Capital Community College held its 2021 Commencement exercises at Dunkin’ Donuts Park on Thursday, May 27th a short walk from its downtown Hartford campus under cloudless skies.
Chief Executive Office G. Duncan Harris, Ed.D, greeted faculty, guests and 369 graduates who earned associate degrees and certificates in nursing and the health professions, accounting, management, technology, liberal arts and other disciplines.
Harris, marking his third commencement at Capital as CEO, noted that the graduation ceremonies, which were also streamed virtually, was the first large in-person gathering for the college since COVID-19 shut down the campus in March of last year. “This has been a year like no other. Our country faced two pandemics. The COVID pandemic which resulted in the loss of over 500,000 Americans and the other linked to social and racial justice. This week marked the one-year anniversary of murder of George Floyd. Our college responded, with our faculty, staff, and students, and campus community engaged on the frontlines of both.”
Abdul-Rahmaan I. Muhammad, LMSW, founder and executive director of My People Clinical Services, was the keynote speaker. He exhorted graduates to live by his motto “never stop dreaming” by challenging “yourself in ways that push you beyond what you think are your limits. What you will find is every time you reach what you think is a limit, there is more.”
“I believe that the world, our community, your family and friends need to have individuals like you who are on fire with ideas, aspirations and dreams that are not just for philosophical conversations but are actually action items in their lives. The more individuals are able to see success and achievement, the more they are able to aspire to it.”
Muhammad, reflecting on his work as a clinician during the pandemic and the Black Lives Matter movement against police violence over the last year said: “As a social worker I am seeing the need for us all to get some therapy in order to let some of the stress and trauma we have experienced individually and as a community go. I could only imagine that managing your mental health while maintaining your GPA is no easy task. Unmasking systematic racism, rallying due to the latest police shooting and protesting for the same civil rights that you read about in your books provides an interesting correlation to your studies.”
Muhammad, a CCC Foundation member since 2018, received his Bachelor of Arts degree in Psychology from Tougaloo College and his Master of Social Work degree from Clark-Atlanta University. He is a brother of Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity and a member of The National Association of Black Social Workers and the NAACP.
Dr. Harris concluded the program by asking the graduating class “to stay connected with your alma mater and give back. Many of you will go on to get other degrees from other institutions. Don’t forget your Capital Days. Our foundation has spent the past year revamping its operations and working on ways to make it easy to stay connected and to invest in those Capital students who will come after you.” Harris announced that his family and Nursing Assistant Professor Kristen Marie Guida’s family have pledged a leadership gift of $30,000 to help establish a nursing program annual fund at the College’s Foundation.
Four students were presented with a medallion, the College’s highest academic honor, for attaining a 4.0 grade throughout their program of study. Dr. Harris was joined by Foundation Chair David McCluskey and Dr. Alice Pritchard, CSCU’s Chief of Staff, in presenting the medallions to Mariana Kotyk, Kishan Kunver, Cynthia Emily Torres, and Regina Marie Whiskeyman. Dr. Pritchard was presented with a Capital CEO Stakeholder Award for guiding and assisting the state’s 12 community colleges throughout the pandemic.
Associate Dean for Student Services Jason Scappaticci also recognized students receiving institutional and foundation transfer scholarships and shared the achievements and contributions of Valedictorian Mariana Kotyk and her journey from the Ukraine to this country to earn her accounting degree. Professor of Mathematics Kathy Herron delivered the traditional greetings from the faculty. Dr. Miah LaPierre Dreger, Dean of Academic and Student Affairs, was joined by faculty chairs in conferring degrees and certificates to the Class of 2021.
Participants paused for a moment of silence to honor the memory of Building and Grounds Officer Peter Morgan who passed away on May 6th. “Peter was one of our staff on the front lines during the COVID monitoring access to the building in the lobby, keeping individuals accessing the building safe,” said Harris in remembering Morgan for his service to the college.
The platform party included Associate Dean of Campus Operations Eddie Miranda, Dean of the School of Workforce and Continuing Education Linda Guzzo, State Troubadour Nekita Waller, who sang the National Anthem and her rendition of Rise Up, and Rev. Dr. David Grafton of Hartford Seminary who gave the invocation and closing prayer
The ceremonies for the 74th commencement ended with a flourish as Hartford’s Proud Drum, Drill & Dance Corp led by Terry and Duffy Starks marched faculty and graduates out of the baseball stadium that is the home of the Eastern League AA Hartford Yard Goats.