Byline: Thomas Caywood
WORCESTER -- At a typical college graduation, the mothers and fathers mostly sit in the audience, clapping and cheering for their twentysomething children up on stage receiving diplomas.
At Quinsigamond Community College's graduation Thursday evening, though, plenty of working parents and older students seeking better career opportunities sat on the floor of the DCU Center wearing black robes.
It was fitting, then, that their commencement speaker, world-traveling molecular biologist Sandra Laney, originally from Spencer, was herself a young mother aiming for better prospects when she graduated from QCC in 1992.
Ms. Laney, global health discovery program officer for the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, told the graduates about the profound impact a simple question had on her life and career.
At the time, she had enough credits to graduate from QCC with a degree in studio arts, but she was hung up on the science requirement needed to finish her degree.
Biology, chemistry and physics seemed impossibly difficult for the artistic-minded young mother, so she signed up instead for a special, self-paced class for those intimidated by science.
To her astonishment, Ms. Laney found she excelled at the discipline and enjoyed seeking after the answers that science allows. She went from being intimidated by science to excited by it.
When she was ready to graduate, a trusted professor asked her what she planned to do next.
Ms. Laney recalled telling the professor that, if she had to do over again, she'd get into genetics.
Then came the question that would redirect the trajectory of her life from a small-town girl in central Massachusetts with small horizons to a scientist who has traveled extensively from remote African villages to the teeming urban centers of India.
When she expressed a wistful regret about not having pursued science in her education, her professor asked, "So, why don't you?''
"He told me that day, 'It's not too late,' '' Ms. Laney recalled.
And it wasn't. She went on to Smith College, where she got a bachelor's degree. While working, she later got a master's degree by attending classes part time. Then a doctorate.
She urged the roughly 700 graduates present at commencement, out of about 1,370 total students who earned associate's degrees and certificates, to listen to themselves and take note if they ever started wishing they had followed a dream, or taken a different path.
"Ask yourself,'' Ms. Laney said, " 'So, why don't you?' ''
ASSOCIATE IN APPLIED SCIENCE
Ashburnham: Jason Pioli
Athol: Kevin Swan
Auburn: Michael Cronin, Todd Gingras, Belinda Melanson
Berlin: William Haley
Fitchburg: Gino DiPrima
Gardner: Ryan Berg
Holden: Mazen Najjar, Pradeep Sharma
Leominster: Larry Beaulac
Millbury: Dana Bonin
North Grafton: Jeffrey Schroeder
Spencer: John Parenteau
Sutton: Matthew McGrail
Thompson: Brian St. Germain
Worcester: Anthony Asselta, Richard Son
ASSOCIATE IN ARTS
Auburn: Marissa Cataldo, Sarah Dulmaine, John Gokey, Neftali Gonzalez, Meghan Macchi, Bryan McConville, Carrie Orth, Felicisimo Reyes, Joseph Rzucidlo, Zarnigar Shairani, Robert Wrona
Barre: Lauren Chumsae, Sarah Melanson
Blackstone: Caitlyn Edwards
Bolton: Scott Lovington, Austin Parker, Nicholas Riseman, Caitlin Wood
Boylston: Shannon Cote, Renjuan Dutczak
Brimfield: Jordan Castle, Emily Jones
Brookfield: Ashley Karrmann, Holly Sasseville
Charlton: Audrea Anctil, Robert Berk, Stephen Bjorn, Catherine Desmarais, Jenahquil Figueroa, Stephanie Kozlowski
Charlton City: Rebecca Peach
Cherry Valley: Elizabeth Annunziata, Brooke Breault, Benjamin Henriquez, Kristen Stuart
Clinton: Corbett Ashe, Maggie Haley, Kerri McCarthy, Sarah Morin, Stephanie Traylor, Stefanie Trott
Dudley: Grace Briggs, Tyler Kane, Stephanie Moore, Helena Perpetuo, Kayla Quigley, Vanessa Roy
East Brookfield: Zainab Chreim, Annie Sandoli
East Douglas: Kathryn Bowen, Haley Davidson, Gabrielle Gurney, Lisa LaFortune, Theresa Werme
Fiskdale: Samantha Evans, Jacquelyn Marinelli
Fitchburg: Jacklyn Kerrins
Gardner: Kacie LaRoche
Grafton: Brendan Coleman, Amanda Smith, Rebecca Wisniewski
Holden: Jennifer DeWitt, Connor Doherty, Zachary Duguay, Joan Gulick, Michael Henschel, Evan Kelley, Dana Mallah, Jeffrey Marlowe, Jenny Parker, Sungho Yoon
Holland: Jared Curboy, Sean Kennedy
Hopedale: Cortney Thompson, Isao Yoshioka
Hudson: Jacob Chatfield, Casey Coolidge, Kimberly Lawrence, Caitryn Murphy
Jefferson: Lisa Arsenault, Benjamin Beckner, Alicia Pelletier, Stephen Phillips
Lancaster: Julia Duffin, Amelia McCullen
Leicester: Marilyn Burlingame, Brooke Herbst, Katlyn Jarobski, Robert Jarobski, Evan LaBrie, Alexandria Laflamme, Jennifer Lotti, Russell Rivers, Kimberley Vessio
Leominster: Gina Bilotta, Jarlisa Johnson, Emily Malcolmson, Gina Tardiff, Natassia Yahoub
Marlborough: Tuanny Arruda, Justin Burke, Kelli Chiasson, Keri Chiasson, Zoe Dixon, Andrew Gorman, Anthony Minasian, Christen Papile, Jonathan Parreira
Mendon: Damian Victor
Milford: Kayleigh Stanton
Millbury: Careena Connors, Valeria De Oliveira, Sean Dickman, Beth Harrington, Kathleen King, Heidi Mason, Jason McKinney, Haley Miller, Diana Reilly, Ixchel Tattersall-Malaver, Stephanie Walsh
Millville: Amanda Renault
New Braintree: Alexander Fiske
North Brookfield: Hannah Forgit, Brittney Huston, Nicole Styles
North Grafton: Ashley Ide
North Oxford: Nicholle Bem, Bonnie-Lee Desrosiers
Northboro: Lindsey Arsenault, Jennifer Dell'Arciprete, Jessica Kelly, Jeffrey Serapiglia
Northbridge: Leah Andrews, JamieLynn Brooks
Oakham: Victoria Bollivar
Oxford: Deborah Boudreau, Jaclyn Cheever, Nancy Day, Brenna Deviney, Meghan Givner, Brittney Guillotte, Natalie Marcotte, Boateng Owusu, Amanda Powell, Marco Santana, John Sullivan, Darrien Tempro, Corissa Walls
Paxton: Bouthaina Bitar, Alexander Culafi, Michael O'Donoghue, Isa Shehu
Princeton: Natalie Ackerman
Putnam: Katharine Warner
Rochdale: Gabrielle Aguiar, Michelle Aldonis, Marlise Grammatic, Julia Letourneau
Rutland: Jason Buerlen, Andrew Frechette, Brian Meagher, Kayla Pepin
Shrewsbury: Carly Dowen, Salam Elsakka, Andrew Favuzza, Michelle Ferro, Janee Hinojos, Alyssa Hite, Hyun-Gyu Kim, Jennifer Lopes, Thomas Navin...