Southern Maine Community College to Graduate Largest Class in History | Events

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Southern Maine Community College to Graduate Largest Class in History
Events, People, Schools
Southern Maine Community College to Graduate Largest Class in History

South Portland – The largest graduating class in the 64-year history of Southern Maine Community College (SMCC), will join together with faculty and staff for commencement exercises on Sunday, May 22nd at 2:00 p.m.  Nine-hundred and fourteen students will receive diplomas at the ceremony in the Cumberland County Civic Center in Portland. The commencement speaker will be retiring SMCC President, Dr. James O. Ortiz.

SMCC’s 2011 graduates include 16-year-old Rachel Champoux, and 83-year-old, Robert Witham — the youngest and oldest students ever to graduate from SMCC. Students will receive degrees in over 40 different programs ranging from health sciences and technical programs to liberal studies and business.

Witham was enrolled in one of the first classes at Maine Vocational Technical Institute when he returned from World War II. Jewett Hall, Howe Hall and Slocum Road on the SMCC campus were named for his instructors. He will receive an Associate in Applied Science Degree in Integrated Manufacturing Technology at graduation on Sunday.

Witham’s son, Leon, recalls a story about his father when he was enrolled in the College in 1985. “My instructor, Mr. Davis, took me out of class over to the trophy case and said, ‘Look at that picture.’  I looked at it and saw myself, but knew it wasn’t me.  Mr. Davis said, ‘Do you know who that is? That is your dad. I used to work with him and he taught me everything I know about machining.  He is the best machinist in the business.’  I never forgot that and it was kind of weird knowing that I was learning from my dad but through Mr. Davis.”

Champoux started taking classes at a local university when she was 12 years old. Having been homeschooled, she was not used to the large class size she found there. When she was ready to enroll in college full-time she looked for a place that was close to home with the smaller class size she desired. She enrolled at SMCC at the age of 14.

After graduation Champoux plans on pursuing a bachelors degree in Computer Science at the University of Southern Maine. While at SMCC Rachel served as the President of SMCC's chapter of Phi Theta Kappa (PTK), chaired the Student Senate's activities committee and participated in the Seawolves Robotics Club, all while maintaining a 3.98 GPA. Rachel is also a member of the 2011 All-Maine Academic Team and was named the New Century Scholar for Maine, one of 20 community college students in the country to receive the award. She is also a Guistwhite Scholar, which is based on academics, PTK participation and community service.

The commencement address by Dr. Ortiz will remind students that they will be meeting the needs of the state’s economy. They are now prepared and educated, and must not only work hard to contribute but also be entrepreneurial, as economic recovery is dependent on their success. “They will be required to have an even greater skill-set including excellent communications and management skills in this new economy,” said Ortiz. “The ability to think creatively and entrepreneurially in this ever-changing economic landscape will be critical.”

Dr. Ortiz became president of what was then Southern Maine Technical College in February of 2002.  Under his leadership, the college transitioned to a comprehensive community college and became the fastest growing community college in New England, tripling its growth between 2002 and the fall of 2010.  Over the past several years, Dr. Ortiz has laid the groundwork for SMCC’s new Midcoast Campus at the former Brunswick Naval Air Station.

President of the Maine Community College System, John Fitzsimmons praised Dr. Ortiz’s leadership of SMCC and his commitment to the college and its students:  “Southern Maine Community College has thrived under Jim Ortiz’s leadership, growing from 2,850 students to over 7,000 students.  He has brought enormous energy, innovation, and focus to SMCC.  His impact on the college, the community, and the students he has served will be long lasting.”
Dr. Ortiz will retire on July 29th.
Vice-President and Dean of Academics, Janet Sortor will lead the ceremonies.

Southern Maine Community College empowers students to respond to a changing world and enhances economic and cultural development in Southern Maine by providing a variety of educational opportunities and partnerships.

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