Praise and advice, cheers and applause, balloons and bouquets marked the 2013 commencement ceremony of Kachemak Bay Campus, Kenai Peninsula College-University of Alaska Anchorage, held at Mariner Theatre May 8.
“Welcome to you, our graduating class. I am so very proud of you,” said KBC Campus Director Carol Swartz, also recognizing those students unable to attend.
“This special day belongs to you, graduates, as well as your family and friends who provided much encouragement and support. Their contributions are to be commended.”
Using a quote from Helen Keller — “When we do the best we can, we never know what miracle is wrought in our lives and the life of another” — Swartz noted the graduates had demonstrated their ability to change not only their own lives, but also those around them.
Joining Swartz in honoring the students achievements were Patricia Jacobson, UA Board of Regents chair; Thomas Case, UAA chancellor; Gary Turner, KPC director; Michael Carey, the keynote speaker; Rep. Paul Seaton, R-Homer; and Bob Moore of the KBC advisory board.
“I suspect you’ve had times of frustration, panic, fear and discouragement because it’s not easy the work you’re required to do to make your education mean something,” said Case, adding that surviving those times builds resilience. In closing, he said, “I am very, very proud of you. … Go forth and make the world a better place.”
Carey, an Anchorage Daily News columnist, journalist and commentator, who received an honorary doctorate of law degree from UAA in 2005 and the UA Board of Regents Meritorious Service Award in 2011, told the students that “graduation” is about finishing a part of their lives, while “commencement” marked the beginning of a new part.
“You are unique. There is only one you in the universe,” he said. “What you do with your talents, how you treat others is a responsibility. Don’t waste the gifts you’ve been given.”
Drawing from President Bill Clinton, who determined at a young age that he wanted to become president of the United States, and the famed aviator Charles Lindbergh, who was born in 1902, before the Wright brothers took their first flight, Carey urged the graduates to lead successful lives, ones that are lived in their own way. To do that requires knowing oneself, Carey said.
“For you, the sun is barely over the horizon. The day has just begun. You are about to embrace your future,” said Carey. “So I say to you in closing, remember the wisdom of Walt Whitman, that the strongest and sweetest songs remain to be sung. May you be singing strong, sweet songs the rest of your lives.”
As each graduate crossed the stage and received his or her diploma, shouts of congratulations and applause filled the auditorium. Jacobson officially conferred eight associate of arts degrees; one associate of applied science, human services; a master of arts in teaching; a master of education, educational leadership; a master of education, special education; and 22 general education development diplomas. Earlier in the year, 18 students completed the certified nurse aid training and four completed welding industry certification for structural code.
After directing the graduates to move their tassels to the left side of their hats, Jacobson offered three suggestions.
“Remember to thank those who helped you along the way. Continue to hone your listening skills. That’s a great key to life. And continue to nurture your ability to learn, how to learn and grow,” she said.
“Again, congratulations and all the best in your future endeavors.”
As the highest-ranking student in her class, valedictorian Nina Reutov offered the commencement student address.
Acknowledging the challenges, obstacles and successes she and her classmates have faced, Reutov said, “The best part of being a graduate is that we don’t have to leave this place to go home. This is our home.”
Swartz, who has been campus director since 1986, also was honored by Jacobson, Case and Turner for being “a dedicated champion of the humanities, literacy and social services in the community of Alaska.”
Turner noted Swartz’ role as the founding director of South Peninsula Women’s Services, the founding co-clinical director of the Homer Community Mental Health Center, her involvement with Rotary, Bunnell Street Arts Center, Pratt Museum, the Susitna Council of Girls Scouts and other statewide and local organizations. In 2001, she founded the Kachemak Bay Writers’ Conference, “Alaska’s most successful and prestigious writers’ conference,” said Turner. In 1989, Swartz was nominated as Homer’s citizen of the year. In 2009, she was a Homer Woman of Distinction and one of four recipients of the Contributions to Literacy in Alaska award. She also is a recipient of the Governor’s Award for Distinguished Service to the Humanities.
“This award is made in recognition of your significant contribution to the community, the University of Alaska and the state of Alaska,” Jacobson told Swartz. “Your contributions will be remembered for generations to come.”
Case also had words of praise for KBC’s campus director.
“Carol’s activity over the years paints a picture of a person with caring leadership. … Everywhere you look, you see footprints Carol has left,” he said. “I want to make sure everyone understands there are very few meritorious awards given by the University of Alaska. It’s a distinguished honor. This one is well deserved.”
McKibben Jackinsky can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.