Graduation night at VCC

100th commencement ceremony brings grads together in-person

by Tom Coombe
The 100th commencement at Vermilion Community College packed them in Tuesday night at the school’s gymnasium.
Dozens of graduates were joined by school faculty and staff, family members and friends, fellow VCC students and others in both a historic and “return to normal” commencement.
Provost Chris Koivisto noted the many changes that have taken place since Vermilion’s founding in 1922 as the former Ely Junior College, including name changes, consolidations and relocations.
Another change is in store this fall, when Vermilion becomes part of the newly-formed Minnesota North College, yet the campus will maintain both its identity and its niche outdoor-related programming that has attracted students from the upper Midwest and beyond.
Both two years ago and again in 2021, the commencement ceremonies were held virtually, and the campus was closed for several months two years ago.
Students graduating this week dealt with online courses, distance learning and an array of Covid-related restrictions at times during their Vermilion experience, a point acknowledged by Mike Raich, president of the five-school Northeast Higher Education District.
“It’s absolutely no small feat that on top of all of the personal challenges you faced, the world threw you a few curve balls to occupy your minds as well,” said Raich.
Raich cited numerous national world issues including the economy, war in Ukraine and political controversies,
“It’s easy to put that all together and say the outlook is bleak,” said Raich.
But Raich said he disagreed, and added “our future truly lies in all the good that is happening around us.”
Timothy Mannuzzo, part of VCC’s Class of 2012, delivered the commencement address.
Mannuzzo is an experiential educator and a graduate of Vermilion’s Outdoor Leadership Program who tries “to inspire students to seek meaningful connections to the world and people around them.”
This spring, Mannuzzo will graduate with a master’s degree in experiential education from Minnesota State Mankato.
Mannuzzo spoke of the passion of Vermilion graduates and said “these passions give us purpose.”
Student Senate Representative Evan O’Connor spoke remotely on behalf of the class, while faculty president Reed Petersen announced the names of each graduate as they crossed the stage to loud applause.
Entertainment prior to the ceremony was provided by Joey Kenig, with VCC instructor Sara Skelton saluted the graduates in song at the conclusion of the event.