Capable and Determined: MCCC Class of 2022 Reaches Finish

Almost 800 Grads Saluted at First In-Person Commencement Since 2019


West Windsor, N.J. – For the first time since May 2019, Mercer County Community College (MCCC) hosted an in-person Commencement ceremony on May 20. That was just one reason for the 794 members of the Class of 2022 to celebrate.

Amid forecasts of bad weather, the festivities moved from the Quad to the Gymnasium. But the weather did not dampen spirits – or the significance of the moment. In his welcome to students, faculty, staff, guests, MCCC leaders, and Mercer County officials, Board of Trustees Chair Mark Matzen noted the challenges faced by the Class of 2022.

“The most important takeaway is that there is no challenge too big for you to tackle,” Matzen said, adding, “Never stop learning, never stop questioning, and never stop serving your community.”

Acting President Barbara Basel hailed this diverse group of students who were united in their goals to achieve. “The youngest graduate is 17 and the oldest is 72. The average age of our graduates is 26. Thirty-six international students from twenty countries are graduating today. Fifty graduates are from the Educational Opportunity Fund program. They all exemplify what it means to be ‘Mercer strong,’” she said.

The 2022 Commencement speaker was Dr. Aamir Rehman of West Windsor, a business leader who has earned four degrees from Ivy League universities and is deeply committed to educational access. On behalf of the MCCC Board of Trustees, Matzen awarded Dr. Rehman an honorary A.A. degree, a first at the college, in recognition of his service as chair of the college’s Foundation Board for the past two years. During Rehman’s tenure, the Foundation’s assets grew to record levels; the Foundation now has over one million dollars to award annually in scholarships and grants.

In his remarks, Rehman shared some sage advice. “Never measure your success using someone else’s ruler. There are nearly 800 successes to celebrate, and no two are the same,” he said, adding that he first joined the Foundation Board in 2017 because he believed in Mercer’s mission. Mercer embodies the idea that everyone deserves access to a great education.”

Rehman encouraged students to see the nobility in their work. “Find meaning in your career, at home, and in the community. When you do, you will find a sense of fulfilment and a life of purpose.” He also emphasized the importance of working to make things better and to give thanks. “Gratitude fosters a positive attitude, strengthens our relationships, and attracts more goodness,” he concluded to resounding applause.

Dr. Robert Schreyer, Vice President for Academic Affairs, recognized more than 100 top scholars, whom he asked to stand. Earlier in the afternoon, these students attended the Honors Convocation, where they received certificates, awards and scholarships for academic achievement and service to the college. In total, MCCC's 794 graduates earned 847 degrees and certificates.

“You inspire us, you amaze. You are the reason we are here every day,” Schreyer said.

The next item of Commencement business was a time-honored – and surprise –announcement of the faculty member chosen for this year’s Distinguished Teaching Award. The 2022 recipient is Associate Professor of English Dr. Barbara Hamilton.

President Basel shared comments submitted by Hamilton’s students during the nominating process. “This year’s honoree was described as one who is always there to help, who explains lessons in an easy way, who offers insights that apply in other classes and to life outside Mercer, and has a positive outlook that spreads to everyone in class.”

Hamilton’s colleagues described her as ubiquitous around campus – at meetings, seminars and student events. They called her a creative educator, dedicated mentor and tireless advisor. She was also praised for her contributions to the English curriculum and for her own work as a published writer who is actively involved in the American Folklore Society.

Hamilton humbly expressed her gratitude to her colleagues and then addressed students. “You teach me so much more than I teach you. Working together with you to construct knowledge in the classroom is the most exciting thing I’ve ever done,” she said.

Hamilton left them with words of advice. “You don’t have to set the world on fire. You just need to light a little spark. As I receive this award, I know it’s not for any one monumental one great deed, but for countless small decisions over the years to do something, anything, to shift the needle to the positive. That one thing leads to another and another and opportunities day after day, year after year, as we build a coherent and gratifying life.”

Hamilton urged students to put their hard-won knowledge to use. “You’re leaving here with more skills, ideas, empathy, know-how, and a wider vision of what’s possible. Always look for the positive thing and go do it,” she said.

Concluding the formal remarks was student speaker Madelaine Benowitz of Robbinsville, who earned her A.A. in Liberal Arts (Education) and will transfer to Rider University to earn her bachelor’s degree in Elementary Education.

The beloved daughter of MCCC Culinary instructor, Chef Frank Benowitz, Madelaine spent many years as a summer camper in MCCC’s Camp College. After graduating from Robbinsville High School, she dived into her Mercer experience, serving in the Student Government Association as a senator and public relations officer, and as president of Alpha Theta Gamma, Mercer’s chapter of the Phi Theta Kappa National Honor Society. She was vice president of the Future Educators Club and was the only community college student among this year’s national officers for Future Business Leaders of America.   

Benowitz encouraged her classmates to “celebrate our determination, our perseverance, our drive, our efforts, our commitment and dedication to our own success…Although some of us have many miles still to travel on our academic and career journeys, let’s appreciate how far we have already come.”

This year’s graduates will transfer to many four-year colleges and universities in New Jersey and across the nation, including the University of Pennsylvania, New York University, the College of New Jersey, Smith College, Princeton, Rider, Rowan, Rutgers, Temple, Thomas Edison, William Paterson, and NJIT.

Commencement 2022

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Graduates were all smiles as they celebrated Commencement 2022 on May 20.



Jennifer Carter made her mark as a Student Government officer. The Communication major will transfer to the University of Central Florida to continue her studies.



Student speaker Madelaine Benowitz encouraged graduates to bask in the moment before moving on to the next phase of their journeys.



Commencement speaker Dr. Aamir Rehman advised students to find meaning in their work and give back to their communities. Rehman has served as chair of the MCCC Foundation Board since 2020 and was the recipient of an honorary associate degree in recogntion of his service.



Honors science grads Lawrence Boadi, left, and Misha Yanchyk  will stay on at Mercer in the Medical Laboratory Technology program before transferring for their bachelor’s degrees.