Bluefield Daily Telegraph, Bluefield, WV

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May 12, 2013

NRCTC graduates applaud future

PRINCETON — Click here for video.

The parking lot of the Chuck Mathena Center in Princeton was absolutely packed with cars as the family and friends of the graduates of New River Community and Technical College gathered in Princeton for the college’s 10th commencement exercises.

“Commencement,” L. Marshall Washington, Ph.D., president of New River, said, and paused. He stopped his remarks because one of the platform guests slid backward on the third riser and fell to the floor. Other platform guests assisted in helping their fellow platform guest back to his seat.

“We’re OK. We’re OK,” Washington said, and continued with his remarks. Indeed, the graduates of the five components of New River Community and Technical College — Beckley, Ghent, Lewisburg, Summersville and Princeton — are OK. Saturday was their day.

Washington was slightly unconventional in his remarks. By way of introducing the 298 graduates of New River, he asked the graduates to stand in response to several questions. Almost half of the graduates stood when he asked if they started college within two years of finishing high school. More than half stood, when he asked is they started more than 20 years after they finished high school. A few stood for the same question with “after 30 years,” and drew a big cheer. One grad stood in the “after 40” category and one stood in the after 50 years” group.

A majority stood when Washington said: “Stand if you’re a parent,” and several stood when Washington said: “Stand if you’re a grandparent.” Most stood in response to the question: “Do you plan to continue your education?” and a majority also stood in response to: “Are you the first in your family to earn a college degree.” At least 10 graduates stood when Washington asked military veterans to stand.

“We are finding ways to reach students,” Washington said as part of his overview of the many attributes of the college.

The West Virginia Brass Quintet provided music at the commencement, the Nicholas County High School JROTC Wilderness Battalion color guard posted colors and Yvonne Seay, music educator at Trap Hill Middle School gave an operatic-style version of the “Star-Spangled Banner” accompanied by the brass quintet. Kenneth Hayes, a student at New River’s Nicholas County Campus offered the invocation.

Leslie Baker gave remarks on behalf of New River’s board of governors. She told the graduates, now that they have their college degrees, “add a little grit and determination to that and you can go anywhere and do anything.”

Timothy Hofmann, vice president of the faculty senate, expressed his hope that today will be the proudest days in the lives of the graduates. “Congratulations on a job well done,” he said. Dr. Lucie Refsland who served as graduation marshal also welcomed the Phi Beta Kappa graduates into the society.

Xavier Strain II, of Princeton, the student representative on the board of governors gave an eloquent speech. “I know what a challenge it is to me to raise a family and earn a degree,” he said. He said that he started out by taking developmental classes, but he said with pride: “It is my goal to sit where you are next year.”

David Perkins, Ed.D., president emeritus of New River delivered the commencement address. Perkins said he grew up in rural Greenbrier County and provided enough to reveal that he came from a humble background. His advice to the graduates was simple: “It’s more important to work at something than nothing at all,” he said. “Useful work helps us develop talents ... develops good work habits ... raises our self-esteem ... furnishes fulfillment.”

He also encouraged the graduates to continue their education. “The world is growing ever more complex,” he said. He said that discipline and perseverance are the two important attributes for success.

Washington and Baker joined in presenting Perkins a print featuring images of the five campuses that make up New River Community and Technical College.

Harry R. Faulk, executive vice president/chief academic officer, presented the candidates for degrees and Washington conferred the degrees. Xavier Strain II gave the benediction. A reception followed in the Grand Hall of the Chuck Mathena Center.

— Contact Bill Archer at

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