PHOTO GALLERY: Tri-County Community College students make that sacred walk
Peachtree – It was a packed house Friday, with all seats taken and others standing against the walls, as each Tri-County Community College student walked across the stage, shaking hands and receiving a degree, diploma or certificate from President Donna Tipton-Rogers.
As each graduate was announced, shouts and cheers erupted from parents, grandparents, relatives and friends during the 2019 commencement event. About 190 students were listed in the commencement brochure with degrees ranging from nursing to automotive systems technology, and certificates ranging from welding to emergency medical service.
“From the time I walked in the door, the energy here has excited me,” Tipton-Rogers told the hundreds of people watching the proceedings.
“Each of you have your own special story to share about how you got here and what you plan to do next. I am proud of the Tri-County story that started over 50 years ago. I think Tri-County is the best of the 58 community colleges in the state.”
A father and daughter got their associate degrees together. Alan Frys, 53, received a degree in computer integrated machining, while daughter Jessica Frys earned a degree in accounting.
“I graduated high school in 2015, and after starting school here decided to change to an accounting degree,” Jessica said. “I am looking for a teller job at a bank.”
“I have done machining in the past,” Alan said. “I was unemployed, so I decided to go back to school. I am proud of Jessica.”
“We are proud of each other,” Jessica added.
Alan’s son, Brian Fry, is also taking machining and will graduate next semester. They have taken classes together.
Margie Ray is one of seven students to finish a new program called Licensed Nurse Completion. She and Loretta Payne have been LPNs for years, Loretta for more than 30. This program will allow them to get their LN licenses.
“We are the first to take and complete this class,” Ray said of the seven students. It is a lifelong dream to get my RN license. It has been a wonderful experience.”
Antonio Jensen received an associate in arts degree as part of the Early College program. A reservist for the U.S. Marines, he is the oldest of seven children and first to get an associate’s degree. Jensen goes to Marine boot camp Monday, May 27. “My dad passed away a year ago. He would be extremely proud of me,” he said.
After boot camp, he will begin training in engineering in the Marines. He later will go to Western Carolina University to fulfill his engineering degree. He plans to become an officer and go to pilot’s school.
John Cearley was present to watch his oldest daughter, Margie Ray, get her degree to become a registered nurse.
“I am proud of her. It has been rough on her,” he said.
Julia Askey said she was on hand to see her daughter, Tisha Paskanik, earn a therapeutic massage degree. Askey is a mother, grandmother and great-grandmother, while Paskanik is a mother and grandmother.
George Allison is a grandfather from Murphy who came to witness his granddaughter, Lexie Powell, graduate with a medical assisting degree. Allison said he also has two younger grandchildren and is happy to see Lexie graduate.
Steve Wood, vice president for instruction and institutional effectiveness, presented an outstanding teachers award to Susan Fowler, a nursing instructor who has taught at Tri-County for 33 years. “Imagine the impact she has had on her students,” Wood said. “Each of her students has the potential to impact thousands of patients. Anyone can teach for a season, but you don’t keep coming back every fall if you don’t care.”
“I have had the best place to work with the best people ever,” Fowler said. “It has been a wonderful career. I can touch more patients through my students than I could ever have touched by myself.”
The Adjunct Excellence in Teaching award went to Debbie Bruce, an instructor in esthetics technology.
The service award for a member of the staff went to Judy Owenby, who has worked with the college for 23 years with her primary job being purchasing agent.
As Tipton-Rogers conferred degrees and asked the graduates to move the tassels on their hats from right to left, she said, “We appreciate the joy you have given us, and what you are going to do in the future.”