Risley Addresses Cuyahoga Community College Graduates

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Jackson, MS – Dr. Rod Risley, Executive Director and CEO of Phi Theta Kappa, gave the address for Cuyahoga Community College’s 50th anniversary commencement on May 16.

Dr. Risley visits with CCC Board Student Scholar and member Meghan Price and Dr. Patricia Rowell, President of CCC Western Campus and 2013 Gordon Award Recipient.

Cuyahoga Community College (Tri-C) opened in 1963 as Ohio's first community college and remains Ohio's oldest and largest public community college.

“The view was a ‘big wow!’ as friends, family, and guests began to arrive for the Commencement Ceremony at Cuyahoga Community College in Cleveland -- nearly 1,000 graduates -- and thousands of well-wishers, a powerful moment to behold,” Dr. Risley said. “And what a honor to be the final commencement speaker for a legend among community college leaders in this country -- Dr. Jerry Sue Thornton who led Tri-C for 21 years.”

Cuyahoga Community College trustees recently chose Dr. Alex Johnson, 62, president of the Community College of Allegheny County, as Tri-C's fourth president since the college was founded in 1963, to succeed longtime leader Dr. Jerry Sue Thornton. Dr. Thornton was honored with the Bennett Lifetime Achievement Award at Phi Theta Kappa’s Annual Convention in San Jose, along with Dr. Patricia Rowell, President of Cuyahoga Community College-Western Campus, who received the Shirley B. Gordon Award.

“Why does completion matter?” Dr. Risley asked the graduates, “The United States has fallen from number one among the 34 major industrialized economies to number 16 in terms of the percentage of citizens who have earned a higher education degree or credential. Two years ago, the U.S. ranked twelfth.” 

Dr. Risley established the Community College Completion Corps (C4) in response to the need to increase the number of individuals who earn a college credential.

The 2013 Board Student Scholar for Cuyahoga Community College was Phi Theta Kappa member Meghan Pierce. Pierce, now 28, made the most of her time at the Western Campus, diving into many clubs and activities, which included the 2012 GuitarMania! art project, Psychology Club vice president, Student Government senator and member of the Science Club, Phi Theta Kappa and the Honors Program. Her leadership role and academic achievements led to her being named the 2012-13 Student of the Year for the Western Campus.

Transferring to The Ohio State University this fall, Pierce will study psychology with a focus on aging and end of life. After she earns her bachelor’s degree, she plans to continue her education and eventually earn her doctorate. She wants to be a college professor and researcher.

A first generation college student, Pierce said that Tri-C has dramatically altered her life. “I have gained critical thinking skills that only great instructors can teach. I have had many opportunities to explore my own strengths and weaknesses, and what I have learned has shaped my character. I am not the same person who started school here in the fall of 2011. I am a new and improved me.”

For more graduation coverage, see the Cuyahoga Community College Facebook Page.