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VTC Grads Show ‘Strength’

  • Commencement speaker Ken Squier gives advice to the class of 2016 during Vermont Technical College's commencement exercises in Randolph, Vt., on May 22, 2016. Squier, a native Vermonter and preeminent NASCAR broadcaster for two decades, is the current owner of the Radio Vermont Group and founder of Barre's Thunder Road. (Valley News- Sarah Priestap) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to Valley News — Sarah Priestap

  • Vermont Technical College degree candidates walk from the school's gym to the ceremony to begin Vermont Technical College's 2016 commencement exercises in Randolph, Vt., on May 22, 2016. (Valley News- Sarah Priestap) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to

  • Carik Saverin-Tener, center, of Rochester, Vt., responds with a big smile and happy tears as her children and grandchildren call out her name before she walked into Vermont Technical College's 2016 commencement exercises in Randolph, Vt., on May 22, 2016. Though Saberin-Tener had earned an associates degree in the past, this was her first bachelor's, a bachelor of science in business technology and management. (Valley News- Sarah Priestap) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to Valley News photographs — Sarah Priestap

Valley News Staff Writer
Published: 5/22/2016 11:50:46 PM
Modified: 5/22/2016 11:50:45 PM

Randolph Center — While more than 170 students in health care-related fields were receiving diplomas from Vermont Technical College on Saturday afternoon, Lance Butler was monitoring the machinery and processing the organic waste that fuels the campus’ power-generating anaerobic digester.

Back on campus Sunday morning, Butler lined up with 300 more VTC students and collected his own bachelor of science degree in diversified agriculture — one of three that the school conferred this year — and to wonder where the time went since he graduated from nearby Randolph Union High School in 2006, with designs on working as an illustrator.

“The idea was to go to art school,” Butler recalled between hugs with his family and classmates and faculty members. “But five years ago, I was in Boston, and I was mostly skateboarding, actually. I was going in circles — paying rent, doing dead-end jobs.

“I wanted to do something meaningful. ”

While working some of those jobs, Butler noticed how much uneaten food restaurants, stores and other businesses were throwing straight into the trash. And after returning to the Upper Valley to pursue an associate degree in agri-business at VTC, he started seeing ways to help the planet and find his calling.

Initially seeking his bachelor’s in dairy-farm management, Butler followed longtime VTC instructor Chris Dutton’s suggestion to go into diversified agriculture. And when the digester went online about a year and a half ago, Butler decided to simultaneously work toward a digester operations master certificate.

“It was the sustainable nature of it that appealed to me,” Butler said. “Making something out of what people were treating as nothing.”

In the process of getting in on the ground floor of the digester operation, with the aim of keeping the waste out of landfills and water systems, Butler came up with a business plan to grow mushrooms at the new Upper Pass Beer Companoperation in Tunbridge, using the waste from the brewery’s beer- and coffee-making process as compost for his operation.

And while juggling those projects, Butler’s regular school work and a part-time job at Worthy Burger in South Royalton kept him working “straight out,” it also yielded results: He’ll spend most of the coming summer running Casella Organic’s digester in western Massachusetts — “They were visiting here and they walked right up and said, ‘Hey, you want to work for us?’ ” he recalled — before embarking on a yearlong internship on a mushroom farm in Maine. After that, he hopes to return to Vermont as a niche farmer.

“Lance’s story is exciting,” said Dutton, who also directs VTC’s Institute for Applied Agriculture and Food Systems, which runs the dairy at Norwich Farms. “He had the basic science, understood about issues of photosynthesis, water quality and the chance to generate electricity. … He gets it. The atom carbon is essentially money. … Our guys, and women, are really doing it. They’re back home, making things out of other things.”

That’s just the kind of innovation that the student-body speaker and the guest speaker at Sunday morning’s ceremony lauded VTC and its students for cultivating.

“We knew exactly what we wanted to do,” Courtney Banach of South Burlington, president of VTC’s Dairy Club, said before collecting her associate’s degree in dairy-farm management technology. “We wanted hands-on learning.”

And while college students elsewhere might do just enough work in school to pass their courses, Banach added, “we took advantage of every opportunity presented to us.”

After receiving an honorary doctorate, Vermont-born radio-station owner and former NASCAR broadcaster Ken Squier said that Vermont, the United States and the world need more students like the ones who graduated from VTC this weekend to craft solutions to famine, environmental degradation and other challenges while also making a living.

“This nation moved forward on the strength of our farmers and our mechanics,” Squier said. “They lifted this country up time after time.

“They kept this nation cooking.”

Vermont Technical College graduates from the Upper Valley:

Associate Degrees Nursing

Emily J. Abbott, Bethel; Jennifer K. Alden, Randolph; Patricia A. White, Bethel; Masaka Barrows, Lyme; Shannon Bradley, Fairlee; Marian Comstock, Hartland; Lena Cormier, Topsham; Anna Guseva, White River Junction; Nathaniel Jenne, Reading, Vt.; Nina Lloyd, Hanover; Sandra Mariotti, White River Junction; Amy Swarr, Windsor; Jessica Cooper, Chelsea; Paula Buckley, Woodstock; Matthew DeJackome, Charlestown; Patricia Dezan, Windsor; Jamie Jones, White River Junction; Rebecca Lyons, Springfield, Vt.; Sabrina Parker, Springfield, Vt.; Anna Thorburn, Woodstock

Automotive Technology

Andrew Davis, Hartland; Tristan Kemp, Newport; Dylan McCormack, Strafford

Dairy Farm Management Technology

Jillian Dusenbury, Bradford

Veterinary Technology

Jenna Brown, Springfield, Vt.; Robyn Chojnacki, Randolph; Heather Clark, Tunbridge; Reba Hart, Stockbridge; Amanda Owen, Enfield; Nicole Rouille, Randolph

General Engineering Technology

Tiffany Gast, Randolph Center

Bachelor’s Degrees Business Technology and Management

Sarah Day, White River Junction; Hill Lokossou, West Lebanon; Wyatt Mosher, Killington; Harold Schwenk III, Woodstock; Logan White, South Royalton

Construction Management

Justin Ives, Bethel

Mechanical Engineering Technology

Kyle Rigali, Woodstock


Shellie Stevens, West Topsham

Dental Hygiene

Umangini Patel, Lebanon

Diversified Agriculture

Lance Butler, Randolph; Amanda Lewis, Bethel

Landscape Design And Sustainable Horticulture

Kimberly Cayer, Bethel; Craig Shaffer, Brownsville

Architectural Engineering Technology

Georgia Mealey, Randolph

Information Technology

Tyler-John Lemmer, Bethel

Computer Engineering Technology

Joseph Ducharme, Chelsea; Sean Klink, Randolph Center

Software Engineering

Eric Boen Jr., Sharon; William Clark, Tunbridge

Electromechanical Engineering Technology

Taylor Micca, Quechee

Professional Pilot Technology

Travis Benson, South Royalton; Garrett Tilton, Grantham

Renewable Energy

Peter Busha, Randolph


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