Chris Gray, Ph.D. 

Founding President, Erie County Community College of Pennsylvania 

Last weekend, we honored our first group of EC3 graduates at our first annual commencement ceremony, a momentous occasion filled with pride, joy, and celebration. Held at Erie West, the event marked the culmination of years of hard work and dedication by our graduates, and it was unbelievably amazing! With a vibrant atmosphere and a sense of anticipation in the air, EC3’s inaugural graduation ceremony was a testament to the students’ hard work, accomplishments, and the bright futures ahead of them. And when it was over, we were a changed county: Erie County has a group of graduates from Erie County Community College in its midst.

If you were unable to attend, I wanted to share a few of the highlights. The ceremony began with a procession of the graduates, adorned in their royal blue caps and gowns, as they made their way into the Erie West Auditorium. Family, friends, faculty, and community members cheered and clapped, showing their unwavering support and admiration for the new graduates. The enthusiasm in the room was electric. The audience recognized history in the making, to be sure.

Board of Trustees Chair Cheryl Rush Dix delivered the Commencement Charge as the ceremony began, and then I welcomed the graduates formally and introduced our graduation speaker, Governor Josh Shapiro, who reflected on how important this event is to the community, the county, and the state. We conferred an honorary degree on Empower Erie, the organization whose tireless advocacy has most directly resulted in EC3’s existence, and former Board Chair Ron DiNicola and Timothy McNair accepted. Next, our County Executive Brenton Davis congratulated the class of 2023. Vice-President of Academic & Student Affairs Guy Goodman issued the Presentation of Class.

At this point, the actual conferring of degrees began, and twenty-eight students received the credentials they worked so hard to pursue. They entered the auditorium as students and emerged as graduates; they are now EC3’s first group of alumni, and they have changed their lives. The gravity of the situation was reflected in the tears of joy that glistened in many an eye. I’m not an emotional person in general, but wow – what a day! Our graduates’ pursuit of their dreams will enable them to make such a positive impact in our community!

Months of planning resulted in a ceremony that absolutely befitted the occasion. Erie County Community College’s first graduation ceremony was not just a commemoration of academic achievements; it was a celebration of resilience, hard work, and the power of education. It was a celebration of our students and of us all. It served as a reminder that with determination and dedication, dreams can be turned into reality. We made these dreams a reality, as did our students.

As our graduates embark on their next endeavors, they carry with them the knowledge, skills, and memories gained during their time at the College, ready to make a positive impact on the world around them. The ceremony was a truly unforgettable event, etching itself into the hearts of all those who attended. I’m so pleased and proud of all the work that went into this event and how we were able to honor our new alumni with the recognition they so richly deserve. Bravo, grads!