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GRCC Announces 2024 Commencement Awards

April 10, 2024, GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. – Grand Rapids Community College is pleased to announce an impressive slate of award winners who will be honored at the April 25, 2024, commencement ceremony. These new awards honor the diversity, commitment and talent of graduates, faculty, and community supporters.

Graduate of Excellence Awards

  • Jodi Holland (General Associate Degree with Baking and Pastry Certificate): achieved a lifelong goal of attending college thanks to the Michigan Reconnect Program.
  • Linda Morfa Limonte (Associate of Liberal Arts in Pre-Anthropology): conquered the twin challenges of adult learning and ADHD with encouragement from her family.
  • Ashley R. Smith (Certificate in IT Computer Support): changed careers with a second degree at GRCC and leveraged the hands-on experience of the mentorship program.
  • Kathryn (“Kat”) Waller (Associate of Nursing): chose to grow in her healthcare career; overcame challenges and persevered to become a GRCC nurse.
  • Yasmina Zimmer (Associate Degree in Biology and Geology): came to GRCC after completing her GED and fell in love with the earth sciences.

Distinguished Alumni Award

  • Ruth Straayer Kelly (Class of 1974): leveraged her foundation at GRCC to live a life of public service as a teacher, community activist and elected official. 

Faculty Emeritus Award

  • Dr. Robert Long (Biology Professor from 1986-2018): excelled during his career as an encourager of students and a mentor to his peers.

GRCC Champion Award

  • Corewell Health: works tirelessly to leverage their resources, expertise and influence to champion and amplify GRCC’s impact within the community.

“We are thrilled to honor these individuals and organizations because they represent the high caliber of education we provide to students from all walks of life,” said Dr. Charles W. Lepper, President of GRCC. “Community colleges have a distinct role among our country’s educational institutions. We focus on affordability and flexible learning that equip students with exactly what they need to achieve their goals. Whether it’s students just starting their career journeys or students returning to embark on a new career, we serve people of all ages and all experience levels with excellent, practical education that prepares them for the next step.”    

Lepper said people like Dr. Robert Long embody the spirit of GRCC’s entire faculty.

“We surround our students with professionals who are passionate about sharing their subject matter knowledge,” Lepper said. “And with the help of community partners like Corewell Health, we are able to provide the hands-on, practical experience that gives students confidence and competence in their chosen professions.”

To learn more about GRCC’s Commencement, please visit the website.

About Grand Rapids Community College

GRCC was established in 1914 - Michigan's first community college - and is focused on making college education accessible and affordable. Classes are scheduled in person and online, on weekdays, evenings, and Saturdays at locations throughout Kent and Ottawa counties. We offer traditional liberal arts and occupational career pathways, adult education courses, and skilled training courses and apprenticeships.