Capacity Crowd Honors Class of 2017

June 26, 2017

Columbia Gorge Community College held its 2017 commencement June 16. A capacity crowd in the Fort Dalles Readiness Center celebrated students’ achievements with a theme of “Moving Forward,” as inspired by writer C.S. Lewis: “There are better things ahead than any we leave behind.”

Student marshals Gilbert Cooksey and Summer Bogard led the processional. In addition to the 159 students receiving the Associate of Arts Oregon Transfer, Associate of Science, and Associate of General Studies degrees, students earned degrees and certificates in accounting and business, medical assisting, nursing, renewable energy, and early childhood education. In all, students from the Class of 2017 received 272 collegiate degrees and certificates, and 50 GED diplomas.

Tristan Neal became the first student to earn CGCC’s two new Computer Science degrees, established in 2015 under the guidance of Dr. Robert Surton. Neal, who is also the outgoing CGCC Student Body President, said that he became involved in the Computer Science program through his interest in technology, albeit with no specific direction.

“I wanted to learn general tech skills,” Neal said, adding that he became inspired “after starting a few of the computer science classes, talking to Dr. Surton and hearing his testimony on how cool it was.” Neal has applied to the University of Washington’s Computer Science program as a transfer student. “I want to apply those skills in the wider world,” he said.

Commencement awards recognized students, staff and faculty. Chantelle Hickman (First Year) and Shari Martz (Second Year) received the nursing department’s Florence Nightingale Award. Jessamyn Duckwall won the Leonardo da Vinci Distinguished Transfer Student Award. Co-Outstanding Graduates Rosey Two Starrs Begay and Semone SaraRae Anderson both gave inspiring speeches incorporating the “Moving Forward” theme. These student awards come with a monetary gift to aid students in the next step of their journey. Student Life Adviser Michelle Gietl received the Staff Excellence Award and Business instructor Pam Ritzenthaler received the Reine Thomas Faculty Excellence Award.

Keynote speaker Abel Cruz Flores talked about his journey from CGCC to Georgetown University, where he is finishing a Ph.D. in Spanish linguistics. Cruz Flores’ words touched on many of the issues faced by students, including race, culture, language and immigration. He urged students to focus on a wider, more global view of life. “Instead of making America great again,” said Cruz Flores, “let’s make the whole world great for everyone.”