Phi Theta Kappa CEO Rod Risley speaks to SCC graduates on importance of completion

More than 840 receive community college degrees and certificates

May 20, 2013

Rod Risley, Ph.D., executive director and CEO of Phi Theta Kappa, the international honor society of the two-year college, was the keynote speaker at St. Charles Community College during its 25th annual commencement on May 18, which celebrated the accomplishments of more than 840 graduates of the class of 2013.

Phi Theta Kappa CEO Rod Risley speaks to SCC graduates on importance of completion

Rose Mack (left), secretary of the SCC Board of Trustees, and Rod Risley, Ph.D., executive director and CEO of Phi Theta Kappa, prepare to confer degrees at the 25th commencement of St. Charles Community College.

Risley, a longtime advocate for community college students, congratulated SCC students for completing a college degree, and talked about the importance of college completion.

“In my more than 35 years working with community colleges, there has never been a more exciting time to be associated with them. I have never before seen the measure of attention provided our institutions by corporations, foundations and the national media,” Risley told graduates. “You should be so proud that you chose to attend St. Charles Community College – a college with instructors whose mission in life is to teach, and a college with programs that will give you the competitive edge whether entering the workforce or transferring to a senior college.”

Risley also quoted Harriet Tubman, who led hundreds of slaves to freedom through the Underground Railroad, “When I found I had crossed the line, I looked at my hands to see if I were the same person.  There was glory over everything.” He finished by telling students, “Embrace Tubman’s glorious moment as yours because you share with her strong character, courage and the determination necessary to succeed.  Today for each of you, anything is possible. The only thing that could possibly hold you back … is you.”

In 2010 Risley, along with CEOs from the five leading national organizations in the community college arena, made history by collectively signing an agreement, “Democracy’s Colleges: A Call to Action,” committing to increase the number of community college students completing a degree or credential by five million by 2020. Risley’s editorial, “Establishing a Culture of Completion,” is available online. For more information about Risley, visit www.stchas.edu/risley

Also addressing a crowd of nearly 1,500 graduates, faculty, relatives and friends was student representative Kimberly Sorden, an Associate of Arts degree graduate and member of Phi Theta Kappa. She currently is pursuing a Bachelor of Science degree in nursing at the University of Central Florida. Sorden chose to attend SCC after an accident on a four-wheeler and complications from her first surgery left her unable to walk for seven months. She hopes to someday work as a nurse, to pursue a doctorate and eventually travel the world educating people about health. 

Sorden told students the three lessons she learned in overcoming her own obstacles, “Believe in yourself in order to accomplish your goals,” “It’s only hard to succeed when you do not try,” and “You are never too old to learn.”

“We learn something new every day, no matter if it is big or small,” Sorden said. “Knowledge is power and nothing can ever take that away from you.”

During the commencement ceremony, the Distinguished Alumni Award was presented to Dr. Natalie Greene, resident physician at Mercy Hospital. Greene, of St. Peters, was involved in Student Senate and Phi Theta Kappa while she was a student at SCC. Greene went on to get a bachelor’s degree from the University of Missouri–St. Louis and a doctorate from the Kirksville College of Osteopathic Medicine – A.T. Still University.

Presiding over the commencement ceremony was college President Ron Chesbrough, Ph.D., with Rose Mack, secretary of the SCC Board of Trustees, and Chris Breitmeyer, vice-president for academic and student affairs assisting with the conferring of degrees and certificates. Music was provided by the SCC Concert Band, directed by Dave Dickey, and the SCC Singers and Show Choir, directed by Gene Ditch and Becky Thorn. The Commencement Marshal was William Griffin, professor of anthropology and archaeology. Ushers included cadets from the Eastern Missouri Law Enforcement Training Academy and from student organizations and college staff.

St. Charles Community College is a public, comprehensive two-year community college with associate degrees and certificate programs in the arts, business, sciences and career-technical fields. SCC provides workforce training and community-based personal and professional development as well as cultural, recreational and entertainment opportunities. For more information, visit www.stchas.edu.

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