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Hundreds Graduate From VTC

  • After delivering the student address at Vermont Technical College’s commencement ceremony at Norwich University in Northfield, Vt., yesterday, computer software engineering student Charles Hathaway gets a high-five from his friend and fellow graduate, architectural engineering student Kelsey Bowers. (Valley News - James M. Patterson)

    After delivering the student address at Vermont Technical College’s commencement ceremony at Norwich University in Northfield, Vt., yesterday, computer software engineering student Charles Hathaway gets a high-five from his friend and fellow graduate, architectural engineering student Kelsey Bowers. (Valley News - James M. Patterson) Purchase photo reprints »

  • Kurt Weber, of Old Bridge, N.J., gives his sister, landscape design and sustainable horticulture student Kelly Weber, of South Royalton, a thumbs-up after photographing her with her graduating class at the Vermont Technical College commencement yesterday. Weber’s son, Nolan, 6, and his sister’s daughter, Abaigeal Pellegrino, 8, walked with him around Shapiro Fieldhouse to find a good vantage point for the photograph. (Valley News - James M. Patterson)

    Kurt Weber, of Old Bridge, N.J., gives his sister, landscape design and sustainable horticulture student Kelly Weber, of South Royalton, a thumbs-up after photographing her with her graduating class at the Vermont Technical College commencement yesterday. Weber’s son, Nolan, 6, and his sister’s daughter, Abaigeal Pellegrino, 8, walked with him around Shapiro Fieldhouse to find a good vantage point for the photograph. (Valley News - James M. Patterson) Purchase photo reprints »

  • Nick Benson, of Chelsea, listens to Gordon Sprague’s commencement address at VTC yesterday. (Valley News - James M. Patterson)

    Nick Benson, of Chelsea, listens to Gordon Sprague’s commencement address at VTC yesterday. (Valley News - James M. Patterson) Purchase photo reprints »

  • After delivering the student address at Vermont Technical College’s commencement ceremony at Norwich University in Northfield, Vt., yesterday, computer software engineering student Charles Hathaway gets a high-five from his friend and fellow graduate, architectural engineering student Kelsey Bowers. (Valley News - James M. Patterson)
  • Kurt Weber, of Old Bridge, N.J., gives his sister, landscape design and sustainable horticulture student Kelly Weber, of South Royalton, a thumbs-up after photographing her with her graduating class at the Vermont Technical College commencement yesterday. Weber’s son, Nolan, 6, and his sister’s daughter, Abaigeal Pellegrino, 8, walked with him around Shapiro Fieldhouse to find a good vantage point for the photograph. (Valley News - James M. Patterson)
  • Nick Benson, of Chelsea, listens to Gordon Sprague’s commencement address at VTC yesterday. (Valley News - James M. Patterson)

Northfield, Vt. — When the graduates entered Shapiro Fieldhouse from its far side, wearing black robes and black caps, some with ornate decorations, applause rippled across the length of the building. It eventually reached the building’s main entrance, passing through the hands of thousands of spectators.

Pomp and Circumstance played, and approximately 500 Vermont Technical College graduates filed into their seats for the school’s 147th commencement, held yesterday afternoon at Norwich University.

“You had an idea of what you wanted to do, and the potential to do it,” said President Philip Conroy, reminding the graduates of their first days at the college. “You jumped in.”

And those first days gave way to yesterday, as a few thousand family members and friends packed into the fieldhouse to support the graduates, facing a massive American flag, flanked by each of the 50 states’ flags, above the stage.

The students they were there to support came away with associate and bachelor’s degrees in fields ranging from automotive technology to dental hygiene.

The graduates were very heavily native Vermonters, and nearly every one came from New England. About 60 were from the Upper Valley; more than 120 were nursing students.

One graduate at the intersection of those two was Chelsea Jewell, a 24-year-old from Cornish who left Northfield yesterday with an associate degree in nursing.

“After going through nursing school, I feel like I can do anything,” she said after the ceremony, in a break from photo ops with family and friends.

Jewell said she will next move to the Intermediate Special Care Unit at Dartmouth-Hitchcock Medical Center, where she’s been a licensed nursing assistant in the intensive care unit for five years.

“Whether it’s further study, or the beginning of a new career, you are ready,” Conroy had said earlier in the day.

His opening comments were followed by the ceremony’s guest speaker, Gordon Sprague, a native Vermonter who has driven NASCAR cars, served in the parks and recreation departments in several cities across the country, worked as a mutual fund money manager and now is, in part, a motivational speaker.

Sprague offered a bit of doom and gloom — “The American Dream may be fading,” he said, and accompanied the claim with a statistical storm — but then gave the graduates a way to overcome it.

“The essence of life is relationships,” he said at one point.

“Don’t let your fear overcome your desire,” he said at another.

They were claims touched on throughout the commencement, along with speakers’ requests for graduates to thank their support systems — their friends, families and teachers.

But perhaps the most emotionally charged moment came as the ceremony headed toward its end.

“All candidates, please rise,” Conroy said, and there was a rumble of excitement in the fieldhouse. “It doesn’t matter unless I say these following words.”

He then conferred the degrees, and, this time, the applause erupted.

Jon Wolper can be reached at jwolper@vnews.com or 603-727-3248.