GCC Changed Lives Through Education in this Family
Posted on Monday May 6th 2013
Brian Miner ’85 was front and center at the events celebrating GCC’s 50th Anniversary last November. Just as he has been at several events over the years that have kept him connected to and supportive of Greenfield Community College, despite having moved from the area.
GCC knew it could count on Miner, for example, to join its Boston-area Alumni gatherings held in recent years, a perfect spokesperson for those whose experience here launched further academic degree attainment and a successful career.
But there’s one piece of intelligence about GCC alum Brian Miner that is new: his is truly a legacy family of this community’s college. Miner wrote to GCC President Bob Pura just before the 50th celebration to offer a complete picture of the impact GCC has had on his family: his mother, his brother and uncles.
This is Brian’s story. This is his family’s story. This is our community’s story:
Dear President Pura,
Given the events of the 50th Anniversary celebration, I felt it appropriate to drop you a note in advance (OK….write a long letter) to tell you about my family experience with GCC. I’m sure you have heard many inspiring stories from former students over the years and I thought this one may interest you as well. I’m not sure if there’s a similar story others could tell but I would bet it’s unique seeing as there have probably been around 12,000 or so GCC graduates over the years.
The Story: My mother (Teresa), my brother, (Michael), and myself (Brian)allgraduatedtogetherfromGCCin1985. (Seetheattached picture….boy, how I’ve aged!) Yes, same year, same day, all three of us. All different circumstances. No grand plan, just pure chance.
The Real Story: The real story is not necessarily that we graduated together; it’s how we all ended up at the same crossroads at the same time. The graduation itself was just a destination but it’s the three separate journeys that really epitomize what GCC is all about. In my opinion, it truly underscores the value proposition of a GCC education. I think you’ve called it “Equal Access to Opportunity”. I couldn’t say it any better.
My mother’s journey was “non-traditional” – she was not a “day commuter” student. She was an evening student and earned her AA from GCC over a 7-8 year timeframe. The GCC degree was a 2nd step in her nursing career after having graduated from the Franklin County Public Hospital School of Nursing in 1960…and all while still working and raising a family. Her next step was a Bachelors of Science in Nursing (Summa Cum Laude) from Fitchburg State the next year in 1986. She had a 40-or-so year career in Nursing, having worked in several different medical care settings over the years. She thoroughly loved working as an Oncology Nurse at Holyoke Hospital and being active in the community on committees such as Oncology Support Group as Facilitator, Cancer Co-Operative Group sponsored by the American Cancer Society, and the We Can Weekend, a conference type weekend geared towards benefiting cancer patients and their families.
In recent years she has been very active in the Elks organization and has held all the offices including Exalted Ruler. At the Elks she was extremely active including volunteering on several committees including the Veterans Committee; having accumulated over 1,000 volunteering hours at the Veterans Administration Medical Center in Leeds. This was another activity she found very rewarding. There are many more volunteer activities but let’s leave it at that for now. Too bad I didn’t have the presence of mind to nominate her as one of the “50 Distinguished GCC Alumni.” She has both benefited from and given back to her community in such subtle ways that the individual contributions weren’t as noticeable while they were happening but were truly noteworthy upon reflection and seeing how much she’s been involved in the community.
For my brother Michael, his journey also didn’t take the traditional route. He graduated from TFHS in 1980, achieving a class rank in the Top 10, maybe even Top 5 if I remember correctly. He entered UMass as a freshman in the fall of ’80. He attended for two years but was disillusioned with the lack of support at the school for a commuting day student….especially a COINS (COmputer INformation Systems) commuting day student having to gain access to computer labs at all hours of the day or night. (Where was Ms. Velma Dean – TFHS computer teacher at the time) when you needed her!
After having had enough, he left UMass and entered the working world for a year. Somewhere during that time, he decided to restart his education at GCC in the fall of ’83, I believe. After leaving GCC in ’85, he went on to graduate with a Bachelor in Computer Information Systems in ’87 (Cum Laude). Yet another journey to a GCC degree and beyond, that didn’t start in the traditional way.
Then there was my journey which was much less noteworthy in that it started and ended in much more of the traditional way. I entered GCC in the fall of ’82 after graduating from TFHS. I ended up attending for three years. I worked mostly full time so it took me a little longer…and the lackluster grades in my 2nd semester while also playing Baseball certainly didn’t help! But I took advantage of the extra year and received two degrees (Accounting and Management) – and gained an extra, necessary, year of maturity – and boosted my grades to make sure I got into the Major I wanted at UMass. At the time, there was no guarantee you’d be accepted in your Major at UMass so I worked hard to bring my grades up. I did go on to graduate from UMass (Finance – Cum Laude) in 1988 and put that degree to work holding several professional and management roles providing Finance and Accounting support, mainly to manufacturing companies. But the journey started with GCC…differently than the other two journeys…and may have ended similarly to my brother’s path had I not gone to GCC first.
It couldn’t have been predicted that we’d all reach the GCC finish line at the same time or that we all would go on to receive our Bachelor’s Degrees in successive years (Mom ’86, Mike ’87, Me ’88). At the time we may not have all equally appreciated what the value of a GCC education meant either as a start, a re-start, or a stepping stone to a future of higher education. But looking back now, I know I certainly appreciated my time at GCC. I did a lot of growing up and it was the perfect setting for me. Looking back, I don’t think I would have done it any other way.
I never really thought of the ’85 Graduation in the terms of what a GCC education meant at the time. But as I reflected on what the GCC 50th Anniversary Celebration was all about, I felt compelled to tell our family’s story.
A quick side note….another GCC connection. My uncle, Jim Greenleaf, who just happens to be brother to my mother, was in GCC’s inaugural graduating class of 1964. Who would have thought that a brother and sister would graduate from GCC – 22 years or so apart! Jim spent his career in public service as Area Director of the Department of Transitional Assistance and is now happily retired in Florida. And finally, my other uncle, Bob Greenleaf, also graduated from GCC back then and has recently retired after many years with the Turners Falls Water District. We are a legacy family!
I hoped you enjoyed reading the story as much as I enjoyed writing it. Thank you GCC! Best Regards,
Brian Miner, Chelmsford MA – Turners Falls High School (’82), Greenfield Community College (AS ’85), University of Mass (BBA ’88), Babson College (MBA ’99)