College honors first bachelor’s grads
EDWARDS — Hundreds of individual celebrations came together Friday during Colorado Mountain College’s spring graduation ceremonies. One of the biggest was in the two rows of seats occupied by the Gonzalez family of Edwards.
The Gonzalez clan — two parents and 11 kids — gathered for the graduations of two of the family’s brothers. David earned an associate of arts degree, while brother Joel was one of the seven people who earned bachelor’s degrees. That group, along with a few dozen others across the college’s sprawling territory, were the first to receive four-year degrees from the college.
In the audience, sister Laura Gonzalez said Joel is the first person in the family to earn a bachelor’s degree. Laura said the two degrees were a family affair.
“We’d tell them, ‘You have to keep going — you can’t stop,’” she said.
The Gonzalez brothers may not be the last of the family to graduate from the college. Laura, the secretary at Edwards Elementary School, said she’s working on a degree in elementary education.
But everyone at Friday’s graduation had a story to tell.
Crossing the stage, all the graduates provided College Board Chairman Glenn Davis with a favorite quote or message for their friends and families. One graduate, Silvia Ramirez, thanked her husband and their six children for their patience and support.
Rebecca Kanaly, who graduated Friday with a bachelor’s degree in business administration with an emphasis in entrepreneurship, earned her diploma while getting married and being the full-time caretaker for her father.
“It’s extremely rewarding,” Kanaly said in a phone conversation before the ceremony. But, she added, the biggest part of that reward is seeing how her work has lifted up those around her.
“That’s not why I started,” she said. “It was very surprising.”
Since starting her degree program, Kanaly has gotten married and started a local nonprofit, Eagle Valley Senior Life, a group dedicated to helping the valley’s older residents.
With her father still in need of care, Kanaly said she’s headed straight for her MBA degree, this time through the University of Denver, one of the state’s finest schools.
Where you’ll end up after starting out at a community college was the theme of graduation speaker Kent Lambrecht’s address to the students. After graduating from high school, Lambrecht, now an owner of the Vail Valley Pharmacy in Edwards, went to college, and then dropped out and joined the Air Force. After riding out a poison gas attack in the 1991 Iraq war, Lambrecht decided to go back to school. His educational re-start at a community college ended with a doctoral degree in biochemistry, and further study in regenerative medicine.
Learning doesn’t stop with a graduation ceremony, he said.
“So go out and have fun this weekend,” Lambrecht told the group. “Then on Monday, it’s time to change the world.”
Vail Daily Business Editor Scott Miller can be reached at 970-748-2939 or at firstname.lastname@example.org.