Dr. Stephen L. Capelli addresses Wor-Wic graduates
May 12, 2017

During Wor-Wic Community College commencement ceremonies at the Wicomico Youth and Civic Center, Dr. Stephen L. Capelli, Wor-Wic’s senior vice president for academic affairs, summarized some of the sought-after skills the graduates have gained through their college experiences, and encouraged them to become life-long learners.

Capelli told those assembled that a 2016 research study that measured earnings over a 40-year career, by education level completed, showed that, on average, an associate degree graduate will earn 24 percent more than someone with only a high school diploma. Using a figure of $1 million as an example, he said that an associate degree graduate would earn $240,000 more. He also said that “the same research study showed that bachelor’s degree completers earn, on average, 66 percent more than high school graduates, or $660,000.” Capelli then asked the graduates, “Have you selected that bachelor’s degree program and institution yet?”

Capelli told the graduates that, in addition to the knowledge they gained in their specific majors, each of them has demonstrated important characteristics and traits that will serve them well. He said that “you have increased your ability to learn.” He also said that they have learned how to work well in teams, communicate effectively, be flexible and solve problems.

“The traits that you have honed are the same skills that four-year colleges and universitites, and maybe more importantly, employers, are seeking,” Capelli said.

Capelli concluded by telling the graduates that one thing everyone has in common is that learning is never ending. Reminding them of an old saying, “success breeds success,” he said, “Even if you don’t want to learn, we must because the world that we live in has become more technical every day. I encourage each of you to be excellent and willing life-long learners, whether it’s learning in an educational institution or on the job. You have learned how to learn, so use those skills to their fullest extent.”

Martin T. Neat of Salisbury, 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 Capelli, Dr. Ray Hoy, college president, presented him with a plaque on behalf of the 2017 graduating class. Then, in recognition of his 33 years of service to the college, Neat, acting on behalf of the board, announced that the board of trustees has bestowed upon Capelli the honorary title of vice president emeritus in his retirement and presented him with a commemorative plaque.

Bryan Newton, vice president for enrollment management and student services, introduced the student speaker, Jessica Rickels of Salisbury, who is receiving her associate degree in chemical dependency counseling.

Addressing the Class of 2017, Rickels shared her personal experiences of how Wor-Wic changed her life.

“I’m a young mother in her late 20s who has two small children and never actually graduated from high school,” Rickels said. “I am the daughter of an addict and a first generation college graduate. I struggled my entire primary education because of issues out of my control and I had long since given up on academics when I started at Wor-Wic.”

Rickels told her fellow graduates that her son and godmother motivated her to succeed, and although she had to overcome many obstacles, she didn’t do it alone. After earning her first “A,” she repeatedly made the dean’s list and was inducted into an academic honor society. In addition to her family, she said that Wor-Wic’s faculty and staff took a personal interest in her and her education.

“The sense of community within our buildings is hard to find anywhere else and its influence doesn’t stop on the campus either,” Rickels said. “Many counselors, nurses, police officers and other professionals have been shaped by Wor-Wic too,” she explained. “They started here and went everywhere.”

Rickels told her classmates that “Wor-Wic not only gave us the opportunity to learn about one another, but gave us the chance to better ourselves for ourselves and our community.”

“I am a huge advocate of school,” Rickels added, “especially this school. I am also a huge advocate for community, especially ours. The goal of Wor-Wic is to help us better ourselves through education so that we can go out and make our communities better. Educating ourselves is the best thing we can do for ourselves, the people around us and our community.”

She concluded by saying: “This may be the end of the chapter, but this is not the end of our journeys, because now, we will move from this community to the greater community and continue to do amazing things.”

After graduating from Wor-Wic, Rickels plans to pursue bachelor’s and master’s degrees in social work at Salisbury University.

General studies was the most popular major among members of the graduating class. One of the general studies program graduates, Brendan Weldon of Parsonsburg, is the youngest graduate in Wor-Wic’s Class of 2017. At 17 years old, he walked across the stage at his college commencement ceremony before participating in graduation ceremonies at Delmar Middle and Senior High School. Weldon said his mother encouraged him to attend Wor-Wic to get a head start on college. He plans to major in cybersecurity at the University of Maryland University College this fall.

Following general studies, nursing was the second most popular major. One of the graduates receiving an associate degree in nursing, Perri Pruett of Salisbury, was pursuing a career in counseling when she realized that what she really wanted to be was a nurse. Pregnant at the time, she started taking the prerequisite classes to enter the program. After being accepted into the program on her first try, she juggled the needs of two children, a demanding nursing program, including clinical rotations, and her job in retail. “Wor-Wic’s been great to me,” she said. After graduating with her nursing degree and a 3.62 grade point average, she plans to take her licensure exam at the end of the month and then enroll in a bachelor of science in nursing program online, so that she can spend as much time with her children as possible.

Other graduates received degrees or certificates in accounting, business, computer studies, criminal justice, education, electronics, emergency medical services, hotel-motel-restaurant management, occupational therapy assistant, office technology, physical therapist assistant, radiologic technology and science.

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, Queen Anne’s and other counties in Maryland, as well as from nearby states.

In addition to the speakers, dignitaries included other members of the college's board of trustees, Russell W. Blake of Pocomoke City, Morgan Hazel of Salisbury and Lorraine Purnell-Ayres of Snow Hill; members of the Wicomico County Council, John Cannon of Salisbury, president, and Joe Holloway of Parsonsburg; members of the Worcester County Commissioners, Jim Bunting of Bishopville, president, and Chip Bertino of Berlin. Other guests included Adelaide C. Eckardt, R-37, of Cambridge; Sen. James N. Mathias Jr., D-38, of Ocean City; Del. Chris Adams, R-37B, of Hebron; Del. Mary Beth Carozza, R-38C, of Ocean City; Del. Charles J. Otto, R-38A, of Princess Anne; and Del. Sheree Sample-Hughes, D-37A, of Salisbury. Rev. David Michaud of St. Peter’s Episcopal Church in Salisbury 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, Martin T. Neat of Salisbury, chairperson of the board of trustees at Wor-Wic; Bryan Newton of Salisbury, vice president for enrollment management and student services at Wor-Wic; Dr. Ray Hoy of Salisbury, president of the college; Dr. Stephen L. Capelli of Salisbury, Wor-Wic’s senior vice president for academic affairs, who was the commencement speaker; John Cannon of Salisbury, president of the Wicomico County Council; and Jim Bunting of Bishopville, president of the Worcester County Commissioners.

WICOMICO COUNCIL. Wicomico County officials attended Wor-Wic Community College commencement exercises at the Wicomico Youth and Civic Center. Shown from left are John Cannon, president of the Wicomico County Council; Jessica Rickels of Salisbury, student speaker, who received her chemical dependency counseling degree; and Joe Holloway, a member of the Wicomico County Council.

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 Leigh Biggerman, a physical therapist assistant graduate, Danielle Fiore, a radiologic technology graduate, and Christopher Dombrosky, a general studies and business transfer graduate.

FROM NORTHERN WORCESTER. Jim Bunting of Bishopville, president of the Worcester County Commissioners; and Chip Bertino of Berlin, a member of the Worcester County Commissioners; congratulate some of the graduates from northern 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 Bertino, are Jessica Plumley of Berlin, a general studies graduate, Britaney Dunkle of Berlin, a business transfer graduate, and Lance Ward of Bishopville, a science transfer graduate.

FROM SOUTHERN WORCESTER. Del. Mary Beth Carozza, R-38C, of Ocean City, 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 Carozza, are Kathryn Bashor of Pocomoke City, an occupational therapy assistant graduate, Jason Bashor, Kathryn’s husband, who received his computer studies degree, Paige Pusey of Snow Hill, a general studies graduate, and Brian Banks of Newark, a hotel-motel-restaurant management 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 Lawrence Towles of Deal Island, a criminal justice and emergency medical services graduate, Jenna Drewer of Crisfield, a business transfer graduate, and Rose Okinyih of Princess Anne, who majored in education.

GRADUATES. Sen. Adelaide C. Eckardt, R-37, of Cambridge; Del. Chris Adams, R-37B, of Hebron; and Del. Sheree Sample-Hughes, D-37A, of Salisbury; shown from left in the back row, congratulate some of the graduates at Wor-Wic Community College commencement exercises at the Wicomico Youth and Civic Center. Shown in the front row, from left, are Brittany Jones of Vienna, a radiologic technology graduate, Perri Pruett of Salisbury, a nursing graduate, and Jasmine Jones of Hebron, a hotel-motel-restaurant management graduate.