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First MIAT Houston Graduation Ceremony Since December 2019 Holds Special Significance

By John Willis, MIAT College of Technology Houston Campus President

Words cannot adequately express how excited and happy I was to welcome almost 80 graduates, their family members and friends, our faculty, staff, and our keynote speaker Kim Pritchard to our April 30 graduation ceremony! This was the first in-person graduation ceremony for MIAT’s Houston campus since in 18 months  because of COVID-19 pandemic health and safety considerations.  

We did it! We took a giant leap of faith forward and hosted a celebration in person, face-to-face, with cheers and clapping, smiles, laughter, handshakes, and hugs of the real and not virtual kind! Yes, we masked up, dressed up, and showed up to honor a group of courageous men and women who persevered toward completing their program of study while navigating unprecedented challenges.

Here is an excerpt from my graduation ceremony remarks:

Good afternoon, graduates, family, and friends: As  President of the MIAT College of Technology Houston Campus, I am honored to welcome you to the 2021 Spring graduation ceremony for 80 of our Houston students. 

Now, this simple welcome is like other welcome messages  that  I have delivered  many times at graduations over the past six years in my role as campus president.  However, welcoming you today, face to face, carries a special meaning.   For me, today’s ceremony is more than just any graduation event. For me, this ceremony today is a symbol that MIAT and our world  are slowly and safely moving toward  “getting back to normal.”  

While I know we still have a way to go,  our being here together in this facility is an excellent example of a great big step forward.  And it is these moments of coming together in person, safely, to celebrate great accomplishments that we are reminded of  the immense value and importance of the love and support of our family, our friends, and our community. Our graduates, faculty, staff, and students are connected by a common desire to equip employers with skilled workers who will always be in demand  — both in the best of times and in the worst of times.

The uncomfortable realities of 2020  have taught each of us many lessons.  My hope is that you embrace the upside of what was a memorable and challenging 2020. My hope is that all of you graduates will congratulate yourselves on how much you have learned about being resilient, adapting and persevering toward your goals and dreams. You chose to further your education during a pandemic. You did not give up or back down.

You maturely battled  and addressed a multitude of challenges  —  lockdowns and remote learning, the removal of conveniences like tables and chairs in the student dining area, wearing masks, and  accepting daily temperature checks. Some of you contracted COVID-19 yet committed to returning to complete your program.  I am aware that, sadly, some of you  have lost loved ones.  

I am especially grateful to our keynote speaker Kim Pritchard who traveled from the San Francisco Bay Area to be with us for two nights and two days, speaking to our students on campus as well as our graduates. Kim is the technical training manager for Zipline, a company that delivers medicines and medical supplies  — including COVID-19 vaccinations – via drone. Kim has more than 40 years of Aviation Maintenance and career education experience.  

In her 10-minute keynote speech, Kim set out to inspire MIAT’s April 2021 graduates to embrace opportunities, challenges, and changes; to shift and adapt as much and as often as needed; and to NEVER EVER give up on their goals and dreams!  As one of four girls born in Detroit (also known as Motor City or Motown), Kim calls herself the son her father never had! She loved cars and motorcycles from an early age – and then airplanes and drones in her adult life! She bought her first motorcycle at the age of 12 with her own money and joined the Air Force as a crew chief working on military aircraft after her dad made it clear he did not want her to be a car mechanic. She spent most of her civilian career in aviation maintenance management roles with United Airlines and Kaiser Air. She worked for a few years at MIAT College of Technology’s Canton campus as she recovered from the devastating loss of her husband due to pancreatic cancer when he was only 37.

For a link to Kim’s impressive bio and the text of her touching speech, please follow this link:

I am also especially thankful for outstanding April 2021 graduation ceremony planning and hosting support from my amazing team members. What a team they are!  A much deserved “shout out” goes to Gail Branch, Director of Career and Student Services; Jim Bailey, Assistant Director of Education; Mary Socha, Registrar; Laura Pennino of Pennino and Partners, Aaron Long of Longstation;  and countless others who stepped up to make this ceremony happen.

I thoroughly enjoyed every minute of our recent graduation event and am looking forward to hosting our Summer 2021 graduation ceremony for our Houston campus in August.  


I welcome your comments, questions, and feedback. Please email me any time at JWillis@miat.edu. Our Houston and Canton campus staff are ready to assist prospective students, family members, and employers. Please check out www.miat.edu and share with others who might be seeking a proven provider of career and technical education!

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