CSM Celebrates Eighth Winter Commencement

College of Southern Maryland President Bradley Gottfried congratulates Mary Bell, 36, of Leonardtown at the college’s January 18 commencement ceremony. Mary is one of 99 St. Mary’s county residents who received a degree or certificate at the winter commencement. Photo courtesy CSM.

LA PLATA, Md. - The College of Southern Maryland (CSM) recently recognized 415 candidates for degrees and certificates during the eighth winter commencement. Family and friends gathered to watch as 122 graduates participated in the ceremony held Thursday, Jan. 18 at the La Plata campus. The keynote speaker was Charles County Commissioner President Wayne Cooper.

CSM awarded 326 associate degrees and 89 certificates. 41 percent of the students receiving awards hailed from Charles County, 29 percent from St. Mary's County, 23 percent from Calvert County; and 7 percent were from outside of the Southern Maryland region.

Of the graduates, 70 percent were female and 30 percent were male. Associate degrees were awarded predominantly in the fields of general studies, arts and sciences and nursing. Most of the certificates were awarded in the areas of general studies and basic and advanced accounting. The ages of this winter's graduate and certificate recipients ranged from 19 to 70.

Gregory Ciesielski, 70, of Calvert County received his associate's degree in massage therapy. It's not his first degree in higher education, as Ciesielski also holds a bachelor of science in education.

Ciesielski said earning this latest degree in massage therapy and recently giving up a roadside business stand are part of the process of re-inventing himself. "I have always liked hands-on work, and probably always will, but I have spent most of my life concentrating on head work and now I am going to concentrate on putting my body back together," said Ciesielski.

To that end, Ciesielski is taking two dance classes - one in ballroom and the other in country - yoga and a hospital weight loss program, and going to the gym regularly. In addition, he plays both lap and hammer dulcimers with the Chesapeake Dulcimer Group.

Previously a teacher in Prince George's County schools, Ciesielski said his evolution from teacher back to student prompts him to recommend that college students, particularly younger ones, "come ready to work and study. In one of my classes, I worked with a younger student who was aiming for C's while I was aiming for A's," he said. "It is disheartening when students don't take more interest in their education because knowledge is the one thing that can't be taken from you," said Ciesielski, who will graduate with high honors.

Another honors graduate is Alan Bowling, 19, of California, Md., who received his associate's degree in history. Bowling, who is planning on joining the Navy after obtaining his bachelor's, was undecided on his major when he started at CSM. "I went through a series of interests, including engineering and secondary education, before I realized that history was a natural fit for me," said Bowling, whose favorite historical figure is Theodore Roosevelt.

"Deciding on a major was really hard for me because in the beginning I was concentrating too much on my end goal which is to join the Navy. I thought I needed to earn a degree in something that would directly apply to the work I want to do in the Navy but I discovered that it is more important to study what you are interested in and have a talent for. Applying that knowledge to a job comes later," said Bowling.

Why the Navy? "I live in St. Mary's County near the base and I have seen planes flying over my house my entire life. We would go the plane museum and I would see all of the different types of planes and I just knew I wanted to fly, and when you want to fly, you join the Navy," said Bowling.

CSM's third winter class of nursing students participated in a recognition ceremony earlier in the day. Nursing and Health Technology Department Chair Sandy Genrich presented an Academic Achievement in Nursing award to Tasha Zochert of Owings and Achievement in Nursing award to Lisa Pumphrey of Chesapeake Beach. The Achievement in Nursing award is awarded by CSM faculty to a student who has demonstrated advanced clinical competence, service and dedication to their community, leadership within and outside of the classroom and academic excellence.

During commencement, CSM Board of Trustee Chair Joe Shannon presented special awards to individuals who have contributed to the success of the college and its graduates.

Professor Emeritus status was bestowed upon professors David Reichard, Judy Thomason and Edna Troiano, whose combined service to the college totals more than 77 years.

Reichard worked full time for the college for 25 years before "retiring" in 2002. He returned part time to continue teaching engineering at CSM through spring 2006. As the college's only engineering instructor for over two decades, he developed the engineering courses and programs that currently exist at CSM. In addition, his student evaluation ranking average during his years of service was 4.74, on a 5-point scale.

Thomason served CSM for 25 years as a faculty member and chair of the Technical Studies program, and implemented the college's first National Science Foundation grant, "Preparing Engineering Technicians for Southern Maryland." As a member of the Women and Information Technology Task Force for Maryland, Thomason worked to define and address the challenges of the state's information technology workforce.

Troiano is the author of two nationally acclaimed college textbooks, "Write to Know" and "The Contemporary Writer", as well as "The Roads from Bethlehem", an anthology of Christmas literature. During her 27 years with CSM, Troiano served as a member of the faculty and department chair in the Languages and Literature department where she worked to develop and expand course offerings from speech communication and developmental studies to cultural studies, foreign language and ethnic literature.

President Emeritus status was bestowed upon recently retired Dr. Elaine Ryan, CSM's third and only female president. During her 35 years with the college, Ryan exemplified the transformative power of education in people's lives, according to Shannon. Ryan holds a bachelor's degree from St. Mary's College of Maryland, a master's degree from the University of Maryland and a doctoral degree in higher education from North Carolina State University. She was appointed president of CSM in 1998 and is credited with overseeing CSM's growth and recognition in the community.

Other honorees during commencement were CSM Board of Trustees' Distinguished Service Award recipients Carl and Bobbi Baldus and Donnie and Linda Cox. The award is given to community leaders who donate their time and resources in support of the college.

Carl and Bobbi Baldus were recognized for long-term commitment to CSM's capital projects including the James C. Mitchell Health and Technology Building and the St. Charles Children's Learning Center. In addition to capital projects, they have donated more than $50,000 toward technology scholarships and have used the college as a resource for providing training and conference services to their employees at Baldus Real Estate, a real estate company that has served Southern Maryland for more than 47 years.

CSM alumni Donnie and Linda Cox were recognized for their continued support of future CSM alumni. The couple has helped establish two CSM scholarships - the Marguerite Cox Family Memorial Scholarship and the Maurice J. McDonough Scholarship Fund. In addition to scholarships, Mr. Cox has served on the college's foundation board periodically between 1999-2003, and as the foundation's chair from 2001 to 2003. The couple has been instrumental in raising and donating funds to the CSM Foundation for expanding technology, childcare and health care learning opportunities for residents of Southern Maryland.

The commencement keynote speaker, Charles County Commissioner President Wayne Cooper encouraged the graduates: "your graduation is no small achievement, no small moment…I believe the tasks we take on, the way we stretch our minds, the obstacles we overcome, the dreams we fulfill and the lives we touch are what truly makes us worth admiring. I stand here today in honor of you and your achievements."

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