Commencement celebrates students, faculty, alumni

By J.D. Rottweiler, Ph.D.

J.D. RottweilerThe month of May belongs to students, faculty and alumni. Friday evening, Cochise College awarded 1,596 associate’s degrees. What an amazing year of student successes and achievements.

Nobody sums up the value of Cochise College better than this year’s student commencement speaker, Rachel Hansen. Her speech celebrated her experience with dedicated and intriguing faculty who spend their lives immersed in curriculum so they can give real life perspective to lessons, who pour their hearts into programs to challenge students at all levels to think outside the box, and who share opportunities with past students that they believe would appeal to them.

What stuck out for her the most? The students. From new moms, single parents and veterans, to high school students and those seeking to follow in their parents’ footsteps, it is the students who make Cochise College what it is.

“Each of them – each of us – and our journeys are stories of true success. Our success didn’t come with an acceptance letter; it came only by way of hard work and dedication. For it’s not IQ, talent, or social standing that determines success – it’s grit. It’s unwavering perseverance, resilient passion, and the stamina to fight for your goals, not just for weeks or months, but for years – even decades.”

Commencement is an opportunity to celebrate faculty, too, and two recent retirees were named faculty emeritus.

A former student nominated Randy Dorman, who retired a year ago, for this honor. During 31 years at the college, Randy taught everything from basic arithmetic through the calculus sequence, differential equations and linear algebra.

“Without his help, I wouldn’t have earned my associate’s degree in mathematics. I know I’m just another face in the history of students he’s taught over the years…Still, he has made a difference in my life and many others…I’m hoping with this nomination I can sincerely show my thanks for what Mr. Dorman has done for me.”

Helen Garcia’s nomination points to her varied contributions as a faculty member in nursing. She developed the critical care clinical rotation and shared the challenges facing rural nursing education when she served on the Arizona State Board of Nursing Education Subcommittee. She served as a preceptor for three nurses pursuing master’s degree. Under her leadership, the Student Nurses Association at Cochise College grew from 10 to 80 members and volunteered on blood drives, in nursing homes, and at Echoing Hope Ranch.

Leading the Class of 2019 to their seats were two honored alumni marshals with stories of their own, Cochise County Sheriff Mark Dannels (‘85) and Douglas High School Principal Dr. Andrea Overman (‘89).

Sheriff Dannels enrolled at Cochise while serving as a mail man at Fort Huachuca. He graduated in a year and a half, worked for the Bisbee Police Department, then climbed the ranks within the Cochise County Sheriff’s Office before being elected sheriff in 2012. He earned bachelor’s and master’s degrees along the way and attributes his success to his exposure to iconic leaders in Cochise County who he met through his classes at Cochise.

Dr. Overman’s story is one of persistence. Living and working in Douglas, she took Cochise College classes as she could. She later traveled, sometimes extensively, to earn bachelor’s, master’s and doctoral degrees. Having held a variety of teaching and administrative positions in the Douglas schools, it was upon accepting the position of principal that she felt her job and education aligned. She’s retiring and this is her last year with the school district.

This is a column about people and impact. Of all the visible accomplishments by Cochise College faculty and staff, none is more meaningful than the impact the institution has on students. You all make us Cochise College proud.

J.D. ROTTWEILER, Ph.D., is president of Cochise College. Contact him at