THATCHER, Ariz. — Eastern Arizona College celebrated its 134th Commencement Ceremony at John Mickelson Stadium, awarding degrees and certificates to 607 graduates. College faculty and staff, elected officials, and friends and families honored graduates from EAC and its joint nursing degree program with Arizona State University. Graduating students from 13 Arizona counties, 14 states, and Canada, France, and Mexico attended the ceremony.
Adalberto Carillo, president of Eastern Arizona College Associated Students, called the ceremony to order. EAC President Todd Haynie welcomed the gathering and conducted the ceremony. Jeff Larson, chair of the Graham County Community College District Governing Board, accepted the candidates for graduation.
The Honorable Russell “Rusty” Bowers - the former Speaker of the Arizona House of Representatives - delivered the commencement address. A fourth-generation Arizonan, Mr. Bowers grew up on a sheep ranch in Chino Valley. He served in the Arizona House of Representatives from 1993 to 1997, the Arizona Senate from 1997 to 2001, and again in the Arizona House from 2015 to 2023. He is the recipient of the prestigious John F. Kennedy Profile in Courage Award and the Presidential Citizens Medal, the second-highest civilian honor in the United States.
Mr. Bowers has strong ties to Eastern Arizona College. Three of his children attended EAC and his daughter was a former Miss Graham County. As Speaker of the House, Mr. Bowers invited EAC’s band – the only community college marching band in the state of Arizona – to play the Star-Spangled Banner at the opening sessions of the legislature.
Mr. Bowers began his speech with a riveting story about him being abducted after the car he was driving broke down during a trip to Mexico. When his captors learned of his religion and faith in God, one of them insisted on letting him go free. Mr. Bowers stated that the moral to his story was not about religion, but that somebody once treated his abductor who freed him well. “Somewhere, back there in time, somebody, treated [him] good. And he left an impression on him. Somebody made a good impression, and he didn’t know me, but he saved my life. I’m standing here because that person somewhere did good.”
He then gave the graduates a simple, yet powerful, challenge, and asked them to do good things in their lives. “The good that happened here doesn’t have an end unless you end it. The good you do has no end and you don’t know where it goes. You don’t know where it goes but [the good someone did] once saved my life.”
Samantha Madrid represented the Class of 2021. Madrid is from Eagar, Arizona, and is a graduate of Round Valley High School. She graduated with from EAC with highest honors and an associate degree in psychology. Madrid asked her classmates, “what requires more faith, getting what you want or continuing on with what you don’t?” She encouraged her classmates to always choose progress and to draw upon their faith when facing challenges. “Bloom where you’re planted and remember that it’s often in the middle of nowhere that you find yourself.”
Angelica de Paulo – EAC’s head women’s basketball coach - represented the faculty and staff. Coach de Paulo is originally from Sao Paulo, Brazil. During this academic year, she led the EAC Women’s Basketball Team to the national playoffs and 29 and 2 season. For her efforts, she was named the ACCAC Region 1 Coach of the Year. Coach de Paulo received her associate degree from New Mexico Junior College, her bachelor’s in human services from Utah State University, and a Master of Business Administration degree from Upper Iowa University.
Coach de Paulo began her speech by telling the graduates, “There is one thing I know for sure. You cannot do great things alone. You must surround yourself with good people. I know that you have some good people with you here tonight.” Attendees applauded as she recognized all the people who helped the graduates make it through this significant chapter of their lives.
She then told the audience that nine years ago she arrived in America from Brazil with a big dream. At first it was a difficult because of language barriers, the culture, and even the food. During her second year she was given the opportunity to play basketball for Utah State University. However, she tore her ACL and had to choose between a professional basketball career or a master’s degree. Coach de Paulo stated, “I chose education, because no one can ever take that away from me.”
Coach de Paulo told the graduates that her journey was never easy but three things have helped her make it through difficult times. “Class of 2023, your journey has just begun. And I know you are probably nervous just like me when I came to America without knowing what was next. So, my best advice to you is to always have faith, to work hard, and never give up.”
This year’s ceremony also included the announcement of the recipient of the Changing Lives Award that was given by students to an EAC employee who has made a difference in their lives. This year’s recipient was Aaron Burk, dean of STEM and a former professor of biology. Burk was recognized by students for his cheerful attitude, genuinely caring about them, and contributing to EAC and the community.
Graduates from EAC’s Class of 2023 will go on to a broad range of careers and to four-year universities to study business, engineering, education, finance, medicine, law, and much more.
Graduates gather for EAC’s 134th Commencement Ceremony. (PHOTO by EAC’s Monique Saldana)
The Honorable Rusty Bowers addresses the audience at EAC’s 134th Commencement Ceremony.
(PHOTO by EAC’s Monique Saldana)
Enroll Today in EAC Summer Classes: Classes begin on May 30. Call EAC’s Financial Aid Office at (928) 428-8287 for details. Register by calling EAC’s Records and Registration Office at (928) 428-8270, or online at www.eac.edu.
About Eastern Arizona College:
Eastern Arizona College – the first community college in Arizona – has helped students claim their dreams since 1888. EAC’s qualified and caring instructors prepare students for the most in-demand careers and advanced study at universities. EAC offers more than 90 certificates and degrees, including the #1 nursing school in Arizona, a fine arts program featuring the only marching band in Arizona, and an engineering program that brings students up to speed for success at universities and top-tiered firms. Students thrive at EAC, making friendships that last a lifetime. EAC’s vibrant student experience includes on-campus housing, more than 30 clubs and organizations, active intramurals, and nationally ranked athletic and e-sports teams. At EAC, most students leave with $0 debt. Let EAC provide an affordable way for you to claim your dreams. Contact email@example.com or call (928) 428-8272 today.