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NECC Celebrates the Class of 2022

Submitted by on May 16, 2022 – 7:17 pm

Northern Essex Community College’s 60th Commencement Ceremony on Saturday, May 14 was close to perfect, thanks to sunny weather (the thermometer hit 90 degrees), inspiring remarks, and the uncontained joy of the 800-plus graduates and their families.

This was the first time the college had celebrated with a traditional ceremony since 2019, and, if the broad smiles were any indication, everyone was glad to be back.

President Lane Glenn opened the ceremony, calling the class of 2022 “one of the most resilient in the college’s 60-year history.” “You have shown that crisis is nothing to fear and even sometimes an opportunity. Likely, you are stronger, more confident, and more determined as a result of the last two years.”

Dr. Eric Dickson ’88, NECC 2022 Commencement Speaker

The featured speaker, Eric Dickson, MD, a 1988 graduate of Northern Essex’s Respiratory Care Program, who is now CEO and president of Mass Memorial Health, talked about the importance of having a “mighty purpose” in life, sharing a poem by George Bernard Shaw titled “A Splendid Torch”.

“For me, I think the true joy in life is fighting for something you believe in. Staying attached to your mighty purpose doesn’t use you up. It gives you the fuel you need to keep going.”

Dickson was inspired to pursue medical school when his professor, Dr. Dan Coleman, medical director of the college’s Respiratory Care Program, suggested he had the potential. He shared that in his current role “I have been given the opportunity to fight for several mighty purposes that fuel me, including fighting for health equity, caring for people living in poverty and removing the stigma of mental illness and addiction disorders.”

Here’s Dr. Eric Dickson’s Speech.

Iseline Mendoza of Lawrence, who graduated with high honors and associate degrees in accounting and business transfer, had two messages for graduates: “be specific when addressing your goals, hopes and dreams” and “always vocalize your needs.”

Student Speaker Iseline Mendoza with her three-year old son.

To illustrate, Mendoza shared her own story. She decided to come back to school when she was pregnant with her now three-year old son, who joined her at the podium in the middle of her speech.

She thanked her parents for supporting her and her son during her educational journey and the college for providing the opportunity for her to develop leadership skills—she was president of the Student Government Association—which allowed her to grow and address issues such as student mental health and transportation to campus.

Mendoza has a full-time job in her field with Anstiss Certified Public Accountants of Chelmsford and she will be continuing her education in accounting at UMass Lowell.

Here’s Iseline Mendoza Student Speech.

There were several awards presented at commencement.

Community Partner Award: Lawrence General Hospital

President Lane Glenn presented the Community Partner Award, which was created in 2019 to recognize the people and organizations throughout the Merrimack Valley that are positively impacting the community and helping the college and its students, to Lawrence General Hospital.

One of every three Northern Essex students is enrolled in health programs and Lawrence General Hospital is the college’s biggest health care partner, providing clinical placements for all 22 of the college’s health programs, hiring graduates, and providing adjunct health instructors.

“As a community college, we are imbedded in our local community and, we count on our community partners to help us achieve our goals. I’m proud to say that Lawrence General Hospital is one of those valued partners.”

Glenn credited LGH and other local health organizations, with their response to the pandemic. “They were quick to set up testing centers and, when the vaccine was available, the hospital created vaccine clinics that were open night and day through the city. Hospital staff worked under extraordinarily difficult conditions and at the risk of their own health, to care for the residents of Greater Lawrence and prevent the spread of COVID 19.”

Mike Mancuso, chairman of the LGH board of trustees, accepted the award on behalf of LGH.

The English Language Learners Task Force, recipient of the NECC Social Justice Award

Social Justice Award: English Language Learners Task Force

The Social Justice Award, which recognizes individuals, groups, departments, and initiatives that promote values such as a commitment to equity and diversity of the advancement of human rights and social justice, was presented by Glenn to the English Language Learners Task Force, which was created in 2021 to focus on engaging the entire college community in meeting the needs of English language learners.

After surveying students, speaking with faculty and staff, researching best practices at other community colleges, and analyzing what the college is currently doing, the task force is implementing sustainable changes that will make all aspects of the English language learners experience at the college more successful.

Members, including faculty, staff, and an ESL coach, are Amy Cameron, Vanessa Desani, Sandra DeVita, Analuz Garcia, Arlen Gargagliano, Tom Greene, Rick Lizotte, Heather Mores, Marsha Parinussa Flynn, Colleen Pelczar, Janice Rogers, and Susan Wilcox.

Emeritus Recipients

Four long-time members of the college’s faculty and staff received emeritus status, Rick Lizotte, who taught English as a Second Language for 36 years and was a curriculum designer in the college’s Center for Instructional Technology, professor emeritus of English as a Second Language; Stephen Mathis, a beloved teacher at the college who retired early due to health issues, professor emeritus of English; Wendy Shaffer, the college’s longtime grant writer who raised millions of dollars for the college and its students, dean emerita of development and Dr. Jorge Santiago, who taught sociology and social welfare and served as director of the Institute for Community Workforce Development at NECC, professor emeritus of sociology.

At Northern Essex, the rank of emeritus is an honor that recognizes sustained excellence in performance, character, and meritorious service to the college.

Outstanding Alumni Award: Dr. Eric Dickson ’88

Richard Padova, who teaches history and government at Northern Essex and is a member of the NECC Alumni Aboard, presented the Outstanding Alumni Award to Dr. Eric Dickson ’88, the commencement speaker.

“Throughout the Covid-19 pandemic, he served as a leading voice in the effort to resolve and mitigate difficult challenges in the healthcare industry, working through hospital bed and staff shortages while promoting safe practices. He has been frequently quoted in publications across Massachusetts and beyond for his expertise and his work to help the Commonwealth find viable solutions for a better tomorrow. And today… he served as our esteemed commencement speaker.”

Also, last February, Dr. Dickson created the Dr. Dan Coleman Respiratory Care Scholarship in honor of his former Northern Essex professor. He made an initial contribution of $10,000 and the endowed scholarship now has over $70,000.

Here’s a NECC 2022 Graduate List.

To learn more about NECC’s 2022 Commencement, visit the website.