Graced with a warm spring day, graduates from the Class of 2021 at County College of Morris (CCM) were able to take part in two special celebrations on Friday, May 21, marking their outstanding success in the face of a pandemic and the resulting challenges.
Hundreds of students took part in a graduation walk where they were able to celebrate with a small gathering of family and friends, receive their diploma and have a formal photo taken to mark the occasion. Then in the evening, a virtual celebration premiered on YouTube at 7:30 p.m. The Class of 2021 consists of more than 1,250 graduates – the largest graduating class in CCM’s history. The ceremony can be viewed at www.ccm.edu/graduation/.
“We call you Titans and no class has earned the title more in the history of County College of Morris,” said Dr. Anthony J. Iacono, president of CCM, noting that one of the meanings of Titan is a person of great achievement. “And that is you. You have shown us greatness and achievement. You had to learn how to persevere, demonstrate resiliency and determination. I know through this class, through these Titans, our communities, our nation and our world will be better for all people.”
As part of providing high-quality, nationally ranked academic programs, CCM instills in its students the importance of community engagement. Reflecting that commitment, this year’s keynote speaker was Richard T. Thigpen, Senior Vice President – Corporate Citizenship at PSEG and Chairman of the PSEG Foundation. He also was a former assistant to the president of the NAACP State Conference for Public Affairs and currently serves on the boards of the New Jersey Climate Change Alliance, the New Jersey Legislative Black Caucus Foundation and the New Jersey Pandemic Relief Fund.
“All of you – each and every one of you – will contribute in ways large and small to shaping the future of your community, our state and our country,” said Thigpen. “Today is a day not only to look back at what you have accomplished. Today is also a day to look forward. Lead by example. Respect your fellow man and woman. Dream big dreams. You all have a role in shaping a future where the world is a better place.”
Speaking on behalf of the Class of 2021 was Jenna Curran, of Denville, who served as Student Government president. Curran was named a 2021 Phi Theta Kappa Coca-Cola Gold Scholar for her academic excellence. “As a class, we have been through the unimaginable but have persevered through it all,” noted Curran. “We should all be so beyond proud of ourselves. We pushed through the face of adversity.”
This year’s Peace Prize, which is awarded annually at commencement, went to Brenden Morton, of Washington, who created a musical composition “Liebe und Frieden” (Love and Peace). His faculty advisor was Professor Dee McAree. The college established this annual award following the September 11, 2001 attacks. The creator of the winning entry receives a $1,000 award provided by the CCM Foundation.
The college also has several Class of 2021 graduates featured on its website at www.ccm.edu/celebrating-our-2021-graduates/. Highlighted on that page are:
Abdallah Abualhuda, of Rockaway, who majored in biology and worked as a charge nurse in a nursing home during the pandemic while earning his degree. He did so well with his studies that he was accepted at Columbia University. He has opted to attend Ramapo to realize his dream of becoming a researcher so he can help people “on a large scale.”
Nicholas Cruz, of Towaco, an information technology major, who came back to CCM to earn a second associate degree while also working on his master’s degree at William Paterson. He wanted another associate to better prepare for the career he desires in project management and IT.
Nick Fiorey, of Budd Lake, who majored in biology at CCM after attending the college as a high school student in its Challenger Program. Her goal is to attend Rutgers or the New Jersey Institute of Technology and pursue a career in environmental conservation.
Dr. Geordie Grant, of Denville, who majored in mathematics. After retiring as a physician anesthesiologist from the East Orange VA Medical Center, she decided to pursue her passion for helping others as a math tutor.
Travis Herbst, of Parsippany, a nursing major. After working as a garbage collector for several years and earning an associate in criminal justice from CCM, he decided to come back to the college to pursue his real dream of becoming a nurse.