Risley is Surprise Commencement Speaker at Broome Community College

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When the nearly 1,300 2013 graduates of Broome Community College and their guests gathered in Veterans Memorial Arena in Binghamton, New York, on May 23, they had no idea who their commencement speaker would be. They received a big surprise when it was none other than Phi Theta Kappa Executive Director and CEO Dr. Rod Risley!

Dr. Risley visits with Phi Theta Kappa leaders preparing to take the graduation walk at the Broome Community College Commencement.

Dr. Risley had teased on his Facebook page that he would be surprising the graduates of one community college as their commencement speaker. In the days leading up to the commencement address he provided clues:

“College is east of the Mississippi River.”

“The name of the college and the name of the town share the same first letter in the alphabet - but their names are different.”

“What does a witch need for transportation?”

Still, Facebook followers did not guess correctly and the mystery was preserved until Dr. Risley’s arrival. More than 200 Phi Theta Kappa members were among those receiving degrees and credentials.

BCC president Kevin Drumm; Timothy Grippen, chairman of the college’s Board of Trustees and Senator Charles Schumer (D-NY) were among those present for the ceremony.

Dr. Risley challenged graduates to think of college completion in terms of being part of a global economy.

“America is growing older, my gray hair as evidence. As the birthrate in the U.S. has declined, there will be fewer workers to replace those who are retiring,” he said. “Yet, we have more students enrolled in higher education than ever before – with most never earning a credential.  How can we compete in a global economy with fewer workers, and most lacking the skills needed to be hired?” 

Graduates exited the arena to the music of the Edward P. Maloney Memorial Pipe Band. Hundreds of colorful balloons also fell on the heads of the graduates as they made their way out, a sign of congratulations.

After being laid off, Linda Krmenec had decided to attend college and and reinvent herself. At the age of 55 Krmenec, a member of the Mu Eta Chapter at BCC, graduated with a marketing management and sales degree.

“It’s exciting,” she said. “This is something I did for myself and I’m really glad I did.”

Watch the commencement ceremony on http://new.livestream.com/sunybroome/graduation2013.

Read news coverage of the graduation festivities online.