'A new era': Tompkins Cortland Community College sends off 600 graduates

Tompkins Cortland Community College President Orinthia Montague addressing students Thursday night during the college's 49th annual commencement ceremony (Peter Blanchard/Cortland Voice)

DRYDEN, N.Y. — Thousands looked on as about 600 students received their diplomas Thursday night as part of the 49th annual commencement ceremony at Tompkins Cortland Community College.

The ceremony was held at the BorgWarner Morse TEC Field House on the college campus. It was the first commencement ceremony for Orinthia Montague, who was elected college president in 2017 following the retirement of Carl Haynes, who served at that position for 23 years.

"Dr. Haynes' retirement marked the end of an era, but it also marked a period of excitement and growth for TC3," Montague said.

Related: Photo Gallery: Tompkins Cortland Community College 2018 Commencement

This year's commencement speaker was TC3 Provost John Connors, who has been with the college for 24 years. During his time at the college, the campus has expanded from having one building and one gym to a full athletics facility, residence halls, a student center, a college farm program, a 10-acre solar array, and Coltivare, the downtown Ithaca restaurant that is run by the college, Montague noted.

Connors shared a number of personal experiences he had with students during his time at the college.

"I always told my students, if you are going to succeed here, you need to believe deeply in yourself, the people around you, and the future," he said. "In due time, you gained confidence. You know that success comes to those who overcome doubt and try something new, and at some point you believed in your ability to succeed here. That belief turned into action, that action turned into results, and those results turned into tonight for all of you."

Student body president Naseem Fielder noted the risks many students took by leaving their family to pursue a degree at community college.

"Leaving your family for a place like this is risky, maybe even scary for some of you. You must be social, and it's twice as much work, but you did it."