More than 900 graduates participate in MGCCC Centennial CommencementMississippi Gulf Coast Community College held the Centennial Commencement Ceremony on May 10 at the Mississippi Coast Coliseum, marking the end of the college’s 100th year of serving students. A total of 2,134 degrees were conferred, and more than 900 graduates participated in the ceremony. Each graduate received an antique-gold medallion in commemoration of Gulf Coast’s 100-year anniversary.
On September 17, 1912, more than 60 students began classes for the first time at the Perkinston Campus (Harrison County Agricultural High School). In May 1925, the institution became the Harrison-Stone-Jackson Agricultural High School and Junior College (HSJAHS and JC), with the first junior college classes offered in September of that year. On May 10, 1962, Gulf Coast became the state's first multi-campus junior college, with the addition of the Jackson County and Jefferson Davis campuses.
“The 2012 Centennial Commencement Ceremony marks a milestone in the lives of our graduates as well as a memorable moment in the history of the college,” Gulf Coast president Dr. Mary S. Graham told the graduates. “As each of you are now a part of the legacy of Mississippi Gulf Coast Community College, we thank you for allowing us to make a difference in your lives and for your commitment to completing your goals. We also want to thank you for making a difference in the life of the college because your accomplishments are ours. You will forever be a part of what has made Gulf Coast a success.”
William Winter, Mississippi governor from 1980 to 1984, was the commencement speaker. He encouraged the graduates to show appreciation to those who helped them succeed. “I hope you will remember how you got here and more than that what a special obligation you now have. There is not a single one of us regardless of our age or station in life or where we came from who did not arrive on the back of somebody else – of our parents or grandparents or teachers or neighbors or friends. We are who we are because of the help and support and encouragement of others.”
He challenged the graduates to work hard to help their communities. “Whether we recognize it or not –whether we want to accept it or not– all of us are parties to a contract that was entered into by our forebears a long time ago. That contract was expressed in the words of the Declaration of Independence when we pledged to each other ‘our lives, our fortunes and our sacred honor…’ Those were not intended to be idle words. They bind us today just as surely as they bound the people who wrote them. And, if anything, their significance is greater now than it was then because the world is smaller and more dangerous now, the issues are more complex and the stakes are higher. All of this simply means that we cannot live in isolation from each other, and we must find ways to give real meaning to that contract that we have with each other. As never before in our history, we are called upon to sustain and expand our commitment to building up the communities where we live and schools like this one that has given you so much. As far as we have come, we must understand how much more we have to do.”
Prior to being elected governor, Winter served as state representative, state tax collector, state treasurer and lieutenant governor. He has been chairman of the Southern Regional Education Board, the Appalachian Regional Commission, the Southern Growth Policies Board, the Commission on the Future of the South, the National Civic League, the Kettering Foundation, the Foundation for the Mid South, the Ole Miss Alumni Association, and the Mississippi Department of Archives and History. His term as governor has been nationally acclaimed for the groundbreaking passage of education reform legislation. He was instrumental in the founding of the William Winter Institute for Racial Reconciliation at The University of Mississippi. He was recently awarded the Profile in Courage Award by the John F. Kennedy Library Foundation. An attorney in the firm of Jones, Walker, Waechter, Poitevent, Carrère & Denègre in Jackson, he is a graduate of The University of Mississippi School of Law.
Graduate Kevin Tran, of Biloxi, was excited about participating in the commencement ceremony. “I am the first in my family to get my degree,” he said. “It makes me feel good, like I am really somebody.” Tran, who has worked full time while attending college, said the college’s flexible class schedules and convenience were important to him. “I loved taking classes at Gulf Coast. The instructors are supportive, and everyone there was friendly and helpful. I am truly going to miss it!”
Rachel Payne, of Vancleave, said she is excited about taking the next step in her life. “The college has done a great job preparing me for what I plan to do next, which is, of course, more college,” she said. “Because of the incredible support from fantastic instructors and others at Gulf Coast, I feel totally prepared to tackle whatever problems arise.” Payne, a kidney-transplant recipient, plans to get her medical degree and do research in nephrology.
Autumn Leith, of Long Beach, said she plans to continue her education, majoring in film production and directing. “I have had such a great time over the past two years and have enjoyed all the moments I have spent at Gulf Coast. The college was a great place for me to get my start because it has been an easy commute for me, and the tuition is much more affordable than anywhere else I could have gone. Plus, the academics at Gulf Coast are great. The instructors are top-notch and pushed me so that I have grown –academically and as an individual– much more than I expected.”
Gulf Coast held two other commencement ceremonies at the Mississippi Coast Coliseum this week. The college-wide Pinning Ceremony for Nursing, Radiologic Technology and Respiratory Therapy programs was held at 10 a.m. on May 10, with more than 100 graduates participating in the ceremony. Brenda Waltz, CEO of Garden Park Medical Center, was the guest speaker. The GED Commencement Ceremony was held on May 9, with almost 200 students participating. Between July 1, 2011, and May 1,2012, more than 600 students were awarded the General Education Diploma (GED) at Gulf Coast. Irwin Edenzon, president of Ingalls Shipbuilding, was the guest speaker at the event.