SOUTHINGTON - Family, friends and faculty gathered outside at Lincoln College of New England Friday to celebrate the school’s 2018 graduates and wish them well.
It was a cool, clear day as the guests took their seats, carrying congratulatory balloons and flowers and waiting with cameras ready to capture their loved ones’ special moment.
After the graduates marched in to the tune of Pomp and Circumstance, American Legion Post 2’s color guard marched up to place their flags. Then, following the singing of the national anthem, Lincoln President Jim Vernon congratulated the graduates.
“Graduation is a rite of passage - a celebration of you and the commitment and time you took away from your family and friends,” he said. “If you only remember this day as a celebration of you then that’s all that’s important.”
Salutatorian Suzanne Leon was unable to attend the ceremony. Her program director accepted her award on her behalf.
The valedictory address was given by Nicholas Theroux.
“Congratulations on making it to graduation and pursuing your dreams all the way to the end, without compromise,” he said. “You should all be very proud of yourselves. One of the things I love about this school is that most, if not all of the programs offered here are all focused on helping people, which means that all of you are going into specific fields in a noble attempt to help people in need.
“Criminal justice majors keep society safe, dental hygiene majors help people get that perfect smile so they can feel confident about themselves, occupational therapy assistant majors help all sorts of people overcome their disabilities. As a mortuary science major, I can personally say that we help people who are going through the worst moments of their lives cope with the loss of a loved one so they can honor them, receive closure and begin rebuilding a life that has been suddenly uprooted.”
Theroux then wished his fellow graduates best of luck in their future endeavors.
“I truly hope the education you received at this school takes you wherever you want to be in life,” he said.
Vernon then introduced and bestowed an honorary degree upon John Cascio, executive director of the Connecticut Funeral Directors Association, who gave the evening’s keynote address.
“Cherish not only your career choice but your life outside of your career as well,” he said. “Family and friends are so important and should hold a special place in your everyday life. When I was in college I learned the more that I was willing to help others the more people were invested in my success.
“Think of your career as a marathon, not a sprint, and plan it out that way. In the first 10 years of your career, focus on having the best and highest quality experiences you can. Focus on building your skills and don’t be worried as much about your salary. In the next 10 years people will pay you for your skills and hopefully will be able to retire early.
“Don’t lose faith. The only thing that kept me going for 35 years is that I love what I do. You’ve got to find your passion. The only way to be truly satisfied is to feel like you’re doing great work. Your time is limited so don’t waste it by chasing someone else’s dream. Have the confidence and courage to follow your heart and your intuition.”
Following his remarks, the moment that students strived for at last arrived. As they stepped up to receive their certificates and degrees, the physical proof of their determination and achievement, they were now prepared to put their skills to use in their chosen fields and whatever lay ahead.
Brian M. Johnson can be reached at 860-973-1806 or firstname.lastname@example.org.