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Halifax Community College held its first in-person commencement ceremony since 2019 on Saturday to a packed house in the Griffin Centre.

Within the 2021-2022 graduation year, which includes summer 2021, fall 2021 and spring 2022 semesters, HCC celebrated the achievements of 266 unduplicated graduates, counting each graduate only once, noted Dawn Veilky, HCC’s registrar/director of veterans affairs. 

HCC awarded a total of 426 credentials, a duplicated count since most graduates receive multiple credentials. 

Fifty of the unduplicated 266 graduates were current high school students, she added.

Gallery photos by Lisa Olliver | HCC

In its 55th commencement ceremony, HCC Acting President and VP of Administrative Services/CFO Dr. David Forester praised the graduates for their investment of time and hard work, and he encouraged them to support others going forward.

“Make an effort to aid someone else to achieve their hopes, dreams and goals just as you have,” he said. “Whether you are transferring to one of North Carolina’s fine universities or colleges or entering the job market, you have been prepared well and you are now more than ever positioned for success.”

Forester also presented the Dr. Michael A. Elam Community Care Award to North Carolina Representative Michael Wray. 

The award recognizes an individual who finds supportive solutions to the needs and concerns of the HCC community. 

Wray was selected for his demonstrated successful and financial partnership opportunities that positively impacted the institution, its students and future growth to the college.

The speaker for the occasion was North Carolina Senator Milton Frederick “Toby” Fitch Jr. 

In his address to the graduates, he encouraged them to strive to be bold, to advocate for what they believe, to serve others and to make decisions that propel a powerful difference in their communities. “Be strong, be tenacious, be ready, be resourceful, ‘be on it’ as you would say, be nice to each other, be gracious,” he said. “You have earned this moment.”

Fitch said, “If you use a straight pin to guide your life from this point forward, understand that a straight pin has three parts: head, shaft and point, or the purpose. Realize that the head will always guide you, the shaft will direct you and your goal will always be fulfilled because you’ll follow the purpose.”

Fitch’s granddaughter, Kortne L. Fitch, graduated with an associate degree in nursing. He called her to the stage and presented her with a bouquet of roses to recognize her accomplishment.

Vice President of Academic Affairs Dr. Jeffery Fields recognized outstanding students. He outlined the range of degrees and credentials conferred — diplomas, certificates and degrees — and detailed the array of gown colors and corresponding regalia representing HCC’s numerous student populations.

Fields also acknowledged HCC’s outstanding faculty. He recognized welding technologies department head and instructor Jason Shotwell as the recipient of the 2022 Excellence in Teaching for the Full Time Faculty Award. “The Excellence in Teaching Award is perfectly suited to honor our faculty’s contributions to the college, which includes their commitment to providing quality instruction, fostering student accountability and insisting on high academic standards,” he said.

Allisha Hicks, associate dean of curriculum and chair of the school of allied health and career and technical education, recognized the recipient of the Great within the 58 academic honor from the North Carolina Community College System office. 

This honor is bestowed upon the student from the graduating class with the highest cumulative grade point average. 

This year’s award went to Meredith Wilson, who graduated with a 4.0 GPA and who also received both her associate in arts and associate in science degrees.

Associate degree in nursing student Dana Patton delivered the student charge. 

He noted how his HCC community always came through for him, helped meet his needs, and that the HCC family and friends generously provided for all students. He reminded his fellow graduates and those in attendance of the importance of gratitude and service. “Whatever we’re doing, we’re going out to serve, that’s why I’m here,” he said. “That’s always been my number one purpose, that’s why I’m going into nursing.”

The May 14 ceremony is available via livestream for viewing.