Founder addresses Wor-Wic graduates
May 15, 2015

In conjunction with the 40th anniversary celebration of Wor-Wic Community College, Robert W. Cook, one of the founders of the college, gave members of this year’s graduating class a brief history lesson on how Wor-Wic came to be -- using how the college overcame difficulties in its early years to communicate his message to them about the principles of success they might want to follow in their lives.

At Wor-Wic’s commencement at the Wicomico Youth and Civic Center, Cook told the graduates how he and others recognized the need for a community college on the Lower Eastern Shore and how they developed and implemented a plan to bring one to the region. Cook told the crowd that it may seem “like a no brainer” to them, but there was “stiff resistance on many fronts.” He explained that local government leaders, public school officials, taxpayers and some business and industry owners thought the costs were too great and that the public schools, Salisbury University and the University of Maryland Eastern Shore were already providing the educational programs and services area residents needed.

The underlying problem, Cook said, was a complete lack of understanding of the role and value of a community college. “So the first thing we did was have a labor market/industry needs study to show the need for this institution and the type of education a community college would bring,” he said. “The second thing we did was take the show on the road.” Cook explained how he and Frank Morris, another Wor-Wic founder, made presentations to county and city officials, business leaders, chambers of commerce and service clubs.

He described how Wor-Wic’s first location was in a storefront in the old Salisbury mall, and that the first college president, Dr. Maner, was originally hired as a consultant to help bring a community college to the region. Cook told the graduates that classes were originally held all over the region in all kinds of spaces. “After almost 20 years,” Cook continued, “our county governments recognized the need for a campus, and our trustees acquired 173 acres on Route 50, where you have been attending classes in the most modern facilities on a beautiful campus.”

Cook reminded the graduates of life lessons that could be learned from how the community college came to be created. “Recognize the need for whatever it is, identify the opportunity,” he said. “Have a vision. … Know the importance of a plan and how to develop and implement one.”

Cook also stressed the importance of being persistent and radiating conviction. He added, “Develop your allies and friends. Identify and eliminate obstacles. And above all, be a leader. Prove your leadership by doing these things.”

Russell W. Blake of Pocomoke City, chairperson of Wor-Wic’s board of trustees, introduced the commencement speaker, members of the board of trustees and other guests on stage. After the commencement address by Cook, Dr. Ray Hoy, college president, presented him with a plaque on behalf of the 2015 graduating class.

Dr. Stephen L. Capelli, vice president for academic and student affairs, introduced the student speaker, Jasmine Murray of Federalsburg, who graduated from Wor-Wic with an associate degree in elementary education/generic special education PreK-12.

Addressing her fellow graduates, Murray shared her personal experiences of how Wor-Wic changed her life.

“I came not knowing anybody, I was shy and I didn’t know what to expect because this was the first college that I was attending,” Murray said. “However, during my time here, I have learned how to open up and be more outgoing and I have met the most amazing people that I never thought I would have met.”

Murray told her classmates that even though she came across some challenges during her time at the college, as they also probably had, Wor-Wic gave her the help and support she needed to get through it all. “It is only this school where we can get the best education, participate in the best educational clubs, have the opportunity to meet other great students around the campus and go around to any building and find the nicest staff that are ready to work with us and get us whatever we need,” she said.

Murray explained that not only did she learn how to become more independent and responsible for her work while at Wor-Wic, she also learned how to build a strong team together with her fellow officers in the Alpha Nu Omicron chapter of the Phi Theta Kappa (PTK) international honor society.

In conclusion, Murray told the graduating class that by taking a leadership role in PTK, she was able to do many things, such as work with the professors on projects and have lunch with the college president, which she would not have experienced otherwise. “All of these things in some way taught me how to become a better leader and student on our campus.”

She concluded by saying, “I plan to continue to be a leader and I challenge the class of 2015 to continue to be leaders as well.”

After graduating from Wor-Wic, Murray plans to pursue a bachelor’s degree in elementary education at Salisbury University.

General studies was the most popular major among members of the graduating class. Alyssa Hazel, 17, of Hebron, a dean’s list student with a 3.45 grade point average (GPA) and the youngest member of the graduating class, is receiving her general studies degree from Wor-Wic and her high school diploma at the same time. Hazel completed her freshman year at Mardela Middle and High School, where she made all As, but felt like she was “treading water.” Her parents encouraged their 15-year-old daughter to challenge herself so she sent her SAT scores to Wor-Wic, where she was accepted in the fall of 2012. After one year in public high school, Hazel became a homeschooled high school student who was dual enrolled at Wor-Wic. The course work Hazel completed at Wor-Wic counted for both college and high school credits. She plans to pursue a double major in music and biology at the University of Maryland College Park this fall.

Following general studies, nursing was the second most popular major. David Hearn of Princess Anne was one of this year’s nursing graduates. Hearn originally wanted to become a mechanic. While in high school, he was involved in an accident with a car while on his motorcycle. When the first person at the scene to help him was a nurse, his life plan changed and he knew that this is what he wanted to pursue as a career. While still a student at Washington High School, Hearn took classes at Wor-Wic as a dual-enrolled student, trying to get a head start on his nursing degree. He was admitted into the program and finished the certificate (LPN) program last year, after which he started working at Peninsula Regional Medical Center (PRMC) as a float LPN nurse, going wherever he is needed, such as Berlin, Snow Hill or Salisbury. After graduation, Hearn would like to move into the ER/trauma unit at PRMC after passing his licensure examination and becoming an RN. He also plans to pursue his bachelor’s degree in nursing at Wilmington University.

Other graduates received degrees or certificates in accounting, business, chemical dependency counseling, computer studies, construction engineering technology, criminal justice, education, electronics, emergency medical services, environmental science, hotel-motel-restaurant management, manufacturing, office technology, radiologic technology, science and turf management.

The majority of the graduates were from Salisbury or other parts of Wicomico County, followed by Worcester and Somerset counties. Graduates were also from Dorchester, Caroline, Talbot and other counties in Maryland, as well as from nearby states.

In addition to the speakers, dignitaries included members of the college's board of trustees, Martin T. Neat, vice chair, Andrew W. Booth and Morgan Hazel, all of Salisbury, and Velda E. Henry of Berlin; Wicomico County Executive Bob Culver, and members of the Wicomico County Council, John Cannon, president, Matt Holloway, vice president, Ernest Davis, Larry Dodd and Marc Kilmer, all of Salisbury, Joe Holloway of Parsonsburg; and members of the Worcester County Commissioners, Jim Bunting of Bishopville and Diana Purnell of Berlin. Other guests seated on stage included Sen. Adelaide C. Eckardt, R-37, of Cambridge; Del. Carl Anderton Jr., R-38B, of Delmar, Md.; Del. Mary Beth Carozza, R-38C, of Ocean City; Del. Charles J. Otto, R-38A, of Princess Anne; and Del. Johnny Mautz, R-37B, of St. Michael’s. The Rev. Dr. Richard Vance, senior pastor of St. Luke’s United Methodist Church in Denton and a 1984 graduate and former instructor in Wor-Wic’s radiologic technology program, gave the invocation and benediction.

ON STAGE. Some of the officials seated on stage for Wor-Wic Community College commencement exercises at the Wicomico Youth and Civic Center are shown, from left, Russell W. Blake of Pocomoke City, chairperson of the board of trustees at Wor-Wic; Dr. Ray Hoy of Salisbury, president of the college; Robert W. Cook of Salisbury, a founder of the college who was the commencement speaker; Jim Bunting of Bishopville, president of the Worcester County Commissioners; John Cannon of Salisbury, president of the Wicomico County Council; and Bob Culver of Salisbury, Wicomico County executive.

WICOMICO COUNCIL. Wicomico County officials attended Wor-Wic Community College commencement exercises at the Wicomico Youth and Civic Center. Shown in the front row from left, are Alyssa Hazel of Hebron, Wor-Wic’s youngest graduate who received her general studies degree, with Bob Culver, Wicomico County executive, John Cannon, council president, and Matt Holloway, council vice president. Shown in the back row, from left, are council members Ernest Davis, Larry Dodd, Joe Holloway and Marc Kilmer.

FROM SOUTHERN WORCESTER. Russell W. Blake of Pocomoke City, chairperson of the board of trustees at Wor-Wic Community College, congratulates some of the graduates from southern Worcester County who received their associate degrees at Wor-Wic Community College commencement exercises at the Wicomico Youth and Civic Center. From left, next to Blake, are Kelly Cowger of Newark, a hotel-motel-restaurant management graduate, Roberta Thornton of Pocomoke City, an accounting graduate, and Kenneth Wharton of Snow Hill, a general studies graduate.

FROM OCEAN CITY. Del. Mary Beth Carozza, R-38C, of Ocean City, congratulates some of the graduates from Ocean City who received their associate degrees at Wor-Wic Community College commencement exercises at the Wicomico Youth and Civic Center. From left, next to Carozza, are Jasmine Johnson, an office technology graduate, Alina Vartan, an electronics transfer graduate, and Gabriel Berecz, a criminal justice graduate.

BERLIN GRADUATES. Jim Bunting of Bishopville, president of the Worcester County Commissioners, congratulates some of the graduates from Berlin who received their associate degrees at commencement exercises at the Wicomico Youth and Civic Center. From left, next to Purnell, are Kasi Queen, an education transfer graduate, and Jimmy Lawson, an accounting graduate.

SOMERSET GRADUATES. Del. Charles J. Otto, R-38A, of Princess Anne, congratulates some of the graduates from Somerset County who received their associate degrees at Wor-Wic Community College commencement exercises at the Wicomico Youth and Civic Center. From left, next to Otto, are Maghen Walterman of Crisfield, a hotel-motel-restaurant management graduate, Brittany Tacklin of Westover, a general studies graduate, and David Hearn of Princess Anne, a nursing graduate.

FROM THE UPPER SHORE. Sen. Adelaide C. Eckardt, R-37, of Cambridge, and Del. Johnny Mautz, R-37B, of St. Michael’s, congratulate some of the graduates from the upper shore who received their associate degrees at Wor-Wic Community College commencement exercises at the Wicomico Youth and Civic Center. From left, next to Mautz, are Jasmine Murray of Federalsburg, an education transfer graduate who was the student commencement speaker, Ashley Hall of Oxford, a business transfer graduate, and Katelyn Whitzel of Hurlock, a general studies graduate.