FAIRFIELD — Sean Cowart, 21, was on a sure-fire path to some good-natured ribbing from his brother, the college graduate, Thursday after Solano Community College’s commencement.
Cowart and his parents, Ricky and Kimberly Cowart, walked through the college parking lot before the graduation, carrying a large colorful balloon bouquet while on the way to Doc Hollister Stadium to watch Marlon Cowart, 22, walk the walk across the makeshift stage to accept his diploma.
“I’m very excited. He’s the first to graduate (from college) in our family,” said Kimberly Cowart of her son.
Her excitement echoed that of hundreds of friends and family who filled the stadium and stood along the fence line, waiting to watch Solano College’s 67th commencement exercise. They clutched balloons – holding them tight against the wind that buffeted the stadium – as well as gifts and flower bouquets as they waited for the traditional “Pomp and Circumstance” to signal the students’ entrance.
That excitement was echoed where the graduates, in black caps and gowns, lined up. Signs of creativity and individuality peeked out from under generic black graduation gowns – bright pink toenail polish, bright red sunglasses, stiletto heels, flats and lime green tennis shoes. Decorated caps adorned many heads – sparkly purple and turquoise “RN 2013,” a red emergency light and the yellow rubber ducky with a miniature diploma.
The graduates’ stories were just as diverse. Jennifer Jackson-Wilkins, 39, went back to school after the birth of her twins. Her education at San Francisco State was sidelined by the birth of her 6-year-old son. Her next step begins in the fall when she heads off to California State University, East Bay.
“It’s a long time coming,” she said. “Baby steps.”
Various speakers, including four who earned honorary degrees, urged the students to set goals and keep on forging ahead.
“Be honest and be passionate about what you do . . . ,” said Peggy A. Cohen-Thompson, a longtime Vallejo resident and graduate of Solano College when it was located in Vallejo.
Another honoree, Tuskegee Airman, Lt. Col. James C. Warren, told the graduates that he had never seen a library or a football when he started high school. He ended up with a storied Air Force career, and attended the University of Illinois majoring in architecture.
“You have to have goals . . . ,” he said. “You have just reached one of the goals today . . . graduating from Solano Community College.”
Daniel Schmitgal gave the student address and garnered multiple laughs during his speech about the past and the future, and a few odds and ends thrown in.
“To all those who look down on community colleges . . . I say but one thing, ‘I pity the fool,’ ” Schmitgal said to much laughter. “(They) spent thousands of dollars on (an) education that could have been achieved right here.”
As the graduates accepted their diplomas, Marlon Cowart’s grin was wide as he walked off stage with his diploma to get his picture taken.
“I’m pretty excited about this,” he said, as he held his diploma. “It feels pretty good.
“I’m the only son of my parents to graduate from college.”
And yes, with a huge smile and a laugh, he admitted that his brother was going to be teased “a lot.”
Reach Susan Winlow at 427-6955 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow her on Twitter at www.twitter.com/swinlowdr.