Please note: This was published over a year ago. Phone numbers, email addresses and other information may have changed.

Mercy Corps CEO headlines successful graduation ceremony

Photos and Story by

PCC’s 45th graduation ceremony on June 8 had many firsts. It showcased the first-ever Distinguished Patron Award and for the first time featured an enhanced program, including live music and a video feed.

The college awarded more than 2,500 diplomas and certificates to graduates at the Memorial Coliseum. Family, friends, faculty and staff were on hand to congratulate the graduates and celebrate their accomplishments as they took center stage with PCC District President Preston Pulliams, featured guests, the Board of Directors and executive staff and emcee Katherine Persson, Rock Creek Campus president.

The program was redesigned and featured live music and a slide show prior to the ceremony, a live video feed during the ceremony, enhanced lighting in the arena, transcriber services, awards, guest speaker Neal Keny-Guyer, chief executive officer of Mercy Corps, which provides humanitarian aid for many countries around the world.The ceremony also included avocal performance by music department faculty Julianne Johnson, and, unlike previous years, graduation announcements were sold through the PCC Bookstore.

“I would like to take this opportunity to express my gratitude to everyone who helped make this year’s graduation a great success,” Pulliams said. “I feel the event was a resounding success, and for those unable to attend, I hope you’ll be able to be there next year.”

Thanks go out to the following departments for their contributions: academic services, enrollment services, student records, PCC Bookstore, Print Center, central distribution services, campus presidents’ offices, audio visual and curriculum support, student services, Advising and Counseling Office, Office of Students with Disabilities, faculty and administrators from all campuses, and Institutional Advancement, and many more!

Neal Keny-Guyer, CEO of Mercy Corps International, is featured speaker

Keny-Guyer is a social entrepreneur committed to creating a better and more just world. A native of Tennessee, Keny-Guyer holds a bachelor’s degree in public policy and Religion from Duke University, a master’s degree in public and private management from Yale University, and an honorary doctorate in humane letters from Portland State University.

He joined Mercy Corps in 1994 as chief executive officer. Under his watch, Mercy Corps has emerged as a leading international relief and development organization with ongoing operations in nearly 40 countries. He began his career with Communities In Schools in 1976 working with at-risk youth in the inner cities of Washington, D.C., and Atlanta. Keny-Guyer then moved to Thailand in 1980 to focus on Cambodia’s refugees and war victims for CARE/UNICEF. In 1982, he began his tenure with Save the Children. He currently serves on the boards of numerous organizations, including Imagine Nations, InterAction, Yale School of Management Board of Advisors and Nike Foundation Advisory Group.

He congratulated the graduates and their families for the hard work they put in and the support they gave to their loved ones.

“You all have worked hard to be in the position that you are in, and you rightly deserve recognition,” said Keny-Guyer. “But I think it is equally important to remember that there are many people who are responsible for you being here, who believed in and supported your journey. The college degree you receive today is truly a collective achievement. For every person dressed in black here in front of me, I know there are family members and friends, both here today and here in spirit, just as proud as you are, if not even more so.”

Keny-Guyer talked about how the difference one could make in the world by simply caring and giving a helping hand much like what he did.

“Well, graduates, I can tell you this – never is your voice more needed than today,” Keny-Guyer said. “And never have there been more possibilities that your voice and your actions can truly matter, can truly make a difference than today. I will never forget holding a seriously wounded, bleeding child in Kosovo while her mother’s wounds were being bandaged next to me, as mortars continued to pound all around. I thought of my own children, and I vowed then and there to do all I could to make sure that no more mothers or fathers would have to see their children suffer and die because of man’s inhumanity.

“Each of you has had a similar experience. At times like these, we all know that a friendly word, a simple caress, or caring smile are often worth more than any amount of money. At times like these, we truly experience a deeper understanding of our connections in the world. In these times, with this conviction, we truly have the power to change our communities, to change our nation, to change our world.”

PCC’s first Distinguished Patron Award handed out

This was the inaugural year of the PCC Board of Directors’ Distinguished Patron Award, which will be given to a deserving recipient at every PCC graduation. This award recognizes a person from the community who has championed the college and community colleges as a whole at the local, state, or national levels. The 2007 awards were handed out posthumously to Doreen Margolin, former board member, and Richard Helzer, former ceramics instructor.

Margolin was the board chairwoman at PCC before she passed away following a brief illness. She had been recently honored with the Howard Cherry Award by the Oregon Community College Association. The award, the association’s highest honor, is for outstanding accomplishment on behalf of community colleges. Appointed in 1999 and elected in 2001, Margolin represented Zone 5 in the PCC District, which encompasses southwest and southeast Portland. She was also an attorney in private practice in Portland, specializing in domestic relations.

Helzer took on many roles during his 37-year career with PCC. He taught ceramics at Sylvania, opened the art department at Rock Creek, oversaw the gallery, served as a mentor to young faculty members and guided thousands of students through sculpture, drawing and painting classes. Helzer passed away suddenly last summer. Richard, along with his wife Sharon, who passed away last fall, gave the largest donation ever from an individual to PCC. Just before Sharon’s death, she gave the PCC Foundation $105,000 to establish two scholarship funds.

Student speaker Lisa Hummel captivates with her own story

This year’s student speaker was Lisa Hummel, who majored in gerontology and was named to the Phi Theta Kappa honor society. She recently was selected as one of its national New Century Scholars for 2006-07, the only such scholar in Oregon, and named to the first team of the All-USA Today Academic Team. Hummel, 40, is a product of Project Independence, a PCC program that helps single parents and displaced homemakers move into higher education or into the workplace.

She is president of Phi Theta Kappa at the Cascade Campus and volunteers her time at The Heights at Columbia Knoll Retirement Community, Loaves & Fishes and student government fundraisers. She has made the President, Honor and National Dean’s lists and is the recipient of the Ford Foundation Opportunity Scholarship. Hummel plans to go to Portland State University.

“PCC opened the doors for me and my life has taken a new direction because of my education here,” said Hummel. “I am grateful to so many faculty and students I’ve met along the way. But I want to recognize the families in the audience, especially the children of PCC students. When a parent goes to school – it affects everyone around them. We sacrifice hundreds of evenings and weekends doing homework instead of spending time with our kids. They miss out and so do we. So, to all the families out there who have supported a student, thank you, and to my son Cody – this is for you – thank you – I love you.”

PCC says goodbye to board member Karen McKinney

Karen McKinney is retiring from the PCC Board and was honored at this year’s graduation ceremony for her service to the college. McKinney, who has been re-elected to the PCC Board of Directors five times since joining it in 1987, represents Zone 7 in western Washington County. She serves on the Hillsboro City Council, the Business Education Compact and the Hillsboro and Forest Grove Chambers of Commerce. McKinney, a resident of Hillsboro, is a past appointee of the U.S. Department of Education to the Fund for the Improvement of Post-Secondary Education. She was a member of the Pacific University President’s Advisory Board, and has been a member of the Hillsboro Union High and Elementary School Districts boards. A former teacher and health care planner, McKinney is an active community member and will be sorely missed by everyone in the PCC community.

About James Hill

James G. Hill, an award-winning journalist and public relations writer, has been the Communications Specialist for the Office of Public Affairs at Portland Community College since November of 1999. A graduate of Portland State University, J... more »