College Holds First VPCC Commencement

Virginia Peninsula Community College held its first commencement exercises under its new name, conferring degrees to 713 graduates May 12 at Liberty Live Church.

It was the 54th graduation ceremony overall for the college, which officially changed its name from Thomas Nelson Community College on July 1, 2022.

VPCC President Dr. Towuanna Porter Brannon stressed what a milestone graduation is, that the path the students have been on has not been easy.

“Graduating from college is no small feat,” she said. “Your accomplishment today is a really big deal. Don’t let anyone tell you that this is not a significant accomplishment. We are very proud of you. If graduating college was easy, everyone would do it.”

Newport News Mayor Phillip Jones was the guest speaker. He said challenges make life worth living, and the key to success for him is discipline. The first thing he tries to do every morning is go for a run, but it’s not just about the activity.

“It’s setting that discipline,” he said. “It’s perseverance and tenacity that will get all of us through 90 percent of life. If you build your foundations on good habits, it does not matter what life throws at you because you can get up in the morning and keep going. You can close your eyes and keep putting one foot in front of the other.”

During the ceremonies, the college handed out three awards, including the Dana B. Hamel Award to Hampton City Schools Superintendent Dr. Jeffery Smith, who will retire July 1. The award honors the first chancellor of Virginia’s Community Colleges and acknowledges individuals or entities for their outstanding public service, fostering access to higher education, and promoting an understanding of workforce development’s role as an essential part of the College’s mission.

The college’s two most prestigious student awards went to Lewis Silverman (President’s Award), and Alma Avelar (Vice President’s Award). Those awards honor exceptional academic performance. Criteria include a high cumulative grade point average, completing at least 60 semester hours of course work and receiving an associate degree.

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