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‘Check Your Direction’: At a Time of Change, Lebanon College Graduates 19

  • The 19 students of Lebanon College’s 2013 graduating class cross Court Street on their way to commencement at the Lebanon Opera House yesterday. (Valley News - James M. Patterson)

    The 19 students of Lebanon College’s 2013 graduating class cross Court Street on their way to commencement at the Lebanon Opera House yesterday. (Valley News - James M. Patterson) Purchase photo reprints »

  • Ramona Lombardi of Salem, N.H., congratulates her grandson Nicholas Lombardi, of West Lebanon, after he received his degree in criminal justice from Lebanon College yesterday. (Valley News - James M. Patterson)

    Ramona Lombardi of Salem, N.H., congratulates her grandson Nicholas Lombardi, of West Lebanon, after he received his degree in criminal justice from Lebanon College yesterday. (Valley News - James M. Patterson) Purchase photo reprints »

  • Jacinda Williams of Bedford, N.H., adjusts her mortar board as her mother, Tammy Williams, also of Bedford, left, talks with Lebanon College President Ronald Biron, right, after the school’s commencement at the Lebanon Opera House yesterday. (Valley News - James M. Patterson)

    Jacinda Williams of Bedford, N.H., adjusts her mortar board as her mother, Tammy Williams, also of Bedford, left, talks with Lebanon College President Ronald Biron, right, after the school’s commencement at the Lebanon Opera House yesterday. (Valley News - James M. Patterson) Purchase photo reprints »

  • The 19 students of Lebanon College’s 2013 graduating class cross Court Street on their way to commencement at the Lebanon Opera House yesterday. (Valley News - James M. Patterson)
  • Ramona Lombardi of Salem, N.H., congratulates her grandson Nicholas Lombardi, of West Lebanon, after he received his degree in criminal justice from Lebanon College yesterday. (Valley News - James M. Patterson)
  • Jacinda Williams of Bedford, N.H., adjusts her mortar board as her mother, Tammy Williams, also of Bedford, left, talks with Lebanon College President Ronald Biron, right, after the school’s commencement at the Lebanon Opera House yesterday. (Valley News - James M. Patterson)

Lebanon — The send-off for Lebanon College graduates yesterday morning included short speeches, hearty applause and one last homework assignment.

“Graduation’s an opportunity to pause and reflect,” keynote speaker Richard Gustafson told the students in Lebanon Opera House.

“We all run the danger of allowing all of this activity making us respond to the urgent but push back what’s important,” said Gustafson, director of the New Hampshire Higher Education Commission.

He suggested they write a page or so about “the next phase of the journey.”

“Check your compass,” he told the students, who sported new black robes trimmed with gold and maroon, the college colors. “Check your direction.”

For many, the future holds a job search.

Nick Lombardi, 27, is looking at a career in law enforcement. An Army veteran, he hopes to enter the police academy.

“I have an interview in a few weeks,” the West Lebanon resident said. “We’ll see what happens.”

Others, like Jason Tyrone Mercado, are already employed.

Mercado, named radiography student of the year yesterday, works part time as a technical aide at Dartmouth-Hitchcock Medical Center. He hopes to take on a new position at DHMC after completing the radiography exam in September.

“That’s what I’m gunning for,” said Mercado, 26.

More than 100 people attended the 40-minute ceremony, held in the Opera House for the second year running. Jonathan Havrda, radiography clinical coordinator, received the student-nominated teacher of the year award.

Of the 19 associate degrees awarded yesterday, three were in early childhood education, one in business, one in criminal justice, and two in fine art. More than half of the students received radiography degrees, up from about a quarter of last year’s graduates. The increase reflects the school’s growing focus on health care programs.

This fall, the college plans to open the Allied Health and Sciences Center on the Lebanon Mall. The center will encompass at least half of the college’s education programs, President Ronald Biron told the Valley News last month.

After yesterday’s ceremony, Biron, who became president in September, said the college hopes to restart several allied health programs it previously offered, including sonography, as early as this fall.

It will also “pull back on” other, smaller programs, including photography, fine arts and creative writing, in which “enrollment has been too low for too long,” he said.

The degree programs in these fields will be discontinued sometime in the next few years, allowing current students the chance to graduate, Biron said. Classes in those subjects will still be offered for general education requirements and enrichment. The college is “not downsizing” its staff, he said. “The faculty will still be here.”

In the future, the college plans to create programs that meet an employment need and “won’t take a lot of time to get trained in,” he said, such as surgery technician.

Jacinda Williams, a Bedford, N.H., native, received a degree in radiography yesterday. Williams, 20, said the compact two-year program appealed to her. Most programs are three years, she said, but “I was able to squeeze all my classes together.”

No matter their specialty, students yesterday were quick to praise the camaraderie they found at the small college.

Lombardi, who earned the lone associate degree in criminal justice, said he and his classmates “had a good bond with each other.”

Biron, who yesterday oversaw his first graduation at the college’s president, said he’d been thinking about that day since he first took the job. “It was emotional. I was getting a little choked up,” he said after the ceremony. “I got to know a lot of them pretty well.”

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

Lebanon College Graduates

Here is the list of 2013 Lebanon College graduates, as provided by the college:

Molly Carbon, Jessica P. Carpenter, Misty Lea Lemay, Nicholas Robert Lombardi, Jason Tyrone Mercado, Maxwell Robert Mullen, Rebecca Perry, Carl Norman Porter, Julia Anne Robinson, Brittany Gail Rushing, Emily Catherine Sandy, Kerri Jean Solomon, Stephanie Elizabeth Spaulding, Tyler Patrick Stannard, Ashlee S. Weyandt, Raymond Andre Whyte, Fawn M. Wiggins, Jacinda Julia Williams, Gelsy E. Young.

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Nineteen graduates received their degrees at Lebanon College’s commencement ceremony in Lebanon, N.H., on May 18, 2013. Valley News — James M. Patterson …