Nearly 100 students at Lehigh Carbon Community College received their associate degrees, certificates or specialized credit diplomas on Sunday at the college's December 2013 Graduate Recognition Ceremony on LCCC's main campus in Schnecksville.
Before processing into the auditorium, most students could be seen in the auxiliary gym nervously adjusting their maroon-colored sashes and chatting amongst themselves while their friends and family began to fill Berrier Hall, where the ceremony was scheduled to be held.
After the students entered and took their seats, Dean of Student Development Peggy M. Heim thanked the nearly full house for joining "in this special moment of recognition of the hard work, achievement and success of our graduates".
First up to speak was Board of Trustees Vice Chair Ann L. Thompson, who made a point of congratulating "each and every new graduate" for their accomplishments before adding that she hoped their education at LCCC serves them well and wishing them a bright future.
Thompson was followed by College President Dr. Donald W. Snyder, who is retiring at the end of this month for health reasons after 13 years at the helm. He noted that, "Each one of you who are here this afternoon has your own story, as Ann said… And what's important about this institution is that we're here (for) your dreams, your hopes, your desires."
Snyder went on to tell how his own graduation from LCCC in 1971 led to higher academic degrees and his ability to eventually join the college as its president. He became visibly choked up as he mentioned how LCCC had allowed him, like so many other students present that day, to be able to attend college while working full-time and to help support his family.
After Snyder stepped from the podium, 20-year-old Albrightsville resident Aren M. Woods, a television and film major who was chosen as the student speaker, gave a rousing five-and-a-half minute speech.
In it, he mentioned that though Bill Gates' first business had failed and Steve King's first novel had been rejected 30 times, both men "would not accept failure as the final answer". He encouraged his fellow graduates to do likewise when following their dreams.
"There will always be someone who will put you or your dreams down. Resist the urge to quit, and persevere. Success is the result of an unrelenting spirit," Woods said.
Woods, who had been selected to be a part of the LCCC promotional advertising campaign in July, can be seen on many area billboards and in newspaper and online advertising as well as part of the LCCC superhero-themed television commercial produced in the fall. In addition, his likeness is a character in the college's new graphic novel "The Guardian and the Graduates", which is themed on getting to, and then graduating from, LCCC.
After Woods' speech, the graduates stood up for their Presentation of Candidates then lined up for their Awarding of Diplomas before their grand recessional.They and their family and friends then sought to find one another afterward in the crowded lobby for congratulations, photo-taking and to share in refreshments.
Standing amidst them, Snyder noted that, "As a (former LCCC) graduate, what I wanted to achieve here was to make everyone who comes to this college proud of being a part of this community and to have every opportunity that we could make available to them to succeed in whatever their goal is. And I think we've been able to achieve both of those things."