Clinical Trials Nursing.

She also enjoys acting, and can be seen on TV programs such as House of Cards, VEEP and Game Change, as well as a Department of Homeland Security public service announcement and the movie, “Better Living Through Chemistry.”

“Your foundation is solid from your time spent here,” she continued. “So go out there. Dream big. Think outside the box. Never settle. Always keep moving forward. And always have your goals and dreams in front of you for your reach. Always value your foundation from JCC, and keep that same motivation and drive within you to get to that next step.”

After the address, the degree candidates were presented by Dr. Marilyn Zagora, vice president and dean of academic affairs, and Dr. Eileen Goodling, vice president and dean of student development.

In front of a packed gymnasium, the students walked across the stage to receive their diplomas to cheers and shouts of affirmation from family and friends. The degrees were awarded by DeCinque and Lance Spicer, chairperson of the JCC board of trustees.

Following the graduates’ receipt of their degrees, Spicer presented the JCC Trustee Awards to five graduates. The recipients of the awards were: Emilyann Pleszlewski, of Fredonia; Amy Westfall, of Great Valley; Pamalla Harvey, of Cattaraugus; Jennifer Keyes, of Bear Lake, Pa.; and Stephanie Diener, of Warren, Pa.

This year’s Distinguished Alumnus Award went to Daniel Josephson, a 1977 JCC graduate.

In a brief divergence from the program DeCinque, and his accomplishments as JCC president over the past 19 years, were recognized by Lillian Ney, a board of trustees member.

“Our president has always been focused on the key mission of giving our students a high quality of education,” she said. “A high quality of education, academic excellence and student success has always been his driving force. Over the years, with personal strength and strong leadership, he led the transformation of this college into the jewel it is today. He has built a college in sound financial condition, ready to deal with and anticipate the challenges of the future, and one where everyone works together in a meaningful, collaborative and trusting atmosphere for the single goal of the success of our students. And now, we are the top performing community college in New York state. How lucky are we?”

This was DeCinque’s final commencement as JCC president, as he will be retiring this summer.

In turn, DeCinque recognized two long-standing JCC faculty members who will also be retiring at the end of the month. They are Mike Kelly, professor of music, who has been with JCC for nearly 40 years, and Ellen VanValkenburgh, associate professor of criminal justice, who has been with JCC for 26 years.

Following the ceremony, students met with their parents on the lawn behind the physical education building for hugs, handshakes and photo opportunities, and were welcomed to a post-ceremony reception at the Hamilton Collegiate Center’s student union.