First Honorary Degrees ever awarded by MTC presented to Solomon Jackson and Lou Kennedy
(Columbia, S.C.) Midlands Technical College (MTC) awarded more than 2,500 degrees, diplomas, and certificates to students from more than 100 academic programs. It is one of the largest graduating classes in the college’s history.
“It was an honor to present diplomas to the class of 2017 and to share this special event with their friends and families,” said MTC President Dr. Ronald L. Rhames. “They have earned the respect and admiration of the college’s faculty, staff, and commissioners. I congratulate them all for their determination.”
“Many of these students overcame significant personal challenges to achieve their educational goals,” said Rhames. “Although their paths have not always been easy, these students have persevered.”
The 2017 commencement also marked the beginning of a new tradition at Midlands Technical College. For the first time in the college’s history, MTC awarded honorary associate degrees in humane letters to outstanding friends of the college. Colleges and universities traditionally use the designation humane letters to recognize the recipients’ service to their community, philanthropy, and achievements beneficial to their fellow citizens.
Rhames and MTC Commission Chair Robert P. Wilkins, Jr. presented the honorary degrees to Lou Kennedy and Solomon Jackson.
“Lou is a valued friend of the college,” said Rhames. “In honor of her father, she and her husband established the William Jerry Wood Life Skills Center at MTC. The center ensures career success by bolstering students’ abilities to interact in a professional manner as they enter the job market. She is an enthusiastic supporter of Midlands Technical College and higher education for the doors it opens for students.”
Kennedy, the owner of Nephron Pharmaceuticals Corporation, also contributed nebulizers to children with breathing problems at Camp Catch Your Breath, an asthma camp managed by the college’s Respiratory Care Program.
Rhames presented the second honorary degree to the Reverend Doctor Solomon Jackson, Jr. Jackson earned his Associate Degree in Industrial Technology from Midlands Technical College and is the 2017 Distinguished MTC Alumnus.
“A graduate of MTC himself, Reverend Jackson has enabled colleges and universities across the region to better serve their students through his generous philanthropy and personal service,” said Rhames. “To enable students in need of assistance to pursue their life-changing dreams of higher education and career success, he established the Solomon Jackson Jr. Foundation.”
Rev. Jackson was instrumental in the structure and implementation of the current MTC alumni association, and he created a Midlands Technical College Foundation scholarship to benefit students seeking higher education and career opportunities through the college’s QuickJobs programs.
“MTC is proud to be the beneficiary of the tireless advocacy and generous support of many leaders in our community,” said Rhames. “I am grateful to have recognized two such individuals with the first ever honorary associate degrees awarded by the college.”
Sarah Donnelley, president of the MTC Student Advisory Board, addressed the graduating class. She told the audience about the success of one of her classmates who persevered as a full-time student despite working, raising two children, and facing family struggles.
“My classmate is completing her degree and doing something for herself and her daughters, after so many years of serving everyone else’s wishes,” said Donnelly. “I respect her more than anything, and she has shown me what pure determination can achieve. She did it. We did it. I am so proud of each and every one of us. Whether you chose MTC for the small classes, the many opportunities, or the talented instructors, I hope you were, as I was, completely satisfied with the entire experience the college provided.”
The commencement speaker was Joseph “Hilik” Shenkar, Assistant Solicitor, Special Assistant U.S. Attorney, and Midlands Technical College’s 2016 Distinguished Alumnus. A native of Israel, he attended Midlands Technical College while becoming a naturalized citizen and earned his Associate in Arts degree.
“It takes a special school, such as the one you are graduating from today, to recognize the needs of its students, and to provide them with the right tools so they can achieve and become,” Shenkar told the graduating class. “For that, I’ll be forever thankful for MTC.”
“Take your education and experience and go out there and improve upon yourself,” he said. “Take it out there and improve upon our city and our beautiful state, and take it out there and improve upon the greatest nation on Earth, the United States of America.”