2009 Commencement

On May 28, approximately 400 smiling graduates participated in commencement exercises at County College of Morris. This year marked the college’s 40th anniversary. Since the college opened its doors in 1968, 41,231 students have earned degrees or certificates. In the 2008/09 academic year, 1101 students received one of these four degrees: an associate in arts, an associate in fine arts, an associate in science or an associate in applied science.

Some of the most popular programs CCM students received degrees in are: Humanities Social Science (Liberal Arts), Business Administration, Nursing, Criminal Justice, Biology and Exercise Science.

Holding to tradition, CCM President Edward J Yaw gave the keynote address, using the opportunity to highlight outstanding students.

Heather Williams, for example, came to CCM 5 years ago. Faculty and staff were immediately impressed with her positive attitude and describe her as someone who made the most of her college experience.

As a student with learning disabilities, Heather sought out the help of our CASE-Horizons program where she later became the President of its Peer Mentoring group. In her role as president, she almost singled handedly organized and promoted the program.

Heather has also been very active in Student Life and has attended a number of leadership seminars at CCM and other colleges. Her professors say she was the type of student who asked for extra-credit and realized the benefits of collaboration with her peers.

In managing her own learning disability, Heather has gained the empathy and knowledge to pass it forward and help others. She plans to transfer to William Paterson University where she will major in Elementary Education, with an emphasis in special education and psychology. Heather believes that she can help children also learn to make the most of their strengths and understand their weakness. She believes that asking for help is one of the most important lessons she has learned, because what holds you back is not a learning disability, but fear and pride.

Reflecting on her experience at CCM, Heather would say that making friends and getting involved is a great way to learn leadership skills and build confidence in yourself. Heather graduated with a degree in Humanities/Social Science.

Reed Steberger is an outstanding example of a student who turned his life around in a most dramatic way. A little more than two years ago, Reed was headed in a dangerous direction. He had dropped out of high school and withdrawn from friends and family. Deeply troubled by his behavior, Reed’s family used some tough love to have him forcibly removed from his home and placed in a wilderness therapy program for troubled teens.

After several weeks of resisting his new environment, Reed began to turn his life around. He learned to appreciate the opinion of others and accept life’s imperfections. When Reed came home, he completed his GED, took the SAT where he scored 2140, and enrolled at CCM.

Since then he has made many good friendships at CCM and made the most of every opportunity. He was elected vice president of the Student Government and inducted into Phi Theta Kappa. He also served as a student representative on the team that created CCM’s new website.

Reed’s deep interest in the environment has inspired him to get involved in several extracurricular activities. He co-founded and became president of an environmental club, called the Green Student League. Plus he is co-chair of the CCM tasks force for environmental sustainability. It sounds like Reed will continue to have an exciting summer because he has been selected to participate in a 2 month internship in Washington DC with the American Council for an Energy Efficient Economy.

Most of Reed’s classes have been in the Honors Program. He graduates Summa Cum Laude with a 3.9 GPA and an associate’s degree in Humanities – Social Science. Reed plans to continue his education at Cornell University and hopes to eventually earn a Ph.D in the emerging discipline that combines sociology and sustainability.

At the heart of Almin Hodzic ‘s personality is a belief in hard work. Yet, those who know him see an easy going, quiet kid. Just an unassuming, 6’9”, nice guy with a kind heart and a positive attitude. Coaches describe him as a student athlete with a God given ability to play basketball.

Alimin actually started at CCM as a soccer player but soon realized that his future was in basketball. During his two-year stay at CCM he became the team’s leading scorer and rebounder. Almin was selected to the First Team All Region XIX and received NJCAA honorable mention All American this year. He has also been offered scholarships to 4 division two colleges.

Almin believes that his approach to playing basketball is similar to his approach in taking on any challenge in life. The most challenging part of any task is the hard work and preparation that takes place before the event. He describes himself as competitive, but at the same time loves the camaraderie that comes with playing team sports.

Almin graduated Cum Laude with a GPA of 3.57 and an associate’s degree in Criminal Justice. He plans to continue playing basketball and complete his bachelor’s degree in Criminal Justice at Dominican College in New York where he was accepted with a full scholarship.

John Fitzgerald is known around campus as a great student athlete and an all around “Nice Kid.” Like Almin, John is also one of those quiet laid back sort of guys who becomes very competitive on the soccer field. As the team captain in his last year, John has learned very valuable leadership skills that he will carry throughout his life. One of his (and CCM’s) proudest moments was taking our soccer team to the national finals in Dallas, where they finished third in the nation.

John will tell you that secret to his success at CCM was the ability to live at home for a few more years. As enticing as it is to many young people to go away to college right after high school, John will tell you that living at home gave him the opportunity to focus on his studies AND his sports. In addition to playing soccer, John had the chance to play lacrosse, a sport he had never tried before.

In the fall, John is headed for Bloomsburg University where he plans to major in criminal justice and eventually earn his master’s degree. John graduated with an associate’s degree in Liberal Arts.

Two non-traditional students were also highlighted in the commencement speech. At age 77, Evelyn Aiken is an example that learning is a life-long quest. She has always had a burning desire to learn new things, but it wasn’t until she started to help her high-school-age children with their homework that she decided to return to school. By the time her son went off to college, she was already taking classes.

Evelyn started at CCM in 1973 and earned her first associate’s degree in Humanities in 1980. During that same period, she also became a Licensed Practical Nurse. In 1982 she earned her second associate CCM degree in Computer Science. Then in 2006, she graduated from the College of Saint Elizabeth with a bachelor’s degree in Theology. Evelyn is currently part of the ministerial staff at the Calvary Baptist Church in Morristown where she has been a member for 59 years.

Evelyn received her THIRD degree from CCM, but this time an Associate in Fine Arts degree in Art. She graduated Magna Cum Laude with a 3.77 GPA.

As the mother of four and grandmother of three, Evelyn plans to continue educating herself. Her greatest ambition is to inspire confidence in others by sharing her knowledge and experience. Since she plans to live to be 100, she has many years of teaching and learning ahead of her.

Our second non-traditional student is Chris Antholis. Chris is 65 years-old and graduated with an associate’s degree in mathematics. Next fall he will continue his education at NJIT where he has been accepted into its Engineering Program.

Seven years ago Chris had to take a national exam on fire protection in order to get a first class fire protection license from the State. After studying hard for the exam, he gained the confidence and determination to go back to school for an Engineering degree. At CCM he took very demanding courses in mathematics. I am told that a substantial number of students drop out or fail Differential Equations and Linear Algebra, but Chris never gave up. He was always positive and enthusiastic, often encouraging others not to quit. In the end, his effort and perfect attendance record paid off, and he managed to succeed in both courses. He was so excited about the math courses that he even encouraged one of his co-workers to take Calculus III. Chris is definitely a great example that it is never too late to learn more and challenge yourself.