In virtual commencement, BCC Class of 2020 lauded for 'resilience'

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PITTSFIELD — The 60th commencement ceremony of Berkshire Community College was unlike any other.

On Friday afternoon, BCC celebrated 292 graduates with a virtual ceremony airing on Pittsfield Community Television and online.

President Ellen Kennedy opened the proceedings with music from the Berkshire Highlanders and the national anthem sung by student Monica Bliss. She spoke of not only the achievement and persistence of her graduates, but of the resiliency shown by the Class of 2020 during the coronavirus pandemic.

"As with the classes before, many of you are juggling one or more jobs with your core class work, raising children and caring for relatives. We are in awe of each and every one of you. You are our heroes," Kennedy said.

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"We also celebrate and congratulate you on your resilience. So many of the expectations you and we had for your final semester have been upended. You also had to deal with completing your coursework remotely, distancing yourself from faculty and college staff, whose closeness is so important. Perhaps losing your job, and child care, and maybe even the security of having food and a place to live. And yet, here you are."

Interim Provost Adam Klepetar took the virtual stage to introduce the class valedictorian, Denise Foss. She is a member of the first graduating class of BCC's early childhood education cohort. Foss will continue her academic career at the Massachusetts College of Liberal Arts in the field of interdisciplinary studies with a focus on children, families and society.

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"Today, I am overwhelmed with pride and accomplishments, as you should be," Foss told her fellow graduates. "This is our graduation day, and we have earned it."

Foss, who began her time at BCC at 52 years old after raising four children as a stay-at-home mom, said she started to feel something missing in her life and wrestled with the idea of going back to school.

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"The what-ifs were endless," she said. "Luckily for me, BCC welcomes traditional and nontraditional students with open arms. Every class, professor feedback and rewritten draft has helped me to push myself a little harder and a little further. I was able to push the fear aside and found the courage to go back the next week. I never looked back and I couldn't be more grateful."

In her final commencement ceremony as dean of students, Beth Wallace awarded 205 associate degrees and 102 certificates to graduates ranging in age from 19 to 67. The largest classes came out of the nursing, liberal arts, business administration and early childhood education fields.

Kennedy also announced emeritus status for professors Lois Cooper, Heidi Sammon and Sherry Sheer.

Mike Walsh can be reached at mwalsh@berkshireeagle.com.


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