May 15, 2004
Harrisburg, PA - More than 1,600 students graduated from Harrisburg Area Community College today. Candidates for graduation from HACC's four campuses in Harrisburg, Gettysburg, Lancaster and Lebanon heard one last "lesson" from commencement speaker Governor Ed Rendell before receiving their degrees.

"Community college graduates are special," Governor Rendell began. "More than anyone, you fought hard with extra burdens and responsibilities - a job, the demands of a family - to reach this stage today.

"Community colleges are the bed rock of their region and state for economic growth and attracting competitive opportunities of the 21st century."

Governor Rendell also offered guidance for the new graduates, telling them to find their own definition of success, and not to let others define if for them. He also asked that the graduates remember to find time to give back.

"Use your skill and your talent to help out, even though we're all busy," the Governor said. "It will make you feel terrific and give you energy and passion."

HACC President, Edna V. Baehre, Ph.D., while applauding the students' accomplishments, summarized the growth and progress for HACC in the past year. HACC has leased space at Penn Center in Harrisburg to manage the growth of the college's allied health programs, plans to build the Select Medical Health Education Pavilion at the Harrisburg campus, the Grace Milliman Pollock Childcare and Early Childhood Center at the Harrisburg campus, launched the college's first capital campaign where $4 million of a goal of $12 million has already been reached, the Lancaster Campus will complete construction on the second building this fall, and enrollment continues to grow at HACC's locations in York.

Before introducing candidates, Baehre awarded the college's first honorary associate's degree of humanities to Dorthea Lovenia Stricker, of Harrisburg, who is an advocate for education and reading, and founder of a literary group. After completing a few courses shy of adegree, Stricker put aside her own education and encouraged her three daughters, and later, her grandchildren, in their own educational pursuits. Then this spring Stricker enrolled at HACC at age 83 to finish what she started back in the early 70's. The college granted her credit for the years of life experience and for the thousands of books she has read and encouraged others to enjoy. Stricker's advice to the graduates, "You are never too old to learn."

Other featured speakers included were Lancaster Campus professor, Ming Y. Gao and graduating honors student, Michelle Durange, from the Gettysburg Campus. Gao is a native of China and now teaches psychology at HACC's campus in Lancaster. Durange, of Littlestown, was the first in her family to graduate from college, and she did it with honors. Durange was selected for the All-Pennsylvania Academic Team that entitles her to a scholarship at any of the 14 State System of Higher Education universities. She will continue balancing work and family while studying for her bachelor's degree at Shippensburg University.

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