President Jean Floten wanted to pay a tribute to the community and graduates at Bellevue College’s commencement ceremony on Friday, June 18, for their sacrifices and struggles to be there that night.
“This year, you’ve come back to us, to school in record numbers during this kind of economic downturn and reinvested in yourself, retooling, if you will, in order so that you can take new jobs in a more promising field in this time of downturn,” Floten said to a crowd of graduates, friends, family and faculty members that filled the gymnasium to its maximum capacity.
“Graduates, getting a credential is often a family affair, and a community, and a college. Or a community college that is now a college. Never mind. I know there are many, many stories of extraordinary sacrifice, persistence, courage and ultimately success around you.”
That night, BC handed out over 2,200 degrees and certificates, a record number. Among the graduates were ten students graduating with a Bachelor of Applied Science in Radiation and Imaging Sciences degree, being the second class to receive a bachelor’s degree from BC.
745 students graduated with honors and 48 graduated with a perfect 4.0 GPA.
An estimated 540 students graduated at the ceremony, entering the gym to “Pomp and Circumstance” played by the Bellevue Community Band and wearing gowns and decorated caps on their heads so their families and friends could find them.
Daniel Rasmus, BC’s Visiting Liberal Arts Fellow, was the night’s keynote speaker.
He encouraged graduates to continue their learning and to not think of the night as a gate they are passing through, but as an experience.
“Do not consider yourselves complete in your learning, but take what you have learned as a way of seeing the world from a more sophisticated lens,” he said. “The most important learning you can achieve, and there is no gate for this, is learning how to learn. We present no degrees for curiosity. We offer no certificates for tenacity, we confer no scholarships for innovative thinking, yet if we are not curious, if we are not tenacious, if we are not innovative, we may end up stalled alongside gates created by others.”
Rasmus also spoke of the importance of change and how he is an “anti-futurist.”
“We must document the questions we need to ask tomorrow. Remember that the right answers are contextual. The future is full of contingent moments and we don’t always have the right answers,” said Rasmus.
Following Rasmus’ speech, Thomas Nielson, the Executive Dean of Instruction, introduced the faculty speaker: art instructor Vicki Artimovich, who is retiring this year after teaching at BC for the past 23 years.
Artimovich spoke of heart, experiences, and the things that really matter.
“I’ve learned all students need encouragement. I know no one’s suppose to touch anyone in this society, but when I have a student in my office – and this has happened a lot in 23 years – who’s in tears because of some personal tragedy, family problems. I can’t not give them a hug or touch them. A little encouragement is all they need,” she said.
Her speech focused on the importance of connections to people and the importance of human contact.
Artimovich encouraged the audience to make more connections with people. “Even when you’re just walking down the street and you pass a total stranger, smile, say hello. It won’t hurt and it’s cheap. It may be the most important thing you do that day. Just acknowledge the other human being’s existence. That’s all.”
She even referenced James Cameron’s “Avatar” and the Navi people with their phrase: “I see you.”
She joked to the graduates that although she is retiring, with today’s social security and Medicare “going down the tubes,” she may be competing for the same jobs as them.
“Set your priorities straight,” she said. “Money is great, but you don’t need huge amounts to be happy. Ask any teacher. Do what you love and the money will follow.”
After her, Thomas Pritchard, the Vice President of Student Services, introduced the student speaker: ASG President Joseph Root.
Root’s speech focused on the opportunity that BC has given him, recalling personal experiences of no schools wanting him after trying to return to school after a couple of years.
“I came to Bellevue College mostly because they would accept me. They would enroll me. And to my significant surprise, this campus has given me more than I could’ve asked for from any school.”
Like most graduates, Root will be transferring to a four-year university. He will be attending Berkeley.
The BC Vocal Jazz Ensemble then performed a musical number under the act and direction of Thomas Almli and recieved a standing ovation from the audience.
“I hope someone caught that on video for YouTube,” said Floten.
At the end of the ceremony, to symbolize their transition from candidates to graduates, each graduate took part in turning their tassels from right to left, all in unison and as a community.