Quotable quotes and other moments from MCC's 2021 commencement ceremony at Starlight Theatre
May 18, 2021
By Tim Engle
If the wind is blowing just right, Starlight Theatre audiences have been known to hear night noises from the zoo next door. At Metropolitan Community College's 2021 commencement ceremony Thursday, May 13, no roaring tigers made their opinions known, but chirping Starlight birds and a train whistle reminded everyone that this really was commencement under the stars … eventually, anyway.
It might have been the College's first-ever outdoor commencement, but we're not ready to stamp "fact" on that because a whole lot of MCC diplomas have been handed out since the spring of 1916. The first MCC commencement at Starlight? We think so.
Mother Nature was apparently on the commencement committee, because the weather was perfect: 67 degrees and sunny with a light breeze at 7 p.m. Rain was in the forecast for the wee hours of the next morning, but it stayed away until Saturday.
The audience of 1,000-plus people — spaced out for social distancing on the very day the CDC loosened guidelines on mask-wearing for the fully vaccinated — cheered on more than 600 graduates who walked across the big Starlight stage. Members of the classes of both 2021 and 2020 were invited.
One innovation this year: Most grads' names were pre-recorded by a professional announcer who was so skilled (and enthusiastic), we wouldn't be surprised if she's a veteran of the Oscars telecast. Grads went to a website beforehand to record how they say their name. Those who didn't record pronunciations had their names announced live by MCC's own David Oehler.
As for what happened during the ceremony itself, here are a few memorable moments. If you'd like to see them on video, check out the livestream recording (and other goodies) at mcckc.edu/commencement.
"I am thrilled to be here with all of you to share in the celebration of this happy occasion. Seems to me we're overdue — way overdue — for a happy occasion! What do you think?"
— Chancellor Kimberly Beatty, who emceed the ceremony, asking a question that prompted a wave of applause
"Last but definitely not least, 8% of this year's class are 40 or older. (Cheers and applause) That's 174 people who are proof that it is never too late to earn that college degree or workforce credential." — Dr. Beatty
"Over this last year in particular, (faculty, staff and administrators) went above and beyond to support our students and help to keep them on a path of fulfilling their educational goals. This year has served up many challenges, but we at MCC were able to stand, pivot and make sure that our students were still served. … Let's give (employees) a real big hand." — Dr. Beatty
"Tonight is all about the graduates, but it's also an excellent opportunity to express our appreciation to some of the folks who helped our graduates get across the finish line."
— Board of Trustees President Trent Skaggs, acknowledging the Very Important People such as grads' family members and friends
"Master Yoda from our beloved 'Star Wars' universe iconically said: 'Do or do not. There is no try.' "
— Student speaker Chance Walker, who got a big hand for doing an excellent Yoda impression (hear it on the livestream video at 30.00)
"We don't live in this world alone, and no one goes their entire life without ever failing. There's no shame in asking for help. Therefore, it's imperative to do anything and everything without fear of failing. Especially when failure is often the first step of success."
— Chance Walker (his speech starts at 26:20)
"In the words of Lynryd Skynyrd, it's really more about being a simple man."
— Erik Timpson, 2021 recipient of the MCC Foundation Distinguished Alumni Award. In a video profile, he invoked one of the band's hits in pondering what he would have told his younger self. Timpson is a principal electrical engineer at Honeywell Federal Manufacturing & Technologies in Kansas City. Before he went on to earn several other degrees, he earned an associate in engineering at MCC.
"The secret to happiness actually comes out of one of the longest studies we've ever had. It's an 80-year study from Harvard. And the secret to happiness is embracing community and close, personal relationships." — Erik Timpson
"I grew up in a single-wide trailer that's nestled in the middle of an old tobacco field outside of Raleigh, North Carolina, with my mom, who had me when she was 15 years old, and my grandparents, who to this day can't read or write. … Many times, the people around me treated me as if I didn't belong. But I've had to learn to double down on hard work, and resolve to prove to them and to myself that where I came from isn't indicative of how far I can go."
— Keynote speaker Joni Wickham, who started a strategic communications and government relations business with her former boss at City Hall, Kansas City Mayor Sly James. She served as chief of staff in the mayor's office.
"When faced with the choice to speak truth to power or stay silent, speak up. Graduates, you must recognize truth from fiction and be willing to stand up for what you believe in. … Don't stay silent when you see injustice. Choose to speak up."
— Joni Wickham, who authored a book about empowering women: "The Thin Line Between Cupcake and Bitch." (Her speech starts at 40:28.)
"I speak on behalf of the four of us when I say we are incredibly proud of the Classes of 2021 and 2020. Tonight is about you, our graduates. It is a time to savor. It is a time to celebrate."
— MCC-Maple Woods President Larry Rideaux Jr., introducing his fellow campus presidents, who read the poem "Don't Quit" by M. Tarun Prasad
"We are certain you will go forth and change the world for the better, because we are the fortunate observers who have already watched you do exactly that right here at MCC."
— Dan Hocoy, MCC-Longview president and vice chancellor for strategic initiatives
"Chancellor Beatty, I have the honor of presenting to you, for the conferring of degrees and certificates, the students of Metropolitan Community College graduating classes of 2020 and 2021. They have diligently persisted in the pursuit of learning, which we recognize this evening. And the college faculty join me in recommending them to you."
— Sue Gochis, vice chancellor for instruction and chief academic officer
"The fun part comes at the end, when you'll be able to move your tassel from the right to the left. And if you want to, you can toss your cap in the air and shake like you just don't care!"
— Dr. Beatty, just before graduates started crossing the stage at 8 p.m. The program ended about 9:45.