On the day when hundreds of students dressed in caps, gowns and academic regalia celebrated their success, earning diplomas and certificates from Carroll Community College, they were also reminded to embrace their failures.

"You will all fail at some point in your life — it is inevitable. Just accept it," said James M. Cherry, scientific program director for a federally funded research facility and the commencement speaker at the college's 22nd commencement ceremony. "You will lose, you will embarrass yourself and you will suck at something. There is no doubt about it."


Cherry, who earned a Ph.D. from the Catholic University of America through the National Cancer Institute, told students it was only by learning from his own failures that he was able to achieve success.

"Looking back at the 18-year-old at his first graduation to the 40-year-old that stands before you, I would say 'Wow, I have failed,' but I would also say how I used my many failures to push me to strive where I am today and where I aspire to be," Cherry said.

Cherry said he was scared to pursue biology because students immersed in that subject were "brains" and he didn't think he was smart enough. By the end of his junior year at Shepherd College, he decided he wanted to attend medical school.

"I took the MCAT and scored below average and that linked with my grades — I didn't get an interview anywhere," Cherry said. "I felt like a complete failure and, to be honest, I was disappointed."

But Cherry said he continued to pursue his goals, eventually earning a master's degree in biotechnology from Johns Hopkins University and a Ph.D. in molecular biology.

"Yes, failure is a possibility. But then so is our opportunity for success," Cherry told the graduating students. "Even when we thought we've reached as far as we can, we can often reach a little farther."

According to information provided by the school, of 544 students who applied to graduate, about 210 graduates walked across the stage at the ceremony.

In August there were 81 graduates; in December there were 231; and this month about 353 students applied to graduate, according to information provided by CCC.

Of the students who applied to graduate 52 percent said they plan to transfer to a four-year college within the next year, according to a survey taken by CCC. Sixty-six percent of students surveyed plan to transfer as a full-time or a part-time student within the next year.

Of those who will transfer as full-time students, 26 percent will attend Towson University; 15 percent will attend the University of Maryland, College Park; 12 percent will attend the University of Maryland, Baltimore County; and 8 percent will attend Stevenson University.

Fifty-one percent say they expect to be full-time employees after graduation. Of those surveyed, 53 percent said they are expected to be employed in Carroll County.

"Every student here has an individual story and every student has worked really hard to get to this point and that is something to be proud of," CCC President James D. Ball said after the ceremony.