New doors open for Massachusetts College of Liberal Arts graduates

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Photo Gallery | 2016 MCLA Commencement

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NORTH ADAMS — More than two years ago, Cindy Bird of Adams was laid off from her job as a secretary in surgical services when North Adams Regional Hospital closed, leaving Bird and hundreds of others jobless.

Saturday, with the help of a local fund set up to help former NARH employees, she graduated from Massachusetts College of Liberal Arts with a bachelor's degree in Interdisciplinary Studies.

For those who know her, they could see her pride showing through her bright eyes and smiling face.

"I feel amazing," Bird said. "I am walking on the clouds."

But she's not done yet. Next up for Bird is to pursue a master's degree in the education field and become a teacher full time.

After the hospital closed, she was ponderous about the future. Not anymore.

"When one door closes, another door opens," Bird said.

She was one of 369 people to receive their bachelor's degrees Saturday as thousands looked on in the Amsler Campus Center Gymnasium. Another 35 received their master's degrees.

In addition, three others received honorary degrees:

James C. Clemmer, a 1986 graduate of MCLA and an executive with more than 25 years of business experience, served as the campus's interim president from August 2015 until the March 1. He received an honorary Doctor of Business.

State Sen. Benjamin B. Downing, D-Pittsfield, was presented with an honorary Doctor of Public Service.

Yvonne Spicer, Ed.D., vice president of Advocacy and Educational Partnerships for the National Center for Technological Literacy at the Museum of Science, Boston, received an honorary Doctor of Humanities.

Clemmer was the keynote speaker for the 2016 MCLA commencement ceremony.

At one point, he quoted a line from the song "Mother Blues" by Country Music artist Ray Wylie Hubbard. "The days that I keep my gratitude higher than my expectations, well, I have really good days."

In doing so, he expressed his hope that the new graduates will "give more than you expect to receive" as they pursue their dreams.

After the speeches and presentations of degrees in a variety of different majors, the long phalanx of graduates formed a procession that led them to the lawn in front of Murdoch Hall where cameras and family hugs were the order of business.

Standing the cool shade cast by Murdoch Hall, Paul Groff Jr. chatted with his dad, Paul Groff Sr.

Groff Jr., of Mechanicville, N.Y. received a bachelor's degree in Sociology. He hopes to move on to a master's degree and then a doctorate.

He said his first six months of school were an adjustment period, both socially and academically, but after that he persevered. He switched majors frequently in the first year. Then he gave sociology a shot, which he found "interesting and compelling."

Groff Jr. said he eventually wants to work as a sociologist in the field of racial and ethnic relations and education.

"I can't be any more proud as a father," Groff Sr. said. "He's the only kid in my family to finish college. And for him it took lots of time and aggravation. So now I'm a proud dad."

Under a nearby tree were good friends Elliot Ryan of Lexington and Virginia Graves of Pottersville, N.Y.

Ryan was celebrating earning a bachelor's degree in history. Graves was doing the same for her bachelor's degree in English.

Both had finished their course work in the latter part of 2015. So they came back to North Adams to make it official for their families.

"Family is the biggest reason," Graves said. "I'm the first in the family to graduate, so Pomp and Circumstance times 10."


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