Tompkins Cortland Community College

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News Release

College Celebrates 47th Commencement

May 26, 2016

You are a hero, and the world is better for having you in it. Those were among the messages delivered to the class of 2016 during commencement ceremonies at Tompkins Cortland Community College Thursday. The College celebrated its 47th commencement in front of a packed crowd of more than 2,000 people in the College's gymnasium.

The class of 2016 consists of 689 graduates, including student trustee Olu Roberts, who offered remarks during the ceremony. “This may be the second degree for some of you, and this may be the first degree for others,” said Roberts. “For those like myself who have broken the barriers in being the first one for your family, a special congratulations!”

Roberts, who will attend Cornell University in the fall, thanked his professors and fellow classmates. He said it’s important graduates realize the possibilities now open to them. “Take advantage of the educational opportunities available to you,” said Roberts. “Some will call this degree just a piece of paper. That piece of paper can make your entire family better. You have so many opportunities living here in America. Make use of these opportunities while you have the chance.”

The main address was delivered by Justine Lewis, a member of the College’s class of 2008. Lewis, a Berkshire native who followed her time at Tompkins Cortland by earning a bachelor’s degree from Ithaca College and two master’s degrees from Cornell University, said each graduate can thank the support of the heroes in their lives. But she also called each graduate a hero. “Having the courage to show up for life each day, whether to a class or to your job or for a friend who just needs your ear for a while, is the very definition of what a hero means to me,” she said. “It takes courage to live out each day and be in each and every moment. You are the hero in that story.”

Lewis, who works for the U.S. Agency for International Development, told the graduates she remembers sitting in their seats a few years back, unsure of the future. So, she wrote a letter to the class of 2016, saying they are already a success and urging them to take a moment to believe in someone and to dance their own dance. “I’m not sure where each of us will end up, where we will be living in ten years, but I do know this: I know each of you are dedicated individuals, have learned so much, and accomplished big, big things,” said Lewis. “To the class of 2016, be a success, believe in people, and, most important, be you and dance. You know how.”

College President Carl Haynes also addressed the graduates, congratulating them on rising to the challenge. "We know that all of you have dealt with challenges in your pursuit of this degree, and we know that all of you have overcome those challenges,” said Haynes. “You were brilliant, you were funny, you were tired, creative, frustrated, triumphant. You didn’t just punch a clock and get through. You rewrote your life and now you have a degree to show for it,” said Haynes. “But you have so much more. You have an education. So again, I say congratulations.”