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78 Earn College Degrees, Graduate at National Labor College

Image courtesy of Bill Burke/Page One

Mark King considers the bachelor’s degree in labor studies that he received Saturday at the National Labor College’s (NLC's) class of 2012 commencement as his “keys to the kingdom.”

King, a New Hampshire school librarian and AFT member, was one of 78 graduates from 25 unions and the AFL-CIO community affiliate, Working America, who received degrees at the Silver Spring campus. He was elected class speaker of the NLC’s 14th graduating class by his peers.

My hope is that as I build a personal future and work for justice for working people I can pass this gift along. My NLC degree in labor studies has given me the knowledge and background to more effectively serve my local, my union and the AFL-CIO as I pitch in to work for a better future for my grandson—and yours, too! I guess that, in a way, makes my degree a sort of “keys to the kingdom.”

AFL-CIO President Emeritus John Sweeney told the graduates, their families and friends:

Today, it is vitally important that we have NLC graduates with the skills necessary to put our members back to work and to effectively respond to the strident challenges we face to our basic right to bargain collectively. By balancing work, education, union roles and family responsibilities, the graduates have achieved a tremendous accomplishment.

Renowned civil rights activist the Rev. James Lawson also addressed the graduates and guests.

Let this accomplishment be a road mark on the highway of your life. Let it be a continuation but also a fresh burst in the direction of becoming not just a fragmented person, but a whole person.

Lawson was awarded an honorary doctorate, as was Wilma B. Liebman, the former chair of the National Labor Relations Board.

Bill Hager, a retired member of Electrical Workers (IBEW) Local 369 in North Carolina, says he plans to use his degree—earned with the help of a Union Plus scholarship—to help fellow union members as a health and safety instructor.

It takes a lot of support to be successful—I had that at the National Labor College. I was inspired and encouraged by the instructors.

Several students were highlighted for their outstanding contributions to the NLC community:

  • Helen Foreman-Hines of SEIU received the President’s Award.
  • Jon Leinbaugh of the Sheet Metal Workers (SMWIA) and Joseph Walsh of the Plumbers and Pipe Fitters (UA) were awarded the 2012 Bert and Annabel Seidman Prize for Advancing Social Policy.
  • Trenton Reich of Working America and Paul Simon of IBEW received distinguished paper awards for their senior theses.

Click here to register for fall classes. For more information on NLC programs and student services, visit the NLC blog here and its Facebook page here.

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