Not even a last minute change of venue brought on by rain showers could dampen the enthusiasm of the Class of 2008 as they waited for the culmination of years of study.
To the strains of “Pomp and Circumstance,” some 400 students, capped and robed with more than a few wearing the symbols of exceptional academic achievement, strode into the Gaucho gym, surrounded by friends and family, applauding, cheering and shouting words of praise.
After a well deserved tribute to the facilities crew that managed to move the entire event from the football field to the gym in a matter of two hours, SOCCCD Vice President John S. Williams began the ceremony with an invocation, which because of its overtly Christian oriented message, prompted some members of the faculty to silently display banners admonishing the board to practice diversity and sensitivity. This was not the first time this issue has raised itself as the Board has previously ignored California statutes which expressly prohibit such religious expressions at events such as the commencement. The ceremony then proceeded with remarks from other members of the Board, including retiring Saddleback President Dr. Richard D. McCullough and Chancellor Dr. Raghu P. Mathur. Guest speaker Dr Este Geraghty gave a spirited challenge to the graduating students to constantly strive to better themselves as well as the world for those around them who do not have access to the gift of education as they have.
Student speaker Paige Chastain, who graduated cum laude, gave a moving speech on how her experience at Saddleback changed her life.
“I was a high school dropout and a single mother,” she began in her closing remarks. “I never thought I would get anywhere, but I stand here today as an example of what can be achieved with kind of support and encouragement I received while a student at Saddleback.”
A very special moment arrived in the middle of the ceremony when staffer Erin Maremont gave a stirring a cappella performance of “The Star Spangled Banner.” The limited space had derailed the scheduled performance by the Saddleback College Wind Ensemble, and Maremont, with just a few moments to prepare, brought the audience to its feet with her beautiful voice and heartfelt emotion.
Following were the presentations of the “Professor of the Year” award and the Conferral of Emeritus Status. Health Services and Human Sciences Professor Janine O’Buchon, and Associate Faculty Member Mildred Landecker of the same department, were recognized for their teaching excellence. Ms. Landecker also has the laudable distinction of being the longest serving faculty member on the Saddleback Campus.
Seven faculty members, including Dr. McCullough, received Emeritus Status.
Then came the moment that many had been waiting for; the presentation of the Class of 2008 by Academic Senate President Carmen Cortez Dominguez, D.M.A, and it’s acceptance by President McCullough. The conferral of degrees proceeded with precision, and shortly thereafter, the graduated students, flanked by their professors, stepped into their new lives to the sound of “America the Beautiful.”