Columbia College celebrated the graduation of a new group of Koalas Saturday, while taking time to remember the life and accomplishments of a departed member of the class.

The college’s August commencement ceremony featured the awarding of diplomas to nearly 100 students newly qualified for bachelor’s or master’s degrees, and 14 more who earned individualized certificates in advanced machine tool technology through the communiversity program.

Attorney Margie Pizarro, founder of the Summerville-based Pizarro Law Firm and a Columbia College alumna, served as the commencement speaker. She charged the graduates to make use of what they have learned to change lives for the better.

“When you are in a position to help someone, you do it.All those people that helped me along the way can take credit for part of my journey,” she said. “You are empowered. you have the knowledge and the skill to go out and make a difference.”

Hope Wittschen, a member of the graduating class, spoke on behalf of her classmates to the crowd of hundreds gathered for the ceremony at Bible Way Church of Atlas Road.

“Columbia College is a special place and I’m thankful I found myself here,” she said. “When I got to Columbia College, I found more than a beautiful and welcoming campus. I found more than faculty and staff willing to help me grow and do more than just survive, but to thrive…

I found more than a family of students willing to go above and beyond to help me brave the rough times. I found myself.”

The ceremony included a somber moment, as Columbia College President Carol Moore awarded a posthumous master’s degree to the family of Joel Boley, who passed away unexpectedly in June.

Boley, who received his bachelor’s degree from Columbia College in 2017, was part of the Master of Arts in Organizational Leadership cohort which graduated today, and had been expected to walk alongside them.

As is traditional at Columbia College, each graduate received a Bible as well as a diploma.

Categories: Columbia, Education, Richland County

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