62nd commencement concludes an emotional path for father, daughter

Story by Misty Bouse. Photos by James Hill.

Sean and Mackenzie Hotchkiss

Sean and Mackenzie Hotchkiss both are members of PCC’s Class of 2024.

On June 14, Portland Community College held its 62nd commencement ceremony at the Memorial Coliseum, celebrating 900 graduates with nearly 5,000 friends and family in attendance.

PCC Executive Vice President Dr. Katy Ho addressed the graduates as keynote speaker, highlighting the essence of PCC as “a place of opportunity, hope, and aspiration.” The ceremony also included a welcome from President Dr. Adrien L. Bennings, remarks by student Vladislav Kirilov and music by the PCC Rock Creek Chamber Choir.

Watch the full ceremony on YouTube.

A Tribute to Family

Among the graduates at the coliseum were Sean and Mackenzie Hotchkiss, a father-daughter duo from Tigard, who symbolized many of the stories of the Class of 2024.

Sean’s return to academia was a story of resilience, spanning three decades. Initially attending PCC in 1991, life redirected his path until he was drawn back to college after losing his wife to cancer in 2021. He pursued a degree in business, earning an associate degree in Marketing while balancing parenthood and entrepreneurship in website design and marketing.

Standing with his daughter Mackenzie, who also graduated, they embodied perseverance and determination. Sean, undiagnosed with ADHD until later in life, had dropped out of high school as a sophomore and received his GED at 18. He learned coping skills over the years, making re-entering academia easier. 

Balancing Grief, Parenthood, Education

“The pandemic was trivial compared to the illness and death of my wife,” Sean said. “Going back to school was also a way to help redefine my role as a person after that loss.”

Sean and Mackenzie Hotchkiss

Both turned to PCC due to its affordability and academic excellence.

Mackenzie’s journey was marked by youthful ambition and determination. A high school graduate during the pandemic, she also cared for her mother until her passing. Around this time, she earned an out-of-state scholarship, which she declined. 

After initially attending the University of Oregon, Mackenzie transferred to PCC for its proximity and flexible scheduling, allowing her to navigate a full-time job while studying. She earned an associate degree in Psychology and plans to pursue further studies at Boise State University.

“Financially, I knew community college was the best choice for me, and I have definitely had a good experience,” she said.

Despite pursuing different academic paths, the father-daughter duo found common ground in their pursuit of knowledge and personal growth. Sean, a tutor at the PCC Sylvania Campus Reading and Writing Center, helped Mackenzie with her studies, while she provided support and encouragement for his return to school.

Bright Futures

Sean. who writes poetry, blogs and PCC’s literary journal, plans to use his experience and talents for a nonprofit organization while continuing his studies. He intends to pursue a master’s degree in Counseling from Portland State University. Meanwhile, Mackenzie is excited about transferring to Boise State and diving into advanced classes, having completed many credits along with her degree at PCC.

Reflecting on the day, Sean shared the significance of this milestone, albeit, without his late wife Kristena.

“I do wish that my wife could be here to see our daughter graduate,” he said. “That is the most painful thing for me now. That my three kids will not have their mother here for these meaningful events.” 

However, both of them look forward with optimism and resolve, knowing that their shared accomplishment and degrees mark the beginning of a new life chapter filled with endless possibilities. 

2024 Commencement Gallery