CRYSTAL LAKE — John McGowan sat on the bleachers, surrounded by his daughters, Kaitlyn, 7, and Emilie, 10.
The Marengo trio beamed as a graduate very special to them was about to join hundreds of others in receiving McHenry County College degrees and certificates.
“I am absolutely proud of her,” John McGowan said of his wife, Elizabeth, who graduated Saturday with an associate degree in registered nursing. “She’s been working for this a long time.”
The community college in Crystal Lake graduated 650 people this spring, conferring 466 degrees and 241 certificates, according to an MCC press release.
Members of the MCC Class of 2013 glanced toward friends and relatives in the crowd as they took their seats in the gym Saturday morning.
MCC President Vicky Smith congratulated the graduates and praised their instructors before turning the microphone over to Mary Beth Siddons, one of five inaugural recipients of the new Distinguished MCC Alumni Award. Siddons, a member of the MCC Class of 1983, is president of ITW Food Equipment Group in Troy, Ohio.
“Thirty years ago I received my associate’s degree at MCC, and I continue to be reminded of the foundation that was set right here,” she said.
The crowd also heard from student trustee Michele Lambert and student speaker Ryan McReynolds, as well as Lindsay Carson, a Spanish instructor who was named the 2013 outstanding full-time faculty member of the year. Carson told class members they had one more assignment.
“Begin to write your story,” she said. “Your reward will not come in the form of a letter grade … your reward will be found in the impact you make on others.”
Among those hearing her message was Robert Gibbons of Crystal Lake, who turned 21 Saturday and received his associate’s degree in science. Gibbons will attend the University of Illinois at Springfield this fall.
“I met a lot of great people and made great friendships,” he said of attending MCC first. “Plus, I’m not up to my elbows in debt.”
Courtney Plambeck of Crystal Lake received an associate’s degree in criminal justice. The 22-year-old embraced her grandfather John Marshall in the hallway after the ceremony.
“It’s quite an accomplishment,” Marshall said, reveling in the moment with Plambeck’s parents, Tony and Andrea Plambeck. Courtney Plambeck said MCC set her on a solid path. She reserved special praise for instructor Harriet Johnson.
“She’s the one who made me want to take more classes,” Plambeck said. “I’d like to become a police officer.”