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Tompkins Cortland Graduates Class of 2012

May 24, 2012

Recognize that the only failure is the failure to try. That was one of the messages delivered to the Class of 2012 during commencement ceremonies at Tompkins Cortland Community College Thursday. The College celebrated its 43nd commencement in front of over 1,800 people in the College's gymnasium.

The class of 2012 includes 793 graduates, the largest class in the College's history. Among those participating in the ceremony was student trustee Alicia Smith, who shared her thoughts on the value of her education at the College "The true value of our time here cannot be captured in words or found in a text book. It is an experience, where much has changed," she said. "We have grown from clueless kids to the future teachers, doctors, lawyers, scientists, artists, businessmen, or whatever your dream may be. Now is our time to make a difference, and without the help of the administration and staff, we wouldn't be standing here today celebrating the hard work we have accomplished."

The main address came from John Cape, a 1971 graduate of Tompkins Cortland, who was the New York State budget director during the Pataki administration. He spoke of the opportunities that came from his time at the College. "That foundation gave me all the tools I needed to build a rich and rewarding career that eventually brought me back here this evening," he said, noting that his time at the College was the only formal classroom education he received. He urged graduates to recognize, as they move on with life, the difference between their work and their jobs. "Your job is, first, to think for yourself," he said. "Never trust other people's assumptions, but understand for yourself the facts and numbers – know where they came from and how they were derived. Whatever your endeavor, before you do your work, make sure you do your job."

Cape also talked about what's ahead for this class. "Your generation is a time of tremendous opportunity if you only know where, and how, to look. Browning once wrote, 'A person's reach should exceed their grasp, or what's a heaven for?' Those are words to live by. Don't settle for the practical, or even the possible – this college has made you better than that."

President Carl Haynes was the last speaker. "Tonight we celebrate your achievement – it's something you've earned through a combination of inspiration, initiative, hard work, and perseverance. Whether you realize it now, through the act of completing this degree or certificate, you have undergone a transformation," said Haynes, who talked about the new responsibilities each graduate now has as a result of this transformation. "This degree enables you to pursue opportunities that did not exist for you previously, and it is your responsibility to make the most of those opportunities and truly put your education to work."

President Haynes ended by praising the community service projects undertaken by this class, including raising over $25,000 for cancer services in Tompkins and Cortland Counties. "The evidence is clear: you understand the value of giving back to your community. And you understand the rewards of your service. I want to encourage you to not only continue your commitment to this service, but to use your academic achievements and abilities to innovate in this area as much as you innovate in your professional lives. As the writer Ralph Waldo Emerson once said, 'It is one of the most beautiful compensations of this life that no one can sincerely try to help another without helping themselves.”

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