CLIFTON FORGE — About 410 students graduated from Dabney S. Lancaster Community College Friday in the company of family, friends and special guest Robin Sullenberger, chairman of the State Board of Community Colleges.

Commencement was held in the DSLCC Convocation Center. It was the college’s 52nd commencement exercises.  

Student speaker Shaun Hammond of Glen Wilton urged his fellow graduates to continue their education, whether it be in the workforce or in another institution of higher learning.

“Our educations should never stop at graduation,” he said. “The best investment we can make is expand our knowledge.”

Hammond graduated with as associate’s degree in business administration. He will transfer to Roanoke College in the fall and pursue a bachelor’s degree in business administration and a minor in marketing.

“Our hard work has finally paid off,” Hammond said to the Class of 2019.

DSLCC President Dr. John Rainone said a degree  from a community college or a four-year college is essential to obtaining a good-paying job in the 21st century.

He said a person with an associate’s degree typically earns 33 percent more over their lifetime than a high school graduate.

“But your degree does not entitle you to success. Your character is your success factor,” Rainone said.

“Your class, reflective of your generation, shares values that our society needs,” Rainone said to the graduates.

“College changed me and  I hope it did you,” he added.

Sullenberger, a graduate of Virginia Tech, retired in 2013 as chief executive officer of the Shenandoah Regional Partnership.

A former teacher and coach at Bath County High School, Sullenberger was appointed to the State Board of Community Colleges in 2012 by former Gov. Bob McDonnell. 

Sullenberger resides in Highland County and he is a former member of the Highland County Board of Supervisors.

In reflecting on his initial  struggles as a student at Virginia Tech, Sullenberger said, “There are a lot of failures in life. Recoup your losses and move on to a bigger and better world.”

In 2013, he was featured in Virginia Business Magazine as one of the 50 Most Influential Virginians.

“I?am here to tell you to go out and make the world a better place,” he told the Class of 2019.

Sullenberger said community colleges are playing a vital role in meeting the demands of a changing job market in Virginia.

Community colleges he said, offer career studies certificates and workforce credentials to students interested in becoming welders, electricians and cybersecurity specialists. Those jobs are in high demand, Sullenberger said.

Kyle Keyser of Covington delivered congratulatory remarks on behalf of the DSLCC College Board. Keyser serves as the board’s chairman.

“As of today, you will be a positive force in the world,” Keyser said to the graduating class.

Emily Bartley of Covington was named as the recipient of the Gary Lee Miller Outstanding Graduate Award.

Miller, who graduated from Covington High School and attended DSLCC, died in Vietnam in 1969 after he sacrificed his life to save his fellow troops.

Miller was awarded a Congressional Medal of Honor posthumously.

The Miller Award is given each year to a graduate who demonstrates academic excellence, leadership and participation in co-curricular and community activities.

Bartley, who is 17, received an associate’s degree in social studies. She plans to attend Liberty University.

DSLCC alumnae Julie Persinger-Gardiner was named as the recipient of the  Distinguished Alumni Award. Persinger-Gardiner, a former Covington resident, graduated from DSLCC?in 1991.


Mike Barber of Covington, right, receives his associate of applied science degree in science from Dabney S. Lancaster Community College President Dr. John Rainone during commencement exercises held Friday evening in the DSLCC Convocation Center. For a complete list of the DSLCC graduates, see Pages 11 and 12. (Gavin Dressler Photo)