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Montgomery College to Award Four Honorary Degrees at May 19 Commencement Ceremony

Montgomery College will bestow honorary degrees recognizing four outstanding members of the community at its 2023 Commencement exercises. Honorary degrees are the highest honor conferred by the College, awarded to people who have distinguished themselves with extraordinary achievements, made outstanding contributions to MC, or elevated the College in the eyes of the community.

The four degree recipients are: Ms. Kimmy Duong, vice chairman and chief financial officer, Pragmatics, Inc; Ms. Suzanne Brennan Firstenberg, artist; Mr. C. Richard Mattingly, founder, CRM Advisors, LLC; and The Honorable Craig Rice, former Montgomery County Councilmember. Montgomery College’s commencement ceremony will be held Friday, May 19, 2023 at 10 a.m. on the Rockville Campus.

College faculty, staff and administrators submit nominations of potential recipients. The honorees are then chosen by the president and forwarded to the Board of Trustees for approval.

Learn more about the 2023 Honorary Degree recipients:

Ms. Kimmy Duong

Refugee, Tech Entrepreneur, Philanthropist

Ms. Kimmy Duong is an accomplished tech entrepreneur, philanthropist, and refugee who has overcome countless obstacles to achieve success in life. Born in Nha Trang, Vietnam, in 1945, Ms. Duong earned a bachelor’s degree in economics and law from the University of Saigon in 1966. She started her career working for the Ministry of Social Welfare before joining IBM in 1968, where she worked until she escaped from the communists in 1975.  She came to the United States with just $30 in her pocket.

Despite the challenges she faced as a refugee, Ms. Duong’s belief in education, hard work, and family guided her.  She secured employment with IBM through a representative at the refugee camp. She moved to Northern Virginia and worked for IBM until 1994 while raising seven nephews and nieces as a single parent, all while pursuing multiple side jobs to make ends meet.

In 1994, Ms. Duong joined Pragmatics, where she currently serves as vice chairwoman and CFO. Over the past 30 years, she has overseen finance, legal, facilities management, and HR departments, playing an instrumental role in growing the company.

In addition to her professional success, Ms. Duong has been active in philanthropy for over a decade. In 2011, she and her husband donated $5 million to George Mason University for the engineering building. In 2015, she established the Kimmy Duong Foundation (KDF). The KDF supports health, education, and welfare initiatives in the U.S. and Vietnam and has established multiple scholarship programs administered by local universities with endowments of over $4 million.

Ms. Duong’s commitment to philanthropy is evident through the KDF's scholarship program centered in the Washington metropolitan area, which has awarded 218 scholarships to date—and plans to award 150 more in 2023. During the pandemic, the KDF started a program to support families dealing with economic hardship, which has benefited 160 families since 2020.

Ms. Duong believes that America’s investment in her has been rewarded with a legacy of good works. She hopes to inspire others to pay it forward. Her resilience, perseverance, and dedication to making a positive impact on society make her a true inspiration. She is married to Dr. Long Nguyen and resides in Virginia.

Ms. Suzanne Brennan Firstenberg

Social-Practice Artist

Ms. Suzanne Brennan Firstenberg is a social-practice artist. When asked what her medium is, she replies, “Empathy.” She champions human dignity through the topics she explores, including homelessness, gun safety, drug addiction, and politics.

She begins each new art series with research, reading, and interviews. Then, she chooses materials best suited to communicating her messages. Ms. Firstenberg ventures beyond traditional media, employing buffalo skulls from her native South Dakota, concrete rubble, even shipping containers to effect social change. Her artworks lure viewers with beautiful aesthetics, then deliver powerful messages.

She discovered her artistic skill after earning an M.B.A. at the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, and working in pharmaceutical new product development and in the United States Senate. Once she realized that art could be a powerful communications tool, she focused on learning the craft—drawing, painting, metal casting, welding, stone carving, woodworking, and ceramics. She honed many of these skills at Montgomery College, which she credits with giving her a wonderful foundation from which to wield the power of art.

She represented the United States at the 2016 Harbin (China) International Ice Sculpting Competition, bringing home the Creativity Prize. For her Empty Fix art series to destigmatize drug addiction, she traveled more than 57,000 miles, interviewing hundreds of people suffering or recovering from addiction. Her art ranges from microscript drawings to 20-acre public art exhibitions. Images of her art have appeared in the press on six continents.

Her latest work, In America: Remember, an art installation of more than 701,000 white flags honoring those lost to COVID, appeared on the National Mall in September 2021 and has been replicated in communities across the country. Google included the art in its 2021 Year in Search. Artsy Magazine honored In America: Remember as one of 12 exhibitions considered the Best Public Art for 2021 worldwide. Washingtonian Magazine named Ms. Firstenberg a Washingtonian of the Year in 2021.

She and her husband, Doug, a former chair of the Montgomery College Foundation Board of Directors, live in Bethesda. They have three children. The Firstenbergs have generously given of their personal resources on behalf of Montgomery College students.

C. Richard Mattingly
Founder and President, The Luv u Project

Mr. C. Richard Mattingly is highly regarded for his more than a 37-year career as a professional within the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation (CFF). He was rapidly appointed to various leadership positions, including vice president of field operations and executive vice president. In 1993, Mattingly was named executive vice president and chief operating officer of the CFF. He also served in the same capacity at its subsidiaries, Cystic Fibrosis Services, Inc. and Cystic Fibrosis Foundation Therapeutics, Inc. He also was secretary of the Board of Trustees.

He is nationally recognized for his innovative fundraising strategies, program development philosophy, and state-of-the-art nonprofit management structure. The CFF is widely regarded as the most innovative nonprofit of the modern era and the creator of venture philanthropy, which led to the development of life-saving therapies for many with CF.

Among his many honors while at the CFF was the permanent establishment of the Carolyn and Richard Mattingly Award to honor CF-related medical professionals who excel in the mental health field.

In 2015, Mr. Mattingly retired from the CFF to establish The Luv u Project, Inc. a 501(c)(3) public charity to honor his late wife, Carolyn, a passionate volunteer and philanthropist. As founder and president, Mr. Mattingly serves in a total volunteer capacity. The Luv u Project mission focuses on building a quantifiable agenda and responsible actions that advance the understanding of, and treatments for, mental health issues.

Among its initiatives, The Luv u Project presents the annual Carolyn C. Mattingly Award for Mental Health Reporting, recognizing the best in mental health reporting among all written, broadcast, or digital mediums. It is now considered the most prestigious award for mental health journalism in the United States. It also presents the annual Carolyn C. Mattingly Award(s) for Mental Health in the Workplace, which recognizes and celebrates exemplary organizations that advance the mental health and well-being of their workforce while serving as role models for other employers.

In 2017, Mr. Mattingly founded and began serving as principal of CRM Advisors, LLC, which specializes in the nonprofit sector. He serves on several boards, both in the profit and nonprofit sectors, including the Eastern Kentucky University Foundation, at his alma mater.

The Honorable Craig L. Rice
Former Montgomery County Councilmember

The Honorable Craig L. Rice is a former member of the Montgomery County Council, serving from 2010 to 2022. He was the youngest African American ever to serve on the nine-member council and the second African American man to serve in that role. Elected in 2006 to the Maryland House of Delegates, he served one four-year term and represented District 15 in western and northern Montgomery County.

Mr. Rice chaired the council’s Education and Culture Committee. He served as the council’s representative to the Maryland Association of Counties (MACo), chairing MACo’s Education subcommittee. He also served on the Maryland Commission on Innovation and Excellence in Education (known as The Kirwan Commission), leading the Early Care and Education workgroup.

During his tenure, he helped MC: protect and sustain affordable tuition; expand the Achieving Collegiate Excellence and Success program; form the Achieving the Promise Academy; implement MC community engagement centers throughout the county and Welcome Centers on each campus; create and expand the Montgomery Can Code camps and programs; and construct and open the ignITe Innovation Hub, a partnership with Apple, at the Rockville Campus. His advocacy supported the College’s efforts to expand in the East County.

Mr. Rice strengthened MC’s STEM education by backing several facilities, including building the Bioscience Education Center and renovating the Dr. DeRionne P. Pollard Student Affairs and Science Building on the Germantown Campus, as well as funding the Rockville Campus Science Center. He also supported the Takoma Park/Silver Spring Campus’s Catherine and Isiah Leggett Math and Science Building and the Long Nguyen and Kimmy Duong Student Services Center on the Rockville Campus.

In 2019, he received the Montgomery County Board of Education’s Award for Distinguished Service to Public Education Community Individual. He won the 2022 MACo Marilyn J. Praisner Public Service Award for his outstanding service to his county and his constituents.

Mr. Rice is a graduate of Blair High School. He attended Montgomery College and the University of Maryland. Prior to serving in elected office, he worked for Marriott International and Aramark Corporation. He is married to Tineshia “Tia” Rice and has three children.

Visit the Montgomery College 2023 Commencement webpage for the latest information regarding the May 19 ceremony.