JCC speaker encourages graduates to be kind, have fun and listen to others
JAMESTOWN — “Come as you are, leave as you want to be,” Nimish Gounder said during his introductory greetings to his fellow classmates of 2019.
Mild weather greeted the 601 graduates during Jamestown Community College’s commencement Saturday.
A processional by the JCC Concert Band kicked off the events of the morning, followed by the “Star Spangled Banner.” Graduates and faculty were lined up at the back of gym, and slowly proceeded to their seats near the front of the stage.
After the invocation and some words by Daniel T. DeMarte, JCC President, he welcomed everyone and introduced the distinguished guests. DeMarte then introduced Gounder.
“We have become a family here at JCC. No matter what journey brought you here today, I’m so incredibly glad that it did,” Gounder said after offering his congratulations to everyone.
The gymnasium was fitted with a stage, graduation backdrops, fold-out chairs, and audio equipment to ensure that the messages by speakers would reach people as far as the top of the bleachers surrounding the stage. And these seats were packed with friends and family of those being graduating with an associate’s degrees.
“We all came here being somebody. But in one way or another, this college has changed all of us,” Gounder said.
After his 10-minute speech, Gounder introduced the Keynote speaker, Hilary McManus, Ph.D. and JCC 1995 graduate. She currently serves as an Associate Professor of Biological and Environmental Science at Le Moyne College. She shared a bit of her experiences through her academic journey, and she reiterated that it wasn’t always that easy.
“I was put on academic probation my first year at JCC and almost flunked out,” McManus said. After initial struggles due to misplaced priorities, skipping of classes and card playing, she re-evaluated what she needed to do to succeed.
“I learned how to study, and stopped playing cards in lieu of attending classes. With the support of family and friends, I learned how to work hard and persevere, and that it’s up to me how my journey progresses,” McManus added.
She went on to detail her post-college journey, from studying fossil plants and algea, to becoming a biology professor in Syracuse. She wears the hat of being a mother of two boys, as well as a hat for being a spokeswoman for the environment. And her journeys also took her to Antarctica for three weeks on a ship with 78 fellow women scientists at one point, and to the rain-forests of Costa Rica with students.
“We can all benefit if we traveled along our life journeys with a set of guidelines that can help us each succeed and feel fulfilled in our relationships with ourselves, with others, and to our work,” McManus said. She went on to detail what those guidelines are.
“The first is to be kind to yourself and others. The second, respect yourself and others. Third, be open and curious. Fourth, care for yourself and others. Fifth, have fun (dance a little). Sixth, be present and exercise mindfulness. Seventh, listen — because all voices matter, including yours,” McManus stated.
Students and the rest of the auditorium seemed to take well to these words of wisdom shared. After her speech, a choral interlude by the JCC College Choir, directed by Julie Costantini, appeared at the top of the bleachers, lining a section of the running track. The degree candidates were then presented by Marilyn A. Zagora and Eileen Goodling, with DeMarte awarding the degrees. Wally Huckno Sr. from the JCC Board of Trustees then presented the numerous award recipients from this year’s graduating class.
After special recognitions by the president, greetings offered by William Johnston of the JCC Alumni Association, and the final benediction, the JCC Concert Band concluded the ceremony with the “Grand March” by Clare Grundman.
“I believe it is through these human connections that we can find common ground to work toward a better future and create a supportive space in which to do so,” McManus concluded.