Del Tech’s Class of 2018 ready to take the field in life’s journey

GEORGETOWN – Seeds for Nicole Sherry’s dream job as Baltimore Orioles’ head groundskeeper at Camden Yards were planted about 18 years ago at Delaware Technical Community College.

Tuesday night, she returned to the Owens Campus – where her dream began in college’s Turf Management program with a field trip to Camden Yards – to deliver some words-of-wisdom pitches as commencement speaker for Del Tech’s Class of 2018.

“Wherever you go and whatever you do in life make sure to have good help, constantly feed the soil and when times are tough, be sure to weather the storm,” said Ms. Sherry, whose education at Del Tech and the University of Delaware were instrumental in her becoming the Orioles’ head groundskeeper in November 2006. “Enjoy life, both the good times and the bad. But if you do these three things along the way I guarantee there will be plenty of good times.”

Elementary education graduate Imani Cummings set the festive mood for commencement with a stunning delivery of the National Anthem.

Dr. Bobbi Barends, vice president and campus director of the Owens Campus in Georgetown, then took the podium.

“Our graduates are the stars of the evening. And graduates we are so proud of you, so excited for the opportunities that your education will bring you and so thankful for the great contributions that you will make,” said Dr.  Barends. “As you know life is a journey. There will be hardships, heartaches, joy, celebrations and special moments that will ultimately lead us to our destination. The road here was not always smooth. Many of you encountered many challenges. Some of these challenges tested your courage, your strength, your weaknesses and your faith. In order to follow your path to graduation you overcame these obstacles.”

Some factual nuggets on the Class of 2018:

  • 513 Associate degrees were among the 650 academic awards;
  • 281 graduated with academic excellence;
  • 62 students graduated summa cum laude;
  • 12 graduates obtained a perfect 4.0 grade point average;
  • 64 percent of this year’s graduates are women, and minorities account for 30 percent of the class;
  • Graduate age spans 53 years, from a 19-year-old communications major to a 72-year-old accounting major;
  • Average graduate age is 28;
  • 41 graduates are military veterans; they along with veterans in the audience received a special salute.

This year’s commencement was punctuated by a special presentation to Blanche Williams Baker, the honored recipient of the Paul K. Weatherly Award – the highest honor the college can give.

Named in tribute to Del Tech’s first president, the award honors individuals for outstanding contributions to Del Tech and those who best exemplify the ideals of a community college education.

The award was presented by DTCC Board of Trustees chair Scott Green. He noted is not an annual award and is only given when the board of trustees deem it is warranted.

In 1990, Ms. Williams Baker – daughter of U.S. Senator John J. Williams, who served from 1947-70 – donated a residence that became the college’s off-campus conference center.

In 2007, Ms. Williams Baker and her late husband Ray presented the college with another gift: an endowment of nearly 1,000 acres of land, with net proceeds of the sale to benefit Del Tech and students.

“When I look out here and see these beautiful faces I am just so proud to be part of it. Thank you, thank you, thank you!” said Ms. Williams Baker. “I don’t feel I deserve it … but I’ll take it!”

Ms. Sherry, one of only two female head groundskeepers in Major League Baseball history, reminded students that life sometimes throws curve balls and change-ups. She emphasized the importance to stay in the batter’s box, surround yourself with good people, feed the soil and weather the storm.

“Nobody in this room can survive alone. You cannot do it by yourself. You all got to this point with the help of someone whether you want to admit it or not. We all need help along the way. We can’t be afraid to ask for it. Surround yourself with people that will elevate you to bigger and better things. People that challenge you when things are easy. People that pick you up when you are down. People that constantly keep you moving forward instead of standing still,” said Ms. Sherry. “A person’s most useful asset is not a head full of knowledge but a heart full of love, an ear ready to listen and a hand willing to help others.”

“You all received a high school diploma, but you decided that wasn’t enough for you. Today you are receiving your college diploma. It is a great accomplishment and you should be very proud. You leave here today having been given the knowledge and the skills to go out and take on the world,” said Ms. Sherry. “But if you think your education is complete, then you are in trouble. You have to continuously learn because the environment that is around you is constantly changing. The more you learn the better you become. Don’t ever stop learning.”

“I’m sure some of you have jobs lined up, or are going to travel, or further your formal education. I wish you all the best of luck in your endeavors,” said Ms. Sherry. “There will be some speed-bumps along the way. You are going to face some challenges. Not every situation is going to be an ideal one. It will be up to you on how you are going to handle that adversity. Keep your head above water until it passes. Roll with the punches. Be strong, be smart but be flexible.”

News Editor Glenn Rolfe can be reached at

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