Eastern Arizona College celebrated its 132nd Commencement Ceremony, held in-person at John Mickelson Field, on Friday. With social distancing in place, College faculty and staff, elected officials, and friends and families honored 533 students from EAC and its joint degree program with Arizona State University.
In addition to the traditional academic ceremony, the audience received comments from a number of individuals, including EAC President Todd Haynie, who welcomed the gathering, and Dr. Cindy Olvey, president of the EAC Alumni Association, who welcomed the College’s newest alumni.
Arizona State Treasurer Kimberly Yee delivered the commencement address. Yee is Arizona’s chief banking and investment officer and oversees the cash management of Arizona’s $40 billion state budget. Born and raised in Arizona, Treasurer Yee is the first Asian American elected to a statewide office in Arizona’s history. She is also the first Chinese American Republican woman to win a major statewide office in the history of the United States.
Treasurer Yee is a graduate of Pepperdine University where she earned degrees in English and political science, and she holds a master’s degree in public administration from Arizona State University. Yee is married to Dr. Nelson Mar, whose family owned and operated the Star Café in downtown Safford for many years. They are the parents of two children.
Yee began her speech by congratulating EAC and the community for the passage of Senate Bill 1453, which allows community colleges to offer four-year degrees. She stated that EAC President Todd Haynie and other educational leaders “have provided policymakers examples of why rural Arizona deserves as many options as possible to provide access for students and families.”
Yee then encouraged graduates to “take this moment in and be proud of what you have accomplished.” She told them to thank their families, friends and professors who made this moment possible because “they were the ones who supported you on those good days as well as those bad days.” Yee also reminded graduates that “one cannot accomplish anything great alone,” and to always remember those who helped them along the way.
Rebecca Dolan, the daughter of Gail and Pam Peterson, represented the Class of 2021. Dolan earned an associate of science degree in nursing with high honors, and is currently working as a registered nurse for the Graham County Health Department and San Carlos Apache Healthcare. Dolan and her husband Shawn live in Safford with their two children. In her speech, she reminded her fellow students that when they are willing to practice mental and physical discipline, they will achieve freedom in their lives.
Dr. Aaron Westerfield, a respected EAC counselor, represented the faculty and staff. Westerfield received his bachelor’s degree from Olivet Nazarene University, and a master’s and doctorate from Northern Arizona University. “Graduating from college is an enormous achievement under any circumstance,” Westerfield told the graduates. “To do so during a pandemic, where all normalcy has been thrown out the window, requires a special kind of resilience, determination and grit.”
EAC honored 533 candidates for graduation. Members came to EAC from 12 Arizona counties, 13 states and four countries, including Columbia, Mexico, New Zealand and South Africa. Graduates will go on to a broad range of careers and to four-year universities to study business, engineering, education, finance, medicine and much more.