Saturday, May 12 saw what was arguably the largest crowd of graduates, family, and friends to ever gather in the center of campus for Commencement 2018. With clear skies and a forecast of temperatures in the mid-nineties, the event began promptly at 10 am. Those awarded degrees, diplomas, and certificates still felt the heat in their black robes and with seats in the shining sun.

The SCC Ensemble performed the prelude and processional under the direction of Tim Haley. Soloist Parker Watson beautifully sang the Star-Spangled Banner. Under the direction of Jennifer Thomas, the SCC Choir and Choir Alumni performed “Who Lives, Who Dies, Who Tells Your Story” from Hamilton.

After a welcome from President John Dempsey and Student Government Association President Austin Padilla, Chairman of the Board of Trustees George W. Little gave a welcome from the Board of Trustees.

Distinguished Alumni

Peter Hatch, the 2018 Distinguished Alumnus Award winner, was recognized by Vice President of Academic Affairs Rebecca Roush.

Distinguished Alumni are unique individuals who have been chosen and recognized for their outstanding contribution to their profession and their community. They have made substantial contributions for the good of others and have served as a positive motivational force for those around them.

Hatch graduated with an Associate in Applied Science in Landscape Gardening in 1977. From 1977 to 2012, Hatch worked as the Director of Gardens and Grounds for the Thomas Jefferson Foundation where he was responsible for the maintenance, interpretation, and restoration of the 2,400-acre landscape at Monticello.

Hatch gave the graduates beneficial words of encouragement after being presented with the award. “I hope you’re as thankful for your Sandhills education as I am,” he said. “I cherish the technical skills I learned here.”

In closing, he said, “Receiving this diploma today, for many of you, marks a passage into adulthood. You need to pretend you’re an adult, to act like an adult. Success in your career will depend a lot on the quality of your self-discipline. But please, please, go out into the world wide-eyed and playful like a child. Be joyful. Be silly, Have fun.”

Special Recognition

Recognized for their decades of contribution to the college, Larry and Mary Margaret McNeill were asked to come forward. Larry McNeill taught English at the college for 50 years. Mary Margaret McNeill is an alumnus of the college, has served on the college’s Foundation Board for over two decades, and is involved with the Sandhills Community College Alumni Association.

The Board of Trustees conferred upon Mary Margaret McNeill the degree of Doctor of Laws, honoris causa.

To honor Larry McNeill’s achievements, as well as those of his wife, the green space in front of the Katharine L. Boyd Library will be named The McNeill-Woodward Green.

Dempsey said, “Just as this beautiful gathering place sits at the very heart of our campus, so too have the contributions of Drs. Larry and Mary Margaret McNeill – in the classroom, in the alumni association, in campus leadership, and in philanthropy – enriched the very heart of this college.”

Student Awards

Austin Padilla was presented with The Mary Luman Meyer Award. Given to the student who contributed most to the life of the college during their two years at Sandhills, Padilla earned an Associate of Arts degree. Rebecca Roush, VP of Academic Affairs presented the award and said of Padilla, “Austin has been involved in many aspects of the college during his time here. Whether acting in his role as student body President, a Student Trustee, or simply a student in the classroom, he has been an extraordinary leader. Austin plans to transfer to UNC Chapel Hill to pursue an Economics Degree.”

The Faculty Award was presented to Paige Garner for outstanding character and academic achievement. The faculty of the college chooses the award.

Mary Katherine Leaf was presented with The President’s Award. Leaf had the highest academic average with the most credit hours earned. As such, she was the Valedictorian of the Class of 2017.

Following the awards presentation, graduates crossed the stage to receive their degrees. Approximately 425 students participated in the event this year. For the academic year 2017-18, Sandhills awarded 599 degrees, 56 diplomas and 213 certificates to 700 students.



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