by Kelly Rogge
As Kansas City Kansas Community College faculty lined both sides of the aisle, there were nothing but smiles, cheers and the occasional high five from graduates.
More than 350 students participated in commencement exercises Wednesday at the KCKCC Field House. Including graduates from December 2013, May 2014 and summer 2014, KCKCC will have more than 900 students graduate with associate degrees or certificates this year.
“I wholeheartedly congratulate each of you on your willingness, your determination and your perseverance to take this very significant step of completing the first two years of your education goals here,” said KCKCC President Doris Givens. “Congratulations to all of the graduates.”
In attendance were members of the Leavenworth High School Junior ROTC Color Guard, who presented the colors and KCKCC Jazz faculty and students, who presented the prelude music as well as an arrangement of Pomp and Circumstance by KCKCC’s own Jim Mair. A posthumous degree was awarded to the family of Robert Goss, a culinary arts student at KCKCC-TEC who passed away last fall.
The event also included Alayna Hernandez, who performed the National Anthem, and Student Senate President Wendy Monarres, who introduced the commencement speaker, Major Gen. Karen E. LeDoux.
LeDoux has a Bachelor of Science degree from Central Missouri State University in Warrensburg, Mo., and a MMS degree in strategic studies from the U.S. Army War College. She has also attended the Combined Arms and Services Staff School and the U.S. Army Command and General Staff College. She has served as a training officer, deputy commander and commander of the Logistics Civil Augmentation Program Support Unit, commander of the 94th Training Division, commander of the 55th Sustainment Brigade and commanding general of the Army Material Command – Southwest Asia/G4.
LeDoux is currently the deputy program manager and research fellow for logistics and technology Group at the Logistics Management Institute in McLean, Va. Among the many U.S. decorations and badges she has received are the Legion of Merit, the Bronze Star Medal, the Joint Service Commendation Medal and the Army Achievement Medal.
“Be open to unexpected opportunities. Take action and remember that you can’t always control people around you, but you can control you,” she said. “Find joy. You have to slow down enough to appreciate the many things you will experience. Be kind to your friends, coworkers and family. Be kind to yourself. Everyone is just trying to do the best they can.”
Givens spent part of the ceremony sharing the stories of some of the graduates. These stories included:
• Dana and Kathy Garardy. Not only are the two members of the KCKCC Class of 2014, they are the parents of Aurora Gerardy, who served as color guard commander in the Leavenworth High School Junior ROTC.
• Sgt. Robert Morris, an 88-year-old World War II veteran who attended commencement to see his granddaughter Jennifer Morris graduate. He spent half of the war in captivity in Germany and received two purple hearts. Morris, a member of Phi Theta Kappa at KCKCC, was also recognized for what she has overcome on her path toward graduation. She is the first in her family to attend college and get a degree. After numerous setbacks including a severe car accident, losing everything in Hurricane Katrina and a drug relapse, she has successfully completed her associate’s degree and will continue her education at the University of Kansas.
• Tiara R. Anderson was the first in her family to graduate from high school, while caring for a baby, and is the first to graduate from college.
• Robin Runnels, who is on her way to fulfilling her lifelong dream of becoming a nurse even though the 55-year-old was a junior high school dropout.
“I encourage each of you into take the time to reflect. You need to understand where you have come from as you figure out what the next step will be,” said Don Ash, Wyandotte County Sheriff and president of the KCKCC Board of Trustees. “Stop and think about the people who have helped you get to this point. Then take the time to thank those people with a sincere heart. Express your gratitude by finding a way to give back.”
For more information on Kansas City Kansas Community College, visit its website at www.kckcc.edu.
Kelly Rogge is the public information supervisor at Kansas City Kansas Community College.