COTC Celebrates Graduates at Autumn Commencement

365 degrees and certificates awarded at ceremony


Affiong Hawkins dressed in academic regalia speaks to graduates from a podium at commencement.Central Ohio Technical College (COTC) hosted commencement on Dec. 16 for graduates who completed their degree and/or certificate requirements in the summer and autumn 2022 semesters. COTC President John M. Berry, PhD, presided over the ceremony while graduate Affiong Hawkins and alumnus Ruben Clark served as keynote speakers.

In his welcome speech, COTC Provost Eric Heiser, PhD, exhorted the students to feel confident in themselves, having gone through everything they did in getting to this day, and to carry that confidence into the world.

President Berry introduced the board of trustees and the President’s Cabinet on the stage. He also recognized Professor Scott Wilson, who has served as COTC faculty for 42 years.

COTC Chair of the Board of Trustees, Rob Montagnese, challenged the graduates to take their technical knowledge and expertise into caring for the communities they serve and interact with.

Affiong Hawkins, who had previously earned a Practical Nursing One-Year Certificate from COTC two years ago, received her Associate of Applied Science in Nursing Technology. Hawkins spoke to her peers about failure and the power of saying “yes.” She explained that despite some “minor pauses” she continued pursuing “bigger and better dreams.” She urged the graduates in attendance to do the same. 

“Say ‘yes’ to something different. Say ‘yes’ to something that scares you and challenges you,” Hawkins said. She added, “Put people in your life who believe in you, encourage you and see the best in you — sometimes even when you don’t see the best in yourself”. Earlier this year, Hawkins was the only student who spoke at Intel’s groundbreaking ceremony, an event that drew national media attention and was attended by President Joe Biden.

When Clark took the stage, he continued this sentiment by encouraging graduates to foster relationships in their lives. Clark, who attended COTC’s Peace Officer basic training in 1997, used his turn at the podium to share things he wished he had known earlier. 

“I stand before you today with a 22-year career in information technology. What could be further from fighting crime and patrolling the streets than providing tech support and building computers?” he asked. Despite taking a different career path, all was not lost, he said. “[At COTC] I gained skills that I could apply to any career: leadership, organization, critical thinking and problem-solving, just to name a few. I implore you to take the things you learned here and carry them forward into the next phase of your life.”

Clark is the director of information technology at RevLocal. He serves as the chair of the Licking County Chamber of Commerce and participates in the information technology advisory committee at COTC. He concluded with an appeal for graduates to serve their communities. 

As the ceremony drew to a close, Dr. Berry expounded upon the idea of service with a story about a stranger helping another. 

“You were challenged by your speakers today to pay it forward. Do the right thing. Serve where you can serve and in a manner that you can,” Berry said. “You’ve all proven that you can be successful — congratulations. Now be significant.”

A total of 333 graduates received 365 awards, including 196 associate degrees, 77 one-year certificates and 92 short-term certificates. 

Ruben Clark dressed in academic regalia speaks to graduates from a podium at commencement.

COTC President John Berry stands at a podium dressed in academic regalia overlooking a crowd.

COTC is a fully accredited, public college dedicated to providing high-quality, accessible programs of technical education in response to current and emerging employment needs. COTC has four campus locations: Newark, Coshocton, Knox and Pataskala.