Seize the opportunity

SARANAC LAKE – U.S. Rep. Bill Owens urged members of North Country Community College’s Class of 2014 to take advantage of the opportunity that their education has provided them as they begin the next chapter in their lives.

Owens, D-Plattsburgh, was the guest speaker at the college’s 47th annual commencement ceremony, held Saturday at the Sparks Athletic Complex on the college’s Saranac Lake campus. More than 350 two-year degrees and certificates were awarded.

Owens described the commencement as “the culmination of one opportunity.

“You had the opportunity to get an education,” he said. “That is an incredible opportunity that occurs not for everyone and certainly not in every country. Taking advantage of opportunity, however, takes courage. You need to step through the door. You need to take action. That is something I hope you keep with you for your entire lives – both the lack of fear, but also the initiative to act.”

The most important things the graduates learned at the college, Owens said, was the capacity to think and learn.

“Those are your most important qualities as you go out into the workforce,” he said. “You need to be able to adjust, adapt, to learn and to think. Your skills in analyzation will be the skills that drive you forward, whether it’s in your career, your marriage or your avocations. It is those skills that will most likely control your destiny.”

Owens said that when he was in high school and college, people often talked about the importance of finding a job that you love. Very few people really have that opportunity, he said.

“What I think you need to have as a parallel track is the idea that you need to work toward what is available to you to which you can apply your skills,” he said. “That comes back to what jobs are available in my community and, ‘How am I going to take advantage of what is here?’ We want you to remain in our community and be contributors to it, and part of the way which you are able to accomplish that is by being a person who seeks opportunity and takes advantage of that opportunity.”

NCCC President Steve Tyrell congratulated members of the Class of 2014 on their success.

“This is a special day for you,” he said. “It represents a new educational credential served and the next step in your discovery in life. I wish you all the very best.”

In addition to the degrees awarded to the graduates, Tyrell also recognized several NCCC faculty members with awards Saturday. Two retiring faculty members were saluted. Bill Currier, who worked at the college’s Ticonderoga campus and retired in January, wasn’t there for Saturday’s ceremony.

Johnna MacDougall, who’s taught massage therapy, is also retiring after 12 years at the college. She received a standing ovation from the crowd. Tyrell said MacDougall has been integral part of the college’s Saranac Lake community and is “known throughout the North Country for her incredible passion to teach others about finding balance and wellness in their lives.”

Tyrell also announced Saturday that Renee Poirier, an assistant professor in social sciences, has received a State University of New York Chancellor’s Award for excellence in teaching. Poirier, who has been at the college for 12 years, was brought to the stage and given a medallion by Tyrell. He said the award reflects her “mastery in teaching, her dedication to students, her adherence to the highest academic standards and continued professional achievement.”

The college also created a new award this year. The President’s Award for Excellence in Education and Service was given to two people: Garry Hilling, an adjunct faculty member in the college’s math and science departments, and NCCC Trustee Gerald Blair, a former superintendent of the Lake Placid Central School District who’s been in the education field for 50 years.