Carroll Community College celebrated a night of firsts last evening: its first graduation in the county and its first ceremony as an independent college.
"But, first of all, let us enjoy this moment," said Shay J. Miller, addressing her fellow graduates, gathered at Western Maryland College's Gill Gymnasium for the ceremony.
The evening sun was still glowing as the ceremony began and Ms. Miller greeted her fellow students.
"The sun setting marks the passing of another day and the passing of our time as Carroll students," she said. "Don't let it slip away unnoticed and unappreciated."
She encouraged her classmates to celebrate their achievements and their hopes for the future, "a future our education will help provide for us," she said.
Ms. Miller, who won several honors and awards during the ceremony, said she was "anxious for the new experiences and challenges daybreak will bring."
As Joseph F. Shields, executive dean, introduced the two-year college's advisory board and guests, he thanked all those who "worked diligently to establish Carroll Community College as an independent institution." The school was founded as a branch of Catonsville Community College.
"We are celebrating a new beginning and are establishing traditions for the years ahead," said Mr. Shields, speaking before a table piled high with leather-bound diplomas.
Of the 205 graduates, Michael A. Georgakis of Sykesville probably had the largest and loudest cheering section.
As the graduates filed in, two rows filled with spectators held their programs high and called, "Mike," nearly drowning out the "Trumpet Voluntary" processional.
When Mr. Georgakis walked onto the stage to receive his associate's degree, the family repeated the performance.
"We have everyone here, even family from New York," said his stepmother.
In her commencement speech, journalist and author Susan White-Bowden told the graduates she was "thrilled for you because I know how hard you worked. I admire and respect what you have done and wish you more success and challenges."
She encouraged the students to "keep on going down the road of life. There will be too many things you don't want to miss."
Ms. White-Bowden stressed a self-esteem theme.
"Pursue your roles, follow your dreams and think about the other guy," she said. "It could mean your own success, too."
Before the conferring of degrees, Kenneth Shook awarded the college medal to Barbara Charnock, Rebecca Harman, Willard Hawkins and Dolores Snyder, all long-time advisory board members.
Ms. Charnock, chairman of the board, had a final word for the students. "Remember to come back and visit us," she said. "We are part of your life and want you to stay part of ours."