PASSAIC COUNTY COMMUNITY COLLEGE
Keynote Speaker: The Honorable Miguel de la Carrera,
Superior Court Judge, State of New Jersey.
Valedictorian: Linda Finnan,
Associate in Arts in Liberal Arts Degree
A record breaking 584 graduates from all four PCCC locations received their Associate’s Degrees and professional certificates at the 39th commencement ceremonies held
May 19, 2011 on the Paterson campus.
“This is the largest graduating class ever,” said College President, Dr. Steven Rose, in his welcome to the graduates, faculty, staff, and guests who packed the gymnasium for the event which was broadcast live on the PCCC website.
This year’s class represented every community in Passaic County, and its graduates ranged in age from 18 to 57. “It’s been quite a journey for some of you,” said Dr. Rose, noting that 20 graduates had started their education at the College in the 1990s and many worked full or part-time jobs and raised families while attending classes. “Every one of you is an incredible success,” he added.
Celebrating Our Diversity is the annual theme of PCCC commencements, illustrated by the international flags that cover the wall behind the dais. Fifty banners represented the various nationalities of the Class of 2011. “We had to buy two new ones this year,” Dr. Rose joked, “to acknowledge the first PCCC graduates who were born in Ireland and Vietnam.”
In a commencement address that was both touching and down-to-earth, the Honorable Miguel de la Carrera, a New Jersey Superior Court judge, identified with many of the graduates, telling of his humble background in Brooklyn and Fair Lawn. “I had no idea I would go to the Ivy League,” said the cum laude graduate of Yale who received his law degree at Columbia University School of Law. He urged students to “tackle your fears,” “become involved in public life,” and “keep with you the part of the child you used to be,” urging them to retain a sense of wonder at what can be learned from life.
NJ Superior Court Judge Miguel de la Carrera
Valedictorian Linda Finnan delivered a speech full of gratitude for the opportunities she received at PCCC. “I came to the United States to pursue the American Dream,” said Finnan, who had emigrated from Ireland alone at the age of 20. “One aspect of that dream is to seek higher education.”
She thanked the faculty and staff of PCCC for making that possible for her and for others.
“You want and push us to succeed, but also give us a soft place to fall when we struggle.”
Linda Finnan delivered the
Finnan, a married mother of two, paid tribute to fellow graduates who were single parents, who had loved ones in military service, and who pursued their education despite disabilities. “You face each day saying, I am here, I will keep coming, and I will succeed,” she declared to thunderous cheers. As one who already spoke English when she arrived in the U.S., Finnan reserved special praise for those who had to learn English before they could take college classes. “ I salute you; you are an inspiration,” she said.
In her stirring conclusion, Finnan asked her classmates, “What will we add to the fabric of this society?” Urging the Class of 2011 to become agents of change in the world, whether as parents, nurses, or political leaders, Finnan said, “It is incumbent on us to attack with gusto the future as we attacked our education.”
After diplomas were distributed, Dr. Rose charged the Class of 2011 to heed the challenges posed in the valedictory address. “Your diploma will open doors to you,” he said. “Be great in your professions…. we are incredibly proud of you.”
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