RIO GRANDE — Spring is in full blossom. Mother’s Day is just around the corner, and the 137th Commencement of the University of Rio Grande/Rio Grande Community College ushers in our next generation of pioneers and leaders.
Four hundred, thirty-nine graduates will be celebrated at 1 p.m. on Saturday May 11 at the Rio Grande campus. Friends and family from across the country and around the globe will converge to celebrate the accomplishments with 329 students scheduled to participate.
State Representative Ryan Smith, of Bidwell, is the commencement speaker. Rep. Smith is a strong supporter of southeastern Ohio and education. He serves on multiple state committees — Education, Finance and Appropriations, Agriculture and Development (subcommittee) and Health and Aging — holds membership in the Gallia County Renewable Energy Committee and is active in his local church.
“I am deeply honored to be the guest speaker for the 137th Commencement of Rio Grande,” Rep. Smith said. “Higher education plays a vital role in our society through life enrichment and continued economic stimulus. Thanks to its unique partnership as the country’s only private university and public community college, Rio Grande is a tremendous resource for all of Ohio, and I look forward to welcoming the Class of 2013.”
Rep. Smith also has served as president of the Gallia County Chamber of Commerce and Gallia County Community Improvement Corporation. He is a former member of the Gallipolis City School Board of Education and a board member of Holzer Health System.
The Class of 2013 includes 238 associate’s degrees, 160 bachelor’s degrees and 41 masters degrees.
“Commencement is one of those truly special days in higher education,” Rio Grande President Dr. Barbara Gellman-Danley said. “It’s a day where faculty and staff, friends and family come together to celebrate the journey and tremendous accomplishment of so many wonderful individuals. I am honored to personally congratulate and shake the hand of each graduate.”
Among those to receive degrees include Bradley Altier, Sheri Marcum, Andrea Merry and Whitney Smith — Rio Grande’s first Bachelor’s of Science in Chemistry recipients.
More than 70 different degrees have been earned. Degrees range from a Masters in Educational Leadership to a Bachelor’s in Wildlife & Fish Conservation and Management to an Associate’s in Business Management.
For Raymond C. Matura, Ph.D., and Professor of Sociology, who serves as Grand Marshal, commencement is about tradition: graduates singing the alma mater together on the lawn; two student marshals representing the highest grade point averages among the 2014 class; tears of joy; and happy memories.
“We try to keep it simple,” Dr. Matura said. “We process in, we have a prayer, we say a few things, we have a guest speaker and then we get to why we’re all there, and that’s to reward and honor the students for their accomplishment.
“I think it’s a day to celebrate the university and what we’re all about,” he continued. “We are here to get them to that particular moment, and we hope it’s the first of many, many successes.”