Kenai Peninsula College honors graduates during virtual commencement

Kenai Peninsula College honored 142 graduates during a virtual commencement held May 6.

The Kenai Peninsula College Kachemak Bay Campus and Kenai River Campus conferred 142 degrees and certificates during its 51st annual commencement hosted virtually Thursday, May 6. Because of the COVID-19 pandemic, all University of Alaska system colleges held virtual ceremonies to celebrate the graduating class of 2021.

Each graduate was recognized in a slideshow presentation organized by their awarded degree and certificate. The college awarded 30 associate of arts degrees, 31 associate of applied sciences degrees, 11 one-year certificates, 32 GED certificates, 16 American Welding Society certifications and 12 University of Alaska degrees.

Dr. Anne Zink, state of Alaska chief medical officer, served as this year’s commencement keynote speaker. Zink shared the personal lessons she’s learned during her life that have connected her with the people she serves and encourages others to live by these mottoes as well.

• “You can do hard things.” Zink reminded the graduates to remember all of the challenges they have overcome, as well as the strength they possess, when in the midst of starting something new.

• “Be courageous and kind.” Zink learned from Dr. Jay Butler, former chief medical officer, to be kind to people but courageous enough to address the difficult issues.

• “Do what is right; the rest is noise.” Zink encouraged the students to do what is right when facing trials in life, regardless of other people’s opinions. She explained others will always have something to say concerning your actions, but as long as you’ve done what is right, their opinions are just background noise.

• “Show up to the climb.” Zink shared an experience of rock climbing when she thought it would be impossible to complete. But by showing up and putting one foot in front of the other, Zink was able to finish the climb and experience the view from the highest peak in California.

Zink also challenged the graduates to adopt their own personal mission statement or motto in life to help them reach their goals.

“As you embark on this new, crazy adventure after graduation, the path is going to be less sure, less set,” Zink said. “When we’re in school, it’s one thing after another. Now, you’re entering into the great world of many, many possibilities and many unknowns. I really congratulate you for getting to this point … and encourage you all to know who you are at the heart of it all.”

The graduates also heard from several university officials, including University of Alaska Anchorage Interim Chancellor Bruce Schultz, University of Alaska Interim President Pat Pitney, Kenai Peninsula College Director Gary J. Turner, as well as both valedictorians from Kachemak Bay Campus and Kenai River Campus. During the ceremony, Pitney encouraged graduates to be productive and effective Alaska citizens.

“Have confidence. Use your strengths. Do not be deterred,” Pitney said. “For those of you starting your career, I know you will help build a stronger Alaska. For those of you whose next step will be continued toward another degree, I know you’ve built a great foundation in your time here at Kenai Peninsula College. Whatever path you choose, walk it with great personal strength. Whatever you choose to do, do it well and with passion.”

Zoe Cramer, Kachemak Bay Campus valedictorian, graduated magna cum laude with an associate of arts degree in hopes of pursuing a career in social justice. In her valedictorian speech, Cramer congratulated her fellow classmates for overcoming the challenges students faced during the COVID-19 pandemic, including all-virtual classes, and praised the educators at Kachemak Bay Campus for their dedication to the students. Without their help, Cramer says she wouldn’t have found her passion in advocacy. Cramer also received the Kachemak Bay Campus Director’s Choice Award for service to campus.

Michelle Wicker, Kenai River Campus valedictorian, graduated summa cum laude with an associate of applied science degree in process technology and industrial process instrumentation, as well as with a certificate in petroleum technology. Wicker reminded the graduates to be bold in the pursuit of their goals and ask for what they want, even if life doesn’t go as planned.

The University of Alaska Anchorage celebrated Kenai Peninsula College Director Gary Turner in his last commencement before he retires July 1. Turner received the designation of emeritus director of Kenai Peninsula College after 35 years of service. In his message to the graduates, Turner praised their hard work and dedication to their education and encouraged them to push forward in uncertain times.

“I understand how hard your journey has been, especially the last three semesters,” Turner said. “You’ve proven your resilience and ability to overcome unbelievable odds despite the pandemic. My message to you is that you should take a look in your rear-view mirror tonight, and then charge ahead to your future tomorrow. … Keep pursuing your dreams; you should never run out of them.”

The commencement is archived on the Kenai Peninsula College’s Facebook and YouTube accounts, as well as the website.

The Kenai Peninsula College will hold in-person and virtual courses beginning this fall. For more information about the Kenai Peninsula College, visit

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