There are moments in time that leave marks on your heart – a few split seconds so remarkable that you know you have to take a minute to breathe it all in. I’ve been lucky enough to have quite a few of those moments lately.
The most recent of these was during Lorain County Community College’s 54th Commencement ceremony. We celebrated a class of 2,018 graduates – yes, 2,018 graduates in the year 2018! – and the many discoveries they’ve made about themselves along their path to a degree. As we cheered for the graduates, and the final glimmer of confetti hit the floor, I found myself truly overcome by the elation in the room and the great pride I feel for our students. Everything our students work toward culminates at graduation – the long hours studying, the times they pushed through doubt and the support they receive from our campus. LCCC is the melting pot of our community, and as I looked out on the cheering crowd of graduates comprised of all ages, races and socio-economic statuses, I was filled with joy for their success and hope for the future our community.
Earlier this year, I felt that same sense of esteem when I heard LCCC was announced as the national winner of the Award of Excellence in Student Success from the American Association of Community Colleges. I was in attendance at the AACC conference in Dallas when our college’s name was called out and I’ll never forget that feeling of delight for our college, for our students and for our community. At LCCC, student success is everyone’s business and we’ve infused that focus into every facet of the student experience, from redesigned advising models to creating program and career pathways that always keep the students’ end goals in sight – while saving them time and money along the way.
That mindset translates to LCCC students having the highest three-year degree completion rate in Ohio for two years running. Additionally, students who transfer from LCCC to a four-year university have a higher rate of degree completion than students who did all four years at a typical university. That focus on student success directly led to our largest ever graduating class this year, and I know they will continue to discover paths for themselves.
After they graduate or transfer, our students go on to great things. Many keep in touch with me – and I love that! Some students, however, have phenomenal stories that I have discovered almost by accident. One such person is Michael Brown, who was a featured speaker at the American Association of Community College Trustees conference that I attended last October. I had never met Michael Brown and I was certainly not expecting the chain of events that unfolded. During his remarks, I heard him mention the state of Ohio, and The Ohio State University. He then mentioned that he began his education at a community college in Northeast Ohio – and I just knew at that moment that he was an #LCCCProud alum – even before he announced that he grew up in Grafton and attended LCCC.
After Brown’s speech, I introduced myself to him and heard the amazing story of how he started at LCCC and is now the president of Barrick Gold USA. After attending LCCC in the late 1970s, Brown earned a bachelor’s degree from The Ohio State University and an MBA from The George Washington University. He worked in the US Treasury and now for the largest gold mining company in the world – and yet he regretted that he did not earn his associate degree from LCCC before he transferred to OSU.
Brown joined me on stage during LCCC’s Commencement ceremony and delivered a keynote speech that was thought provoking, inspiring and downright funny! He encouraged the graduates to be bold, to make a stand for social justice, and to never forget their roots. During Commencement, I presented him with his associate of arts degree from his first alma mater, LCCC. Seeing the genuine happiness and joy on his face was a moment I will not soon forget.
Brown told the crowd that the 2018 Commencement ceremony was actually the second LCCC graduation he had attended. While a student at LCCC, he served as a student senator and was required to attend the 1978 graduation ceremony, even though he was a class short of earning a degree himself. The sting he felt 40 years ago as he watched his classmates cross the stage and earn their degrees was still present, he said. Even though he went on to earn advanced degrees, he always wished he had completed his first degree. With his continued college coursework, Brown met the requirements to earn his associate degree and it was an honor for me to a part of his full-circle moment, as he received the degree that began his path of discovery.
All of these life-is-good moments I’ve had over the past several months all come back to student success – the core of who we are at LCCC. I believe that every student’s dream matters and helping students reach their goals in a quick and affordable manner is the hallmark of our campus. I look forward to what the realized dreams of our graduates will bring to our campus, our community and our world.