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507 Graduate From VTC to ‘Change the World’ and Be ‘Great Human Beings’

  • Vermont Technical College graduates Peter Childs, left, Curtis Denton, and Amanda Deyette listen during their commencement ceremony on May 20, 2017 in Randolph, Vt. (Valley News - Jennifer Hauck) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com.

  • With her fellow graduates in fire science, Abigail Lancour listens during the Vermont Technical College commencement on May 20, 2017, in Randolpd, Vt. (Valley News - Jennifer Hauck) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com.

  • After her Vermont Technical College graduation ceremony Erica Clayton laughs as she brushes away a tear when talking with fellow graduate Sarah Osmer on May 20, 2017 in Randolph, Vt. (Valley News - Jennifer Hauck) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com.



Valley News Staff Writer
Saturday, May 20, 2017

Randolph Center — Under a large white tent filled with families and friends Saturday morning, graduates of Vermont Technical College took in a few last pieces of advice, both professional and personal.

The ceremony was the first of three to be held over the weekend at the college, which graduated a total of 507 students. The students represent 16 countries and 11 states, and many are the first in their families to earn a certificate or degree, President Patricia Moulton said during the ceremony.

Commencement speaker Dennis Grimard, a Vermont Tech alumnus, said he was there not because he’s important or smart, accomplished or wise, but because he has much in common with the graduates.

Grimard, a Barre, Vt., native, choked up as he described his background. He’d come from a line of farmers, quarry workers and small-business owners who were “always willing to give more than they take,” he said.

He earned an associate degree in mechanical engineering technology at Vermont Tech in 1977, and later continued his studies, eventually earning a doctorate in electrical engineering technology from the University of Michigan.

Grimard described the first, seemingly impossible, assignment he’d received as a newly minted Ph.D. at IBM in Essex Junction, Vt. For months, he struggled and failed. And then, one day in the cafeteria, he overheard co-workers talking about something called an electrostatic chuck, a device he’d never heard of. He asked his colleagues about chucks, which turned out to be the key to solving the challenge he’d been wrestling with.

The moral of the story?

“Don’t avoid world-changing challenges,” and always be willing to capitalize on lucky moments, which could “change your life and possibly the world,” said Grimard, who is associate director of operations and acting managing director of a 214,000-square-foot nanoscale research facility at MIT.

In her talk, Moulton told the graduates they “are all very impressive” and noted they had overcome all sorts of challenges to earn their degrees and certificates. And even as they embarked on new careers, they were prepared.

“You already know what you need to know,” said Moulton, riffing on what they might accomplish, such as designing new software and apps, or keeping cars and trucks in good working condition. And in addition to their professional contributions, she asked them to be “great human beings.”

Help make changes that lead to greater respect for others, regardless of what they look like, who they love or how they identify, said Moulton, the college’s first woman president.

Speaker Christina Geary, who earned an associate degree in dairy farm management, described how her studies had helped her ace a recent job interview. Keeping in mind advice from her professor, Kimberly Crowe, she’d impregnated more cows than her future boss, said Geary, who will return to her native Connecticut to work.

Other members of the class of 2017 have already begun applying their skills.

After the ceremony, graduate Tiffany Gast said her bachelor’s degree in construction management had already benefited her, putting her on the path to become a project manager at Pike Industries, where she works. Both she and her mother, Randolph Center residents, graduated yesterday. “It’s a big accomplishment for the whole family,” said Gast, who gave a powerful rendition of The Star-Spangled Banner during the graduation.

Patricia Gast earned a bachelor’s degree in business technology and management, but she declined to walk onstage to receive it.

“It was (Tiffany’s) day,” the proud Mom said.

An assistant registrar at the college, Patricia Gast said taking classes there had provided valuable insight.

“I got to learn about other students and how we can improve the college,” she said.

Graduate Jordan Choiniere, of Randolph Center, said his bachelor’s degree in applied business management “will open more doors for me, and helps me do my job better.”

Choiniere, a manager at Timken Aerospace, spent weekends and “a lot of late nights” pursuing his degree online, he said. Like many of his classmates, he would gather later with family and friends and enjoy some good food.

After so much hard work, it was time to relax and celebrate.

Aimee Caruso can be reached at acaruso@vnews.com or 603-727-3210.