For many years now, there has been a dinnertime tradition at my house. As we sit down to enjoy each other’s company and the evening meal, we share something we are thankful for and something we are hopeful for.

There aren’t too many rules about what we call our “Thankfuls and Hopefuls.” We used to say them first and try to keep the lists short enough that the food wouldn’t get cold, but as my daughters have grown older, and the “Thankfuls and Hopefuls” have become even more involved and interesting, we finally decided to go ahead and eat while we share (and do what we can not to speak with our mouths full).

As Thanksgiving approaches, and we all prepare to sit down and enjoy each other’s company and a good meal together, here are a few things from recent weeks that I’m Thankful for:

The NECC President’s Running Club

Each semester, dozens of NECC students, faculty, and staff—members of the President’s Running Club—lace up their running shoes and join me at the Sport and Fitness Center on Monday afternoons, or any time they want through the club’s virtual logbook, to socialize, keep fit, and help me “run the campus.”

NECC President’s Running Club members Laura Mondt, Kristen Sparrow, Al Hitchcock, Pam Donohue, Lane Glenn, Margaret Glenn, Sharon McDermot, Logan Foster, and Dave McAskill

 

For those just getting started, NECC Chief Information Officer Jeff Bickford coaches a “Couch-to-5K” group. This semester, I’m also thankful for club runners Kirsten Kortz and Kristen Sparrow, who provided pre-run stretching sessions; and to Izabella Iem, who led our weekly group of walkers.

Today, the club ran in the annual Pentucket Pride 5K, where several runners placed in their divisions, including Dave McAskill who came in divisional second; Laura Mondt who came in divisional third (and broke her personal record for a 5K by a full minute); and NECC Cross Country Team student Logan Foster who came in first place overall at a blisteringly fast 5:45 per mile pace.

Talented Teachers

One of the most frequent comments I hear from NECC alumni who transfer to four-year universities to complete their bachelor’s degrees is, “I wish I could have stayed at NECC!”

It’s not that they don’t enjoy their new schools, or benefit from larger, often better-funded campuses. Massachusetts is home to some of the best public and private higher education institutions anywhere in the world.

But they aren’t all NECC, and our students know a good thing when they experience it.

One of the best things about Northern Essex Community College is our small class sizes with tremendously talented faculty, and the personal attention students receive from them, including:

  • Chemistry Professor (and Amateur Magician) Mike Cross, whose popular Forensic Science class, described in this recent article in the Eagle Tribune, teaches students how to observe, collect, analyze and evaluate evidence found at crime scenes.
  • Adjunct English Professor Patrick Lochelt, whose dedication and creativity has not only kept alive the 53-year-old campus literary magazine, Parnassus, but has helped it thrive, earning it the prestigious 2018 Pacemaker Award from the Associated Collegiate Press.
  • Adjunct Theatre Professor and well-known Boston area actress Brianne Beatrice who is helping engage students and keep performing arts vibrant at NECC with edgy productions like the recent Top Notch Theatre run of Stupid F*cking Bird in the Chester W. Hawrylciw Theater in Haverhill.
  • Accessibility Specialist and former Art and Design Professor Lance Hidy, known for designing postage stamps, typeface fonts, and books for Ansel Adams, who recently presented two “Poster Art with Lance Hidy” workshops at the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston.
  • English Professor and Salem resident Tom Greene, who again this year, just in time for Halloween, presented workshops on Vampire Legends at local libraries, as part of the NECC Speakers Bureau.

And the list goes on, with hundreds of full-time and adjunct professors who are not only recognized experts in their fields, but gifted teachers as well, who care about the success of all of their students.

A Conversation with Oprah

By now you may have heard that the Big O herself, Oprah Winfrey, was in the Merrimack Valley this week. She stopped by the University of Massachusetts-Lowell for “A Conversation with Oprah,” a scholarship fundraiser that earned $1.5 million for UML, matched dollar-for-dollar by the star herself for a total of $3 million for current and future “Oprah Scholars” at the university. (Yes, I am sending a copy of my recent “Dear Winner of the Mega Millions Jackpot Lottery” blog piece to Ms. Oprah, care of her company, Harpo Productions, to be sure she knows how far a few extra bucks can go at a community college, too…)

Many thanks to UML Chancellor Jacqui Maloney, who arranged for a special block of tickets for a group of NECC students, led by Director of Student Life Vengerflutta Smith, who all returned to campus confident, inspired, energized, optimistic, and ready to change the world.

 

NECC at UMass-Lowell’s “A Conversation with Oprah,” including students Michelle Colbert-Mason, Parisa Hatami, Rosanna Lara, Vengerflutta Smith (NECC Student Life Director), Sharon Montalvo, and Haylis De La Cruz

 

One of my favorite Oprah-isms that may help them do that?

“You don’t become what you want, you become what you believe.”

Look out, world, here come Michelle, Parisa, Rosanna, Sharon, and Haylis!

 

And a few things I am Hopeful for:

A “Golden Ticket” Restauranteur

The “Revolving Test Kitchen (RTK)” is a unique partnership among Northern Essex Community College, the Lawrence Partnership, and Lupoli Companies that offers an aspiring restaurant entrepreneur a “golden ticket”: free space and equipment in the nicely furnished restaurant at NECC’s “Hub” in 420 Common Street in Lawrence, along with technical assistance from Sal’s Pizza founder Sal Lupoli and Mill Cities Community Investments.

The Partnership is seeking our third restauranteur for the RTK, and will be interviewing (and sampling) four finalists after Thanksgiving.

Have I mentioned how much I love this job?

High School Sports

Fresh off her first frosh JV soccer season, Little Sis Z is about to try out for winter basketball, and is contemplating a switch from softball to track and field in the springtime.

Around our house, we have a saying that may have started with a family pet some years back, but is equally true of high energy household members like Little Sis Z (and me): A tired dog is a good dog!

Stay busy and keep fit, kiddo—and you’ll be ready for whatever comes your way.

Thanksgiving

A peaceful, restful, healthy, and enjoyable Thanksgiving holiday for you and yours. As you sit down to dinner and enjoy the company of family and friends, may you truly give thanks for the good things in your life, and let the spirit of hope lift you up and inspire you and those around you.