GCCC celebrates 100th graduating class virtually

With the COVID-19 pandemic and public gathering restrictions, Garden City Community College had a first Friday night.

GCCC held its commencement exercises as a virtual graduation, with the pre-recorded ceremony on its YouTube channel, Buster TV. The ceremony also held a historic milestone for the college, as the Class of 2020 represented the 100th graduating class for the institution.

Family and friends were invited to leave messages of support to the graduates in the chat section of the YouTube channel, and on various social media, tagging GCCC or by using #GCCC100thClass during the ceremony.

The ceremony began with a welcome address by Colton Bartlett, GCCC Student Government Association president, then moved to the National Anthem sang by GCCC student Rheann Rodenbur.

The commencement address was provided by GCCC President Dr. Ryan Ruda, titled “A Century of Community: How GCCC’s Past Has Shaped Our Future”.

“As your president, I want you to know that celebrating your accomplishments, under these extraordinary circumstances, means more to me now than ever before,” Ruda said. “Thank you for adapting and being flexible, and for striving for your goals no matter what.”

Ruda talked about the history of the college, when Finney County voters supported an initiative to bring higher education to southwest Kansas in 1919. At that time, Garden City Junior College was part of the local school system. The first graduate was Mildred Hope in 1920.

“In the 1940s, while some colleges closed their doors during World War II, our doors remained open, making us the longest, continuously serving college in this great state,” Ruda said.

In the late 1960s, the public supported a multi-million dollar bond issue that was used to construct much of the current campus.

“Leaders like John Collins and Pauline Joyce, former Trustees who provided us with much needed guidance and oversight in our formative years,” Ruda said. “Leaders like our past president, the late Carol Ballentyne, who’s front for project in the early 2000s brought much needed services for our students and for the community under one roof.”

Ruda said that while the past shapes individuals, it doesn’t define the future.

“Do not lose sight of your future goals and your aspirations,” Ruda said. “I challenge you to continue having the courage to dream and influence positive change in your personal life, professional life and the world around us.”

Tammy Tabor, GCCC student services executive director, announced the Outstanding Students, voted on by the college’s faculty and staff. The recipients from the Class of 2020 are Colton Bartlett and Zarina Davletova.

Each year, two students are chosen as speakers for the commencement ceremony. This year’s pair, Emily Glenn and Zarina Davletova, told of their time at GCCC and why they attended the college in a more relaxed atmosphere. Instead of being at a podium in front of the audience, they were interviewed in the Beth Tedrow Student Center.

Glenn, from Scott City, has been involved in a variety of activities and community service projects during her time at GCCC.

She has been involved in the GCCC Meats Judging team, the local Collegiate Farm Bureau, secretary of GCCC’s Student Government Association, an executive officer of Phi Theta Kappa, a member of the Block and Bridle club and part of GC3 Media.

Glenn was also named as a first team All-American for her individual honors in meats judging.

Davletova, from Turkmenabat, Lebap, Turkmenistan, is an international student who has been involved in a variety of activities while at GCCC.

She has been a Residential Life advisor, a math and economics tutor, treasurer for the GCCC Student Government Association, a member of the math and science club, and a member of the GCCC Quiz Bowl team. She also volunteered with Girl Scouts and Big Brothers/Big Sisters of Finney and Kearny Counties.

Davletova was also named to the Phi Theta Kappa All-Kansas Academic team with 50 other top scholars in the state.

When is a traditional commencement, graduating students would walk across the stage to get their diploma. This year, a photograph of the student as well as a list of their accomplishments and if they were receiving a certificate or associate degree was placed on the screen. Just over 350 students of GCCC’s 508 Class of 2020 were recognized individually during the program.

This was the largest graduating class in GCCC’s history according to college officials.

The ceremony was concluded with congratulatory messages to the graduates from GCCC faculty and staff.