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139th commencement marks historical first

April 27, 2015

Student Senate President Brittany Piccone will address the 2015 Class of the University of Rio Grande and Rio Grande Community College during the 139th Commencement on Saturday, May 2.

Student Senate President Brittany Piccone will address the 2015 Class of the University of Rio Grande and Rio Grande Community College during the 139th Commencement on Saturday, May 2.

RIO GRANDE, Ohio – The name Brittany Piccone will forever be cemented in the rich history of the University of Rio Grande and Rio Grande Community College come Saturday, May 2.

Piccone is one of the 384 graduates to be honored at the 139th Commencement of Rio Grande. But the Student Senate President also will address the graduates, thus becoming the first student to ever do so.

“It’s extremely exciting and a huge honor,” said Piccone, an Education major from Crooksville, Ohio. “I’m not exactly sure what I’ll say yet … but my main goal is to encourage everybody to continue doing what they love when they leave Rio.”

Piccone said that message was clear to her the day she first signed to run cross country and track for the RedStorm. Coach Bob Willey asked what she planed to study. She replied education. He asked why. Piccone answered, ‘Because that’s what I love.’

“I came in wanting to be an intervention specialist and haven’t doubted it since,” Piccone explained. “Coming here worked out great for me. The best part about Rio Grande is it’s small enough where you can do just about anything you want to do. As cliché as it sounds, it is true.”

Founded in 1876 and nestled in the beautiful rolling hills of southeastern Ohio, Rio Grande serves as an oasis of learning, innovation and technology. The 190-acre residential campus strikes a balance of liberal arts and experiential learning to prepare students for successful lives as responsible citizens in a culturally diverse, global community. An epicenter of cultural enrichment, Rio offers students a nurturing environment focused on the needs of the individual with a student-faculty ratio of 19:1 and a plethora of extracurricular activities ranging from Student Senate to Greek life, and intercollegiate athletics.

Commencement is scheduled to begin at 1 p.m. on the Green, in front of Allen Hall. Inclement weather could move the ceremony inside the Lyne Center gymnasium.

The Class of 2015 features 398 degrees earned – 240 Associate’s, 133 Bachelor’s and 25 Master’s – with 13 students earning multiple degrees.

The class includes at least four sets of husband and wife – Liranda and Olen McCain, Nicholas and Roberta White, Jacquelyn and Kaleb Patten and James (Shane) and Julie Polcyn.

The class also features three Sigma Tau Delta (English Honor Society) members – Jessica DeLong, Kayla Browning and Rebecca Hutchison – who presented at the national conference earlier this spring in Albuquerque, New Mexico.

Rio’s first Music Scholarship recipient, Aryn Gritter, also represents the Class of 2015. Gritter has recently been accepted to Opera Guadalajara in Mexico, where she will continue her studies and perform this summer.

Rio Grande President Michelle R. Johnston, Ph.D., in her first year as Rio president, will proceed Piccone with the graduate address.

Since her arrival in September, President Johnston has made a commitment to refocus Rio on its primary mission: serving its students through a learner-centered environment that promotes successful lives, careers, and responsible citizenship.

That meant more student interaction throughout campus, more opportunities for student feedback and allowing students to have a voice in important decisions.

“Everyone seems to love her,” Piccone said of President Johnston. “The thing I hear the most is how much she cares about the students. That makes them more willing to get excited about things on campus, because they know they have someone to back them up. … She lets us have input. Its not just this is what’s going to be done; she lets us have a word in the decisions.”

Those decisions range from allowing the Student Senate to design parking permits to choosing which residence hall to close next year.

As Student Senate President, Piccone and President Johnston have met regularly, and always in public on campus as to welcome random visitors.

“Students are our focus,” President Johnston said. “Having a student speaker at commencement is something I hope becomes a tradition. It just doesn’t seem complete otherwise.

“Our Student Senate President is not always graduating, but it seems most appropriate for one of our student leaders to speak to our graduating class,” President Johnston continued. “They choose their own, and I want to recognize that.”