Anne Arundel Community College's 50th graduating class was greeted by the largest crowd at a commencement ceremony ever on the Arnold campus, with thousands of family and friends joining in the celebrations.
A record 1,998 students graduated on Thursday, where more than 1,500 degrees and 600 certificates were awarded.
Outgoing college President Martha A. Smith delivered the keynote speech at Thursday's ceremonies. Smith is set to retire in August, and new president Dawn Lindsay will begin her tenure immediately afterward.
Smith thanked the students for their hard work, and said their dedication has made her life as president special.
"I kept coming home to the same thought and feeling, a page straight from the Anne Arundel Community College lesson plan, a short and powerful message that is, in fact, the essence of Anne Arundel Community College, and it is simply this—Always, always, do what you love, and love what you do," Smith said.
Class valedictorian Michael Jeffrey Fahrner, of Riva, earned an Associate of Science degree through the engineering transfer program. He is a former intelligence analyst in the U.S. Marines Corps Reserves in Afghanistan.
“I’ve always loved to work hard, but I think I struggled to work hard at things I didn’t like to do. The Marine Corps taught me how to work hard when I didn’t like it," Fahrner said. "Not everything’s fun. There’s a reason that work is called work.”
Fahrner will transfer this fall to the engineering program at University of Maryland, College Park.
The class' Presidential Scholar is Mary Kathryn Brunk, of Crownsville, who earned an Associate of Science degree in the science and premedical professional program, with a concentration in biology. Brunk said she would continue her education at the University of Maryland in Baltimore County.
Smith also highlighted four students in her speech:
- Richard Clark, who overcame homelessness to become a star in the school's cyber forensics team. Clark received an Associate of Applied Science degree in information systems security.
- Stephanie Bishop, a single mom with a 3-year-old son, who worked full time while studying to become a recognized baking and pastry chef. She received two degrees in hotel/restaurant management.
- Patrina Franklin, who achieved her dream of helping women who have been affected by domestic violence. Franklin was named Ms. Wheelchair Maryland in 2010. She received her Associate of Applied Science degree in human services on Thursday.
- Angela Traynor, who received an Associate of Applied Science degree in human services and addiction counseling. Traynor was on the Dean’s List and is a member of the National Honor Society for Community Colleges.
Congratulations to all who graduated on Thursday!