CONCORD — At 10:00 am on Friday May 18th, NHTI held its 68th Annual Commencement Exercises in perfect weather on the lawn behind Little Hall. The college offers 92 associate degree, certificate and diploma programs to more than 7,000 students annually. However, only students in the 42 associate degree programs participate in commencement. This year, NHTI awarded 583 associate degrees including 47 in criminal justice, 39 in nursing, and 123 in general studies. This year’s class also includes 97 graduates in the STEM fields (science, technology, engineering and math).
In her opening remarks, President Susan B. Dunton highlighted a handful of this year’s graduates for special recognition. Some of these follow below.
Ha Chu, who is graduating today with honors from the rigorous Dental Hygiene Program, arrived from Vietnam six years ago. Since that time she has mastered difficult concepts, new terminology, and cultural conventions that even native English speakers might find challenging. It is obvious that her professors feel the same way; she has earned high grades and praise for her performance in her studies and clinical work, and is a member of the Phi Theta Kappa honor society. She is also a mother, and is eager to embrace her new country as a new American citizen.
Justin Place was determined to go back to school in order to make a better life for his family. He has worked 45+ hours a week while maintaining an almost perfect GPA, in addition to fulfilling clinic 24 hours a week. He has 3 children, who have been very understanding but also competitive. They take his exams off the refrigerator in order to replace them with their own! He is grateful for his loving and supportive wife, who has done everything over the last five years so that he could attend school. His grades are his gift to her for all the extra work of raising a family that ended up on her. He is now employed at Elliot Hospital as a Radiologic Technologist. He and his wife pooled their money together in order to fly his parents up here from Mississippi to see him graduate today.
In September 2009, Laxmi Khatiwada came to New Hampshire with her family from a refugee camp in Nepal and roots in Bhutan. Coping with tragedy and hardship, Laxmi became a shining star, the very embodiment of perseverance, passion, and compassion. She values community, family, and faith, and her studies here allowed her to further her knowledge of herself, others, and the world. She has been involved with NHTI’s Multicultural Fair, a highlight of her time here, along with her work at our Health and Wellness Fair. She teaches yoga, practices meditation, journaling, and lives a mindful life. Her poetry, published in NHTI's literary journal, won an Editors' Choice Award. She’s been an active participant in the Environmental Action Club, and was hired by the board for the Sycamore Community Garden, located on campus, where she serves as a liaison and interpreter for many low-income gardeners.
Adam Mullen is receiving an associate degree in Manufacturing Engineering Technology with an almost perfect GPA. He also served as the President of the Alternative Spring Break Club. What is even more amazing about Adam is that he is legally blind. It would be an understatement to say that the first time he had a machine shop class, the faculty were a little nervous about letting him run a machine tool. However, in every way he has proved to be a highly adept learner, never letting his disability stand in his way. Adam has already secured a fulltime job as a machinist with Electric Boat Division of General Dynamics in Groton, CT.
For the past four summers, Rachel Cook, who is receiving her Education degree today, has been spending over a month in Romania and Moldova as part of a mission team that provides summer camp experiences for children in orphanages. A favorite experience has been working with a population of persons with intellectual disabilities who are institutionalized, bringing dignity and love to a group of people who have been rejected by their own country. Rachel has maintained a perfect GPA, recently received the Future Educators award, and was hired this past December as a para-educator in Bow.
In keeping with NHTI tradition, the speakers at this year’s commencement were the recipients of the three most prestigious student awards granted by the college.
Human Service major Adam J. Peak of New Boston, NH spoke on behalf on NHTI’s veteran students. This year’s Lynx Award, presented to a student or club which has made an outstanding contribution in an area such as community service, athletics, a student organization or an academic department, went to NHTI’s Veterans Club, which works to raise money and respond to requests to help college and community veterans in need. The club raised over $4000 this year in support of projects such as the Gold Star Memorial at the Veterans Cemetery in Boscawen; a coat/winter gear drive for veterans in need; and Operation Delta Dog, which trains service dogs for veterans with health issues.
Adam’s remarks, which focused on the price veterans pay for the “free” education they receive, got a standing ovation from the commencement audience.
This year’s Institute Leadership Team Award for extraordinary contributions to the academic and social missions of NHTI went to Rachel Pitt of Londonderry, NH. A nontraditional student who returned to college after the last of her four children reached their late teens years, Rachel shows what it truly means to be a lifelong learner. She maintained a 4.0 GPA as a General Studies major over multiple semesters, and acted as a role model to younger students, always there to listen to their concerns and help them when appropriate.
Rachel was also an integral part of The Eye, NHTI’s student literary journal, serving as systems manager and as a member of the editorial board. Her own photographs and writing will be featured in this year’s journal, including two well-researched pieces on college success and the link between carbs and obesity.
Rachel spoke about the challenge of returning to college as an adult student, essentially saying that if she could do it, anyone can.
The President’s Award for Outstanding Citizenship signifies the total contributions of a student to NHTI, which must include extensive participation in social and academic activities. This year’s recipient is Natalie J. Baker of Sutton, NH, selected for the many contributions she has made to the NHTI community through her participation in academics, athletics, residence life and student activities.
Natalie participated in numerous programs during her time at NHTI, including Softball, Summer Lynx, Lynx to Leadership, LEAP 101, the Student Leadership Retreat, Campus Activities Board, the Student Ambassador Program, Student Senate, and Strout Hall Council. She worked as a clerk in the Athletics Office and as a Resident Assistant in North Hall. She represented the student body both as past Student Senate President and the student representative on the Institute Leadership Team. Her maturity and natural leadership abilities set her apart from other students, and she was conscientious about making decisions that served both the college and its students.
Natalie’s message was about the value of participation in whatever community one finds oneself a part of, be it college or society at large.
Following the speakers, each of the 583 graduates (grouped by majors) was called by name to receive his or her degree. It was a proud moment for the students, their families and friends – and for the faculty and staff of the college.
Photo: Class Marshalls Nolan McGurn (center) and Eric Miller (far right) prepare to lead NHTI's graduates in procession.