Penny Wirsing Receives Distinguished Alumni Award from Alma Mater

FY19 President Penny Wirsing shares her acceptance speech that she gave upon receiving the Distinguished Alumni Award from her alma mater, Lansing Community College.
Penny Wirsing Receives Distinguished Alumni Award from Alma Mater

FY19 President Penny Wirsing‘s acceptance speech for her Distinguished Alumni Award from her alma mater, Lansing Community College:

I was 18 when I first became a student at Lansing Community College. I had a one-year old daughter and was separated, on my way to becoming divorced. I had no idea what I wanted to do with my life, I just knew I didn’t want to stay on welfare. I don’t recall exactly, but I’m pretty sure I was scared to death at all the uncertainty in my future.

I focused on one semester at a time, like many of you probably have, and eventually earned an Associates Degree. What an incredible sense of accomplishment! I didn’t realize it at the time, but earning that degree from LCC ignited something in me. I started realizing all the possibilities I hadn’t known even existed.

At one point I was working as a secretary in an office of engineers, and saw what they did and how much money they made, and decided I was going to go on for a Bachelors Degree. This is something that never would have entered my mind a few years before. So back to LCC I went in order to earn enough credits to transfer to Michigan State University as a junior. It was so important to me at that time as a single mother to take advantage of the accessibility and lower cost of LCC’s classes. Without the education and support I received at LCC, I never would have been able to pursue an engineering degree, and I’m so very grateful.

And now, I’m an environmental manager with a major corporation. I’m the president of the Society of Women Engineers, a 40,000 member global organization supporting the advancement of women in engineering. I’ve had the opportunity to travel around the world, literally, and do some pretty incredible things. Things I never could have imagined when I took my first class at LCC so many years ago.

Like you today, I felt incredibly proud of my accomplishments at LCC. And that sense of accomplishment ignited something in me. It wasn’t just receiving a degree, it was realizing all the possibilities I hadn’t known existed.

I share this with you as you graduate, to plant a seed… that this degree, while an incredible accomplishment in its own right, may be just the start for you as well.

Congratulations, class of 2019, and thank you.

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