By Lori Lyn Lirio
A FILIPINO American student this year led the biggest contingent of graduating students in the history of Northern Marianas College.
Patrick Cloyd Laude Agustin, who earned two summa cum laude honors for the two degrees he attained, led some 256 students, including 80 honor students, last May 19 in receiving their diplomas during the NMC’s 38th commencement exercise at the Marianas High School Gym. The honorees include nine summa cum laude, 22 magna cum laude and 49 cum laude.
According to NMC President Dr. Carmen Fernandez, the Class of 2018 holds the distinction of being the biggest in the college’s history.
Dr. Catherine “Kit” Porter Van Meter, the NMC’s first president, reflected on the year that the NMC had its first graduation. It was in August 1982.
She said only 17 teachers received their associate degrees and eight received their bachelor’s degree. There were a total of seven staff members at the college – Jean E. Olopai, Abel R. Olopai, Susan T. Mafnas, Luis N. Limes, Jose C. Deleon Guerrero and Luis S. Chong.
Porter Van Meter said she was honored to be back and see the growth of the college.
Back then, she said, their students were older – already working and have their own families.
In 1976, when the NMI became a Commonwealth, some people teaching had experience and training, but not degrees, Porter Van Meter told the graduates.
She said the Certification Policy for Teachers required all teachers to have an associate degree by 1983.
“It was hard for women to go off-island and get higher education,” Porter Van Meter said.
“Because of the NMC, it was possible for them to achieve this without leaving their homeland and families.”
“When I was here, we were just starting to move to the community college. We had just a few rooms. Look at the campus now, we have wonderful facilities. That is amazing and a lot more opportunity,” she said in an interview.
Porter Van Meter recalled that when NMC was established, they were sharing classrooms with high school students at the Marianas High School.
“We were in the building – MHS. We used it at night. We had a computer lab. We were able to get computers so that high school students could also use it,” she said.
“We had to go to Washington D.C. and convince people that NMI has a college and needed help. It is a big time for change – going from Trust territory to a commonwealth and everything was involved in making that change,” she said.
She recalled that the community college was just moving at its present facility when she left NMC to pursue her doctorate degree from Harvard University in 1985.
For the graduates, Porter Van Meter shared nuggets of wisdom.
“It is not always of value to accept the view of others. On your new path as a college graduate, you will have to know when to be confident in your own knowledge of who you are,” she said.
However, she added “you will need to decide when to follow the opinion of others have of you and when not.”
She advised the graduates “to let people help you find your path along the way – people who have already walked where you want to walk.”
During the commencement exercise, 10 students – who obtained the highest grade point average among the Class of 2018, received the Academic Excellence Award:
1. Patrick Cloyde Laude Agustin, Associate of Applied Science in Business Administration: Accounting emphasis.
2. Siha Ahn, Associate of Arts in Liberal Arts.
3. Renedel Christian Untalan Buno, Associate of Applied Science in Business Administration: Computer Applications emphasis.
4. Josephine N. Estrada, Associate of Applied Science in Criminal Justice.
5. Do Hyeon Kwon, Associate of Applied Science in Business Administration: Accounting emphasis.
6. Glory Nina Toledo Legaspi, Associate of Applied Science in Business Administration: Computer Applications emphasis.
7. Lizelle Kathleen Castillo Lim, Associate of Applied Science in Business Administration: Accounting emphasis.
8. Maia David Pangelinan, Associate of Arts in Liberal Arts.
9. David Bona Phan, Associate of Arts in Liberal Arts.
10. Yijia Zhao, Associate of Arts in Liberal Arts.
The Governor’s Leadership Award went to Roman Franklin M. Tudela for exhibiting outstanding leadership skills in college and in the community or showing servant- leadership in the college and community.
Elvielynn Cepada Santos is this year’s Excellence in Service awardee.