Completing its yearlong 50th anniversary celebration, Feather River College conferred 15 bachelor’s degrees, 227 associate degrees and 92 certificates upon 221 candidates when the college held its commencement ceremony May 24 at the Quincy campus.
Bright balloons, noisemakers, decorated mortarboards and a packed auditorium of proud family and friends filled the evening with a festive atmosphere.
Former California State Senator Marty Block, the FRC Board of Trustees, the college’s professors and many administrators also attended to congratulate the 49th class of associate-degree grads and FRC’s second graduating class of bachelor’s degree recipients.
“For most of the class of 2019, you will be the last to have been born in the 1990s,” said FRC President-Superintendent Kevin Trutna, Ph.D. “You’re no longer millennials, you are Generation Z. In your lifetime, a blackberry started out as a piece of fruit, became a communications device and is now just a piece of fruit again.”
Laughter rippled through the room and then it was on to the business at hand.
Of note were a number of students who earned multiple degrees and/or certificates: 46 were awarded two, 17 earned three, six received four, and three students earned six different degrees and certificates, Trutna told the capacity crowd.
“Included in these numbers are graduates who cannot walk across the stage tonight,” the president-superintendent said. “A total of 39 people are graduating from Feather River College while in prison. Our successful Incarcerated Students Program (ISP) helps inmates improve their lives.”
When the applause subsided, the college president elaborated on the reality of working for one’s education while serving time.
“One of our ISP students recently graduated while in prison,” Trutna said. “He has since been paroled and came here to graduate tonight. He set a course to improve his life and is now contributing to society instead of taking away from it.”
Trutna asked the grads to imagine the difficulties to be overcome while being locked up and compare those to troubles they have faced.
“I would like this whole place to give it up for Jason Anglero who graduates tonight with an Associate of Arts degree in Fine Arts and Humanities,” FRC’s president said and the audience roared cheers of approval.
Students from afar
FRC graduated 99 men and 121 women this year and 21 percent earned membership in the prestigious Phi Theta Kappa honor society.
The 2019 graduates came to Plumas County from throughout California and 32 other states. There were also graduates from three other countries receiving degrees this year — Australia, Norway and the United Kingdom.
FRC’s most popular degree this year, the Associate Degree in General Studies for Social & Behavioral Sciences, was awarded to 60. Next in order came 24 graduates receiving the Associate Degree Liberal Arts in Fine Arts and Humanities; 22 degrees in Licensed Vocational Nursing; 26 certificates in Licensed Vocational Nursing; 12 graduates earning economicscertificates; and 11 students receiving certificates in accounting.
Trutna also said FRC’s oldest graduate this year is 63 years young and the youngest graduate is 17.
“This is a special note,” the college president added. “He is graduating from FRC tonight and from high school next week.”
Former senator speaks
Trutna welcomed this year’s honored guest and commencement speaker, former State Senator Marty Block, J.D. of San Diego.
During his extensive legal and public service career and his time in the California State Senate, Block sponsored the legislation that allowed 15 community colleges to offer an applied bachelor’s degree, including FRC’s program in equine and ranch management.
Block has described that legislation as the most important bill of his career because of its positive impact on workforce development in California.
“It is fair to say that FRC would not have the Bachelor Degree in Equine and Ranch Management without his determination,” Trutna told the crowd. “He sponsored the legislation multiple times until he could broker a deal for all constituents that served all regional areas of California and he is a true friend to Feather River College.”
Personable and witty, Block engaged the audience for several moments before stepping up to shake hands and present diplomas to the 2019 bachelor’s degree candidates.
“I am delighted to be here and I tip my hat to the graduates,” he said. “You guys have done an amazing job. You’ve had tremendous hurdles and given so much of yourselves.”
He mentioned the time it takes to complete an education, speaking about time away from families, time spent in classrooms.
“A lot of you have worked while you’ve gone to school. It’s been a great sacrifice, but I cannot say enough about your perseverance, your intellect, your enthusiasm and the energy that got you here. Remember, luck is where preparation meets opportunity. Because you have this degree from FRC, you will be luckier for the rest of your life.”
Faculty, grads share inspiration
The ceremony also included a faculty address by Assistant Professor of English William Lombardi, Ph.D., chosen by popular demand of the student body.
Lombardi entertained the students with stories of the importance of perseverance toward their goals and said they’ve all seen him riding his bike to work — not the fastest commuter on the road, but steadily making his way every day and that’s what it takes in life.
For her outstanding contributions to campus life, the cheerful and lively Hailey Rogers delivered the student address. At one point, Rogers, who will continue her studies in early childhood education in Ohio this fall, had the audience groaning and laughing simultaneously. She described the benefits of technology for a Generation Z education, except when you’re pressing “send” to submit your paper at 11:59 p.m. and the wi-fi goes down so you’re wandering all over the dorms trying to get a signal. At last, your assignment goes through — but now it’s 12:05 a.m. and your homework is late.
The program was nearing time to present the distinguished state assembly awards, recognition of three levels of honors, and well over 200 degrees and certificates when FRC Biology Professor Anna Thompson, M.A. welcomed Ehren Bentz, Ph.D. to the podium.
A former U.S. Marine (2004-07) and 2010 FRC graduate, Bentz now has a doctoral degree in molecular biology and was presented with the 2019 FRC Outstanding Alumnus Award. He told the graduates that he had done poorly in his early studies due to various reasons, but once he made up his mind to achieve his higher education goals, he began to excel and their commitment and dedication will make all the difference in their own lives. Don’t hesitate to dream, he urged the students.