Middlesex County College president to Class of 2020: Pandemic will pass, time spent at MCC is for life


EDISON – In a moving 48-minute video, Middlesex County College recognized its Class of 2020 with as much virtual pomp and circumstance as it could.

“Wish we all could have been here to cheer each other and pose for happy photos as we walk across the stage, but I guess we have to graduate this way so everyone can stay safe,” Valedictorian Nirali Trivedi, of Edison, said in the video.

Trivedi delivered the class welcome during Middlesex County College’s (MCC) 53rd commencement on May 21, which was held virtually due to the novel coronavirus pandemic. This is the first time the college has held a commencement strictly online. The pre-recorded video is on MCC’s website, which takes the graduates through the 2019-20 school year from student orientation to learning remotely after spring break.

One video featured speakers Middlesex County Freeholder Director Ronald Rios, who urged the class to use the experience they gained at MCC to do great things and to make community service an important part of their lives; Dorothy K. Power, chairman of the College Board of Trustees, who asked the class to share their gifts with others; and U.S. Senator Cory Booker (D-New Jersey), who reminded the class that while they can’t always control circumstances, they can control the way they react to them.

Another video featured many graduates who shared their stories.

The valedictorian shared her experiences and aspirations of becoming a doctor. Trivedi, a double major in biology and chemistry, is headed to Rutgers University in the fall where she will major in environmental and biological sciences. She emigrated to the United States from India.

“I came to the United States for the first time just two months prior to attending MCC, and now I plan to spend the rest of my life here,” she said.

Trivedi, who received a scholarship from the MCC Foundation, recognized several professors for their support, inspiration and mentorship: Virender Kanwal, Janet Lansinger, Erin Christensen, Phalguni Ghosh and Brian Lavey.

“All of us will move on to the next adventures of our lives,” she told the class. “But one thing we share will be our belonging to the MCC community, the values we learned, the help we received, and the educational foundation we built here. I hope we will continue to provide support and encouragement for each other in future endeavors.”

The global pandemic cannot take away the successful graduation of the 1,588 MCC students.

“I hope you look back at your time at MCC and are able to see beyond what you are missing right now and remember all experienced and learned,” MCC President Mark McCormick said. “The pandemic will pass, but what you gain at MCC will be with you for life.”

Samantha Milano-Sumalinog, a 2016 MCC graduate and the college’s 2020 Alumna of the Year, said it is not a time for the graduates to be modest.

“You are a college graduate, the world cannot take that away from you, coronavirus cannot take that away from you, the president of the United States cannot take that away from you,” she said.

Milano-Sumalinog said she understands if graduates are wary with the many uncertainties in the world.

“I know things look a little scary especially for people transferring [to other colleges], even scarier for those planning to enter the uncertain job market, but you already beat the odds once, why should a global pandemic get in your way … go out there and run the world,” she said.

The salutatorian, Jordan Gutierrez, of the Avenel section of Woodbridge, studied liberal arts and business at MCC. He will transfer to the Rutgers University Business School in the fall to major in business analytics and information technology.

“My time at MCC will always be cherished as I was given the best opportunities for success,” he said. “The foundation for my education could not have been set up any better. The people I’ve met these two past years, I’ve formed bonds with that I will carry on for a lifetime. Overall, it was an unforgettable experience being an MCC student.”

The virtual ceremony included acknowledging Chambers Award winners. The award, named for the MCC’s founding president, Frank Chambers, recognizes those graduates who have obtained the highest grade point average while at the college.

The Chambers Award winners include Trivedi, Gutierrez, Andrew Aerni, of New Brunswick, Zev Benedek, of Highland Park, Julia Block, of Sayreville, Arianna Burgman, of Monroe Township, Emily Collado, of Perth Amboy, Brian Crespo, of Edison, Christine Desa, of Sayreville, Joseph DeToro, of Parlin, Andrew Fischer, of Parlin, Thomas Kozma, of South River, Dorota Matracz, of Metuchen, Andrew Popow, of North Brunswick, Trisha Mae Quiminiano, of Clinton, Farrah Rahman, of Middlesex Borough, Kyra Raye, of Edison, Donald Su, of East Brunswick, Edgardo Torres-Muniz, of Ewing, and Alexandria Wonski, of Metuchen.

All graduates will receive a gift box containing a diploma cover, a copy of the commencement program, a special gift, a tassel, and a message from the president and alumni association.