News from Montgomery College

900 Hungerford Drive, Suite 200, Rockville, MD 20850 

For Immediate Release (02-25)
Date: May 17, 2002 
Contact: Dave Willingham, 240-567-7970; Pager: 301-930-0972
               Steve Simon, 240-567-7952

Commencement Speaker Wishes Graduates “Failure”
 Montgomery College Students Urged to Overcome

            “I want to wish you all the failure in the world.” 

            Those were the first words from television executive Wendy Thompson in her keynote address at Montgomery College commencement today.  Thompson’s rousing but challenging speech highlighted the College’s 55th commencement ceremonies, held under a huge tent at its Rockville campus.

            Thompson, a native of Peru, is general manager of Washington’s Telemundo affiliate, WZDC, Channel 54.  She recalled buying an airline ticket on credit to come to this country because “I refused to accept my reality.”  She told of working as a nanny and cleaning houses as she struggled for eight years to finish college.

            College President Dr. Charlene R. Nunley said Thompson is believed to be the first former student to deliver the keynote address at a Montgomery College commencement.  Thompson completed her studies at the College in 1993, before transferring to the University of Maryland, where she earned a bachelor of science degree in business administration.

            Regarding failure, Thompson told the commencement crowd of more than 3,500 “I know I will fail most of the time and I wish that for you.  It’s what we do with failure that makes the difference.”

            Thompson cited taking risks and being persistent as other ingredients in her recipe for success, recalling that she phoned Telemundo every day for a month before finally landing her first job there.

            And in a final challenge, Thompson told the graduates, “Ask yourself every day: are you living up to your opportunities?”

            Approximately 1,200 Montgomery College students have earned associate’s degrees or technical certificates for the current academic year.  They studied on the College’s three campuses, in Germantown, Rockville, and Takoma Park, as well as at satellite locations.

            Four top graduates were recognized as Board of Trustees Scholars, one of the College’s foremost academic honors.  They are:

  • Pamela Barnes, Oxon Hill High, representing the College’s Workforce Development/Continuing Education Unit.

  • Marija Jovic, Quince Orchard High, Germantown campus.

  • Maria Carolina Lasso, John F. Kennedy High, Rockville Campus.

  • Bethlehem Taffese, who want to high school in Ethiopia, Takoma Park campus.

All four compiled perfect 4.0 grade point averages.

            The College also recognized community leaders, awarding three honorary Associate of Arts in Public Service degrees.  They went to keynote speaker Thompson, Leadership Montgomery Executive Director Esther Newman, and the Rev. Thomas Jeremiah Baltimore, Senior, founder and senior Minister of the People’s Community Baptist Church in the Cloverly area of Silver Spring, Maryland. 

            During the commencement ceremonies, Dr. Nunley dedicated flags from 170 nations that flew over the crowded tent.  The flags represent the countries of origin for students, faculty, and staff of Montgomery College, the most diverse community college in Maryland.  The flags will hang as a permanent display in the College administration building.

           The commencement was televised live over Montgomery College Television, cable channel 10 in Montgomery County, and webcast live via the Internet, sponsored by Pepsi.  The MCTV program will be rebroadcast several times.  Dates and times may be found on the college website,  Click on “Explore MC,” then select “Montgomery College Channel.”  The webcast may be seen until June 17 at

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