Commencement Features Special Presentations, a Final Keynote, and a Record Number of Graduates

A group of graduates in caps and gowns
September 25, 2019
Tech Talk

A-B Tech awarded degrees and diplomas to graduates during its Commencement ceremony May 11 in the U.S. Cellular Center. President Dennis King, who is retiring in January 2020, presided over the ceremony and delivered the keynote address.

A-B Tech awarded a posthumous degree to Riley C. Howell, who attended A-B Tech from 2016-18 before transferring to UNC Charlotte last year. Howell earned enough credits and had the grades necessary to receive an Associate of Applied Sciences degree in General Occupational Technology. Riley gave his life on April 30 when he attacked the gunman at UNC Charlotte, saving countless lives.

Riley Howell’s aunt and niece, Jenny and Katie Pritchard, accepted the degree on behalf of the Howell family. “A-B Tech was a place where he felt loved and nurtured. A-B Tech was a very special place to Riley,” his aunt Jenny said.

A total of 1,473 degrees, diplomas, and certificates were earned by A-B Tech students during the 2018-2019 academic year. More than 500 students walked the stage, the largest group in the history of the college.

A-B Tech presented outstanding faculty and staff awards during the commencement ceremony to Dr. Jason Fair, last year’s A-B Tech Staff member of the Year and the current statewide Staff Member of the Year for the N.C. Community College System; Marlene Frisbee, Faculty Member of the Year; Brian Newsom, Adjunct Faculty Member of the Year; Adam Woody, Continuing Education Instructor of the Year; and Laurie Manley, Staff Member of the Year.

King reprised his eight principles of life to provide advice to the graduating class. “Ten years ago, I addressed the August graduation of A-B Tech, then serving as Vice President for Student Services at the College. On that occasion, I gave advice for the students to keep in mind as they moved on to a university or into the workplace, advice I thought might serve them well in either venue,” he said.

The advice he gave was this:

  1. Celebrate your success
  2. Remain current in your chosen field
  3. Be open to change
  4. Love your profession
  5. Be humble and open to others
  6. Be a diversified person
  7. Be ethical

Graduates included Bob Campbell, nearly 74, graduating with an Associate in Arts degree. “I love to learn and be in this environment. It’s neat to be around these kids. I’m just proud to share it with them.”

Verinique (Vee) Hamilton is graduated with a degree in Health and Fitness Science. She came to A-B Tech straight out of high school and eager to continue her education. "I wasn’t exactly ready for a four-year college. A-B Tech seemed like the perfect fit for me to gradually continue learning and to earn a two-year degree," she said.

She plans to personal train part time, continue her education in health and fitness and to start a new journey into massage therapy. "What drew me to the Health and Fitness science program was my love for exercise! Not only that, but also seeing strong beautiful women in the gym who aren’t ashamed of being just that, strong and beautiful. It lit a fire inside me to empower women through exercise."

Timothy Hooks earrned his Welding Technology degree and has enrolled for Automotive classes in this fall. “It was a tough road with trials and tribulations when I ended up here,” said Hooks, who is from Greensboro. “I picked the mountains because it was a fresh start.” 

Hooks’ bumpy road started when he was 16. “I had run-ins with the law. I was in prison for seven years. I got my GED, Microsoft certification, and a diploma through the Pathways program in prison,” he said.

When Hooks was released, he had a choice to go to community college in Greenville, Charlotte or Asheville. “I knew if I went to the urban cities, I would be back in the same situation. I chose what was a better atmosphere and a better chance to succeed,” he said. Hooks enjoyed his classes at A-B Tech and credits instructor Doug Adams and chair Michael Keller for his success and brighter future. “It’s all about growth. It’s not about where you come from,” he said.

See photos from the ceremony on our Facebook page.

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