Graduates Create ‘Digital Moment’ at 2014 Commencement

Graduates take selfies at the College's 2014 Commencement ceremony. Photos by John Welsh

Graduates take selfies at the College’s 2014 Commencement ceremony. Photo by John Welsh

by Alana J. Mauger

Montgomery County Community College’s class of 2014 made history on May 15, as graduates, faculty and guests participated in what may very well be the largest group of “selfie” photos taken simultaneously.

Dr. Celeste Schwartz addresses 2014 graduates. Photo by John Welsh

Dr. Celeste Schwartz addresses 2014 graduates.

Dr. Celeste Schwartz, alumna and Vice President for Information Technology and College Services, initiated the selfie during her Commencement keynote address, encouraging close to 5,000 graduates, faculty and guests to take and share selfies to commemorate the evening.

Shared with the hashtag #ThinkBigGrad to a variety of social media platforms, many of these photos are archived on the College’s Think Success blog and on  Pinterest. Montgomery Media also streamed a live feed via Rebel Mouse.

Dr. Lee Bender shoots a confetti cannon following his speech, drawing applause from the crowd. Photo by John Welsh

Dr. Lee Bender shoots a confetti cannon following his speech, drawing applause from the crowd.

With a combined 90 years of service to the College, Dr. Schwartz along with Professor of Economics Dr. Lee Bender were selected as 2014 Commencement keynote speakers as part of the College’s 50th anniversary celebration. Together, they painted a picture of 1960s and imparted wisdom from lessons learned to graduates from the Class of 2014.

One of those graduates, Michelle Sikora, Lansdale, had the opportunity to share her story as the selected student commencement speaker. During her remarks, Sikora a single parent to a child with significant medical needs, shared the challenges of balancing coursework with doctor appointments and hospital visits.

Commencement student speaker & 2014 grad Michelle Sikora. Photo by John Welsh

Commencement student speaker & 2014 grad Michelle Sikora.

“Some trials are just a part of life. They are life’s pop quizzes; they are opportunities for growth and improvement, and they have rewards,” she shared. “We can benefit even from life’s toughest challenges by asking, ‘what can I learn from this experience? How can I approach this in a new way, and what can I change? And, most importantly, how can I use this experience to help others?’”

Graduating with a degree in Liberal Studies, Sikora will return to the College in the fall to pursue a degree in Nursing.

Sikora was one of 1,491 graduates from the class of 2014, who collectively earned 1,525 degrees and certificates. Included among these are a record 52 military veterans, who, for the first time, wore navy blue stoles embroidered with the words “Valor & Respect;” a record 340 students who completed their coursework at the College’s West Campus in Pottstown; 275 members of Phi Theta Kappa international honor society; 75 students with a grade point average (GPA) of 3.9 or higher; 35 international students from 17 different countries; a record 21 graduates from the College’s Honors Program; and 21 Mustangs student athletes.

Class of 2014 graduates range in aged from 17 to 81. Of note, 99 graduates began their college careers as dual enrollment students from 34 regional and cyber high schools.

Vice President for Academic Affairs & Provost Dr. Vicki Bastecki-Perez presents Jill Beccaris-Pescatore with the Pearlstine Award for Teaching Excellence.

Vice President for Academic Affairs & Provost Dr. Vicki Bastecki-Perez presents Jill Beccaris-Pescatore with the Pearlstine Award for Teaching Excellence. Photo by John Welsh

Graduates were not the only ones lauded for their accomplishments during the ceremony. Assistant Professor of Economics Jill Beccaris-Pescatore received the 2014 Pearlstine Award for Teaching Excellence. The award, given on alternating years with the Lindback Award for Teaching Excellence, is named in honor of founding Trustee Gladys Pearlstine and is presented to a faculty member who embodies the principles on which the College was founded and who is nominated his/her peers and students.

During the presentation, Beccaris-Pescatore, who has taught at the College since 2003, was recognized for using new media and current events to teach complex economic principles, as well as her energy and enthusiasm in the classroom and her participation in college activities. She is also an avid runner and has completed the Boston Marathon in each of the last two years.

Several dignitaries celebrated with the graduates, including Pennsylvania State Senator John Rafferty, Montgomery County Commissions Josh Shapiro and Bruce Castor, and members of the College’s Board of Trustees.

See Montgomery Media’s Commencement coverage

Watch the Commencement Pre-Show, hosted by student Paige Murray and produced by Matt Porter.

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