The College of Southern Maryland broke tradition this year by holding two separate ceremonies for its 60th spring commencement on Friday to celebrate the awarding of 546 associate degrees and 244 certificates to 522 candidates, many of whom were cheered on by family and friends in person as they walked across the stage inside the physical education building on CSM’s La Plata campus.
More than 60% of graduates were females and 37% were males. Of all the students who received awards, 38% were from Charles County, 33% were from St. Mary’s County and 23% were from Calvert County.
About 6% of other honorees recognized live outside of the region, according to a CSM press release.
“[The degrees and certificates] that will be awarded today will have a ripple effect on our community that many people may or may not realize. This ripple effect will go on for years,” Maureen Murphy, CSM president, said as she addressed attendees at the first graduation on Friday morning. “The College of Southern Maryland changes the trajectory of peoples’ lives, their families and our communities.”
Associate degrees were awarded predominately in the fields of general studies, arts and sciences, nursing and business administration.
Certificates included transfer general studies, advanced and basic accounting as well as cybersecurity.
The first graduation, held at 10 a.m., honored students receiving certificates, associate of arts and associate degrees in teaching.
Phillip Means, 17, of Owings, a dual enrollment student who will also be receiving his high school diploma this year, was the student speaker and youngest to receive a degree in CSM’s class of 2019.
“We’ve been invested in ourselves and now we are a more knowledgeable and skilled group of people with a piece of paper to prove it,” said Means, who received an associate’s degree in applied science and technology. “I had a great experience at CSM. I found all of my professors to be kind and supportive. I found that the curriculum was excellent and the diversity of the student body provided me with terrific opportunities. As we prepare to move forward into our futures, I want to encourage all of us to stay connected to the CSM community.”
This year’s oldest graduate was 74-year-old La Plata resident Jeff Foster, a U.S. Navy veteran who received a certificate in message therapy and plans to continue his studies at CSM as he pursues an associate’s degree in applied science. The certificate was Foster’s latest academic achievement since receiving his first bachelor’s degree from the College of William and Mary in 1967.
His second four-year degree came when he completed the physical and academic rigors that came with Officer Candidate School upon enlisting in the military immediately after college, the press release noted.
Like Foster, CSM English, communication and languages professor Richard Siciliano graduated as the longest serving employee in the college’s history, having worked there since 1968 when CSM was first named Charles County Community College with one campus in La Plata and several teaching locations throughout Southern Maryland.
Murphy said CSM’s dedicated and talented employees have always been the key to its success. Siciliano “has been an integral part of the college’s growth from a small, single-county campus to a technologically advanced, Southern Maryland institution,” according to Murphy’s remarks in a separate press release.
“We also have several CSM faculty who are graduating, sort of speak, by opting to retire,” Murphy said, citing two other retirees including mathematics professor Susan “Sue” Strickland and Fawaz Roumani, a professor of science and engineering. “Best of luck to you. We’re going to miss seeing you on campus.”
Siciliano, a recipient of CSM’s first ever 50-year service pin, gave the keynote address at both ceremonies on Friday. The 3 p.m. commencement honored students receiving associate of science, associate of applied science and associate of science in engineering degrees, as well as certificates for workforce development.
Siciliano said anyone “can and will be able to succeed” if they simply “push through and stay focused” even through the hard times.
“Sometimes, missing the boat can be a sign of good fortune. I would not be here if that were not true,” he said. “Some of you, I know, have had similar experiences and told me that it took a while before you reached your goal. Some of you told me that things happened or maybe you doubted yourself or life got in the way. But you have to rethink your chances of success and [what the future holds].”
During his speech, Siciliano encouraged the graduates to trust in themselves and strive toward greatness beyond the expectations of others. He concluded with a short clip from the movie “Moneyball” to illustrate the concept about the expectations that people set for themselves, what people will think and say about others and what is actually possible.
The video clip showed a baseball player diving to get on second base despite hitting a home run, unknowingly.
“My advice to you is don’t doubt yourself,” Siciliano said. “Just go for it.”
During CSM’s afternoon commencement, Sandra Husband of Waldorf took the stage to address her fellow classmates. Husband, who is vice president of the college’s Student Veterans Organization, received her associate’s degree in cybersecurity.
“I recall how nervous I was when I started this journey,” said Husband, a 28-year U.S. Army veteran. “What we have learned while being at CSM is that sometimes, it’s a tough road; tough enough that we want to quit. But when we get to that point, we find that person who will encourage us through the tough times.”
As a student veteran who has a passion for helping others succeed, Husband said that she hopes her journey will be an inspiration for others as it is now time “to pay the encouragement forward.”
“Today seems [like] an appropriate time to remember those individuals — people who have helped us as we sought to fulfill our dreams. This includes the many professors, advisors, student services personnel and most importantly, our families and friends,” Husband added. “I hope my journey is an inspiration to someone out there, not because of my age. But because of the long and hard journey many of us took to go after, get and education no matter how long it takes.”