Stories of inspiration highlight 51st PCC graduation
Photos and Story by James Hill
A total of 4,900 degrees, certificates and awards will be handed out and more than 700 students are planning to walk in front of thousands of friends, family and community members at the 51st Portland Community College Commencement Ceremony.
Graduation proceedings are set for 7 p.m., Friday, June 14, in the Memorial Coliseum, 1401 N. Wheeler. Cascade Campus President Algie Gatewood will serve as master of ceremonies and be joined by Board Chair Denise Frisbee, and national anthem singer M. Nichoel Patterson. Keynote speaker is retiring PCC President Preston Pulliams and the student speaker is Tigard’s Michelle Reers. For more information on the ceremony, email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Once again, the college’s Parking and Transportation Services will be providing free shuttle service to and from graduation at the coliseum. Shuttles will travel from the Cascade Campus (705 N. Killingsworth St.) to and from the coliseum. Parking is free at Cascade. On Friday, June 14 buses will commence running at 4 p.m., departing every 15 minutes. The last shuttle will leave the coliseum 45 minutes after graduation. For graduation shuttle information, contact Michael Kuehn at email@example.com.
Preston Pulliams, Keynote Speaker
By July, Portland Community College President Preston Pulliams will officially be known as President Emeritus Preston Pulliams. He is calling it a career after nine busy years guiding Oregon’s largest college. As a young man, he was expected to join his father as a foundry worker, but became the first in his family to attend college thanks to a $600 scholarship award from his local Rotary Club to fund two years of school. That first gift of opportunity inspired him to create access for students who would not otherwise have had the chance to earn a college degree. Specifically, first-generation college students who need financial assistance and student support to attend PCC and complete their degrees.
One of the most significant achievements during Pulliams’ tenure was the passage of a $374 million bond measure in 2008, the largest educational bond measure in Oregon at the time. Another accomplishment by Pulliams included helping to boost annual contributions to the PCC Foundation, which has tripled scholarship awards to students. Pulliams also was instrumental in developing a partnership between PCC and the City of Portland to create the Future Connect Scholarship Program, and he championed efforts with Portland Public Schools to redesign Jefferson High School to become the Jefferson Middle College. Both initiatives took a critical step toward helping the region’s most needy students.
After earning his associate degree in science from Michigan’s Muskegon Community College, Pulliams received a bachelor’s degree in social science from Michigan State University, a master’s degree in counseling and personnel from Western Michigan University, and a doctorate in educational administration from the University of Michigan.
Michelle Reers, Student Speaker
Tigard resident Michelle Reers is earning her transfer degree this year after getting her associate’s degree in general studies and an accounting certificate last year. At age 42, Reers’ story consists of getting a second chance at redemption through college. She had tried attending a university back in 1986, but lasted just one term and soon became pregnant with her first child. After ending a 10-year marriage to the father of her three children, a meth addiction, bad friendships and poor workplace conditions were ruling her life.
When her sister earned an associate’s degree a few years ago at PCC, it gave her a great reason, and inspiration, to get back to school. Thanks to the support she received from staff and faculty, she began to succeed and earned two Miller Foundation scholarships through the PCC Foundation along the way that kept her going. In her time at the college she has been named to President’s and Dean’s lists, given the Phi Theta Kappa’s Dave Arter Achievement and Distinguished Member Regional awards and named to the 2013 Oregon Community College Association All Oregon Academic Team. Reers, who will graduate with a 3.84 grade-point average, is now headed to Oregon State University’s Honors College to study botany. Now meth free for close to a decade, Reers has big plans to be a field researcher once she gets her bachelor’s degree.