NMCC celebrates ‘resilient’ graduates during virtual ceremony
PRESQUE ISLE, Maine — On Saturday Northern Maine Community College celebrated the resiliency of students, families, faculty and staff members in a virtual graduation ceremony.
This year marks the second time that NMCC has opted for a virtual graduation due to the COVID-19 pandemic. In his opening remarks, President Tim Crowley acknowledged the additional challenges the pandemic placed on faculty and staff members, including the transfer of some classes to online platforms and relying more on technology to communicate with students.
He also sent a shout-out to the class of 175 graduates, many of whom have balanced personal and professional obligations and dealt with changes the pandemic brought into their lives.
“This has been a historic event in our community and you have responded very well. You’ve taken on the challenge of completing your academic credential while taking care of family, yourselves and your community,” Crowley said.
The theme of persevering through the pandemic also came up in a speech from David Daigler, president of the Maine Community College System.
“Someone added a course to your schedule. It was a course in resilience,” Daigler said. “And I can tell you passed with flying colors. You have the skills to overcome any obstacle, the determination to do anything.”
One such student — Caleb McManus, NMCC’s Student of the Year — is someone whom academic dean Angela Buck described as “hardworking and goal-oriented.” A liberal studies graduate, McManus was a student tutor and a member of the college’s new Esports team and Phi Theta Kappa honor society.
After earning his degree, McManus plans to attend the University of Maine at Presque Isle and study to become an English teacher. Regardless of each class member’s specific career goals or life challenges, he said, they have taken full advantage of their education and moved toward bettering their futures.
“Whether we held multiple jobs or had children to provide for, the experiences we have shared here are not that different,” McManus said. “We all came into this place to find out exactly what we could achieve and who we could become if we put our minds to it.”
During his speech McManus recalled his freshman orientation, when William Egeler, retiring dean of students, told students to close their eyes and imagine sitting among each other at their graduation ceremony. Though that ceremony did not happen exactly as they envisioned, McManus said, they still have something to celebrate.
“Now open your eyes,” McManus said. “We made it. We did it together and overcame every problem that tried to stop us. We didn’t quit or give up, we pushed on, always marching forward.”
The commencement not only marked a new beginning for the graduates but also for Egeler, who ended his 40-year tenure with NMCC. Egeler served many roles during his career, including as financial aid coordinator, director of residential life and a member of various boards and committees.
Richard Engels, a member of NMCC’s Foundation Board, announced that the college has renamed the Preserving the Aroostook Work Ethic Fund to the William G. Egeler Work Ethic Fund. The fund provides financial support to students who work on campus or are hired as interns for local employers.
As Egeler addressed the Class of 2021, he remembered three pieces of advice he always gave to students during their orientation: develop technical skills, grow “soft skills” like communication and critical thinking and maintain personal wellness.
“Those same things we spoke about when you first started your college journey apply now and will forever,” Egeler said.