Coming Home for the Wall of Success

Alumni receive award for success after CAC

Elliot Johnson

Kamille Ritchie, Cactus Writer

A cheerfulness radiated through the Don P. Pence Center on November 7, as members of Central Arizona College came together to induct their successful alumni into the Wall of Success. For the past 6 years, CAC has used the Wall of Success to celebrate the personal and professional accomplishments of its alumni as well as to thank them for positively representing the college in all their endeavors. Those who are inducted into the Wall of Success also receive the Alumni Achievement Award to honor their success. Surrounded by their family, friends, and faculty members, the event held a lively aspect to it; an air of excitement emanated off those who attended. Not to mention, the dazzling performance from the CAC Jazz Band; you almost forgot there was an induction ceremony following their set. During my time at the event and preparing for the day, I had opportunity to meet and speak to several hardworking and great individuals.

In order to be selected into the Wall of Success, a person must meet certain criteria. This can include volunteerism in their community; professional, local, regional, national or international recognition; and accomplishment in their field of expertise. Eight people were inducted into the Wall of Success this year: Catherine “Kitty” Carlisle, Writer/ Editor and owner of The Grammatical Activist; Cynthia S. Collings, M.S., Professor of Computer Information Systems at CAC; Kara Kramer Cooper, Co-publisher/Advertising Director of Casa Grande Valley Newspaper, Inc.; Kristine “KK” Kincaid, Women’s Head Basketball Coach at Phoenix College; Ruben D. Leos, Patrol Bureau Captain of Pinal County Sheriff’s Office; Jenny Lopez McLellan, Director of Operations/Corporate Compliance Officer for Arizona Behavioral Health Corporation; Patricia Tarango, Bureau Chief of Health Systems Development for Arizona Department of Health Services, and Robert E. Tarleton Jr., Director of Military Satellite Communications for the Space & Missile Systems Center in Los Angeles Air Force Base.

Sitting in the same room as these people, I realized that while we are all in different places in our lives, we are connected through CAC. I remember when it came time to decide where to go after high school, CAC was not my first option. I thought I would not be able to go anywhere having CAC under my belt because they would not take my education seriously. What university would accept someone from “podunk little ol’ CAC” as Professor Beecroft when describing a student who has gone on to work in Belgium in a think tank. Upon coming here though, I realized how wrong I was. It has been because of CAC I have been able to achieve what I have achieved and met the people I have met. My interactions with instructors and the classes I’ve taken have helped me to be successful and narrow down what I want to do in my life.

A unique characteristic that sets apart Central Arizona College from other colleges and contributes to our graduates’ success is the interactions students have with their instructors. CAC gives students the opportunity for a head start. Instead of striving to get an instructor’s attention in a sea of 300 students, students can get that hands on interaction in a class of 24. That one on one time with their instructor allows the students to gain a better understanding of the concepts being taught as well as be able to properly apply them. I had the opportunity to speak to Professor of Sciences and 2009 Wall of Success recipient, Diane Beecroft about her experiences at CAC and how they inspired her to keep the spark CAC was all about when she returned to work years later. Because her instructors cared, she has made it her goal to care. “If we didn’t care, we’d be like any other college.” The students here also contribute to the difference CAC makes. Their eagerness to learn and gratitude towards their caring instructors results in an almost mirror like effect. Reflecting the dedication shown to them, they, in turn, try to do more. “It’s a repetitious but wonderful never ending cycle,” Beecroft warmly says.

As I spoke with each of these individuals, I realized there is no one way to define success. Success is different for each person and I realized it has several common factors; happiness, reaching your full potential, and impacting others. “To be successful, you have to be happy and in order to be happy, you have to follow those passions while also serving your community and also being who you’re supposed to be and doing what you are meant to do,” says Catherine Carlisle, “If you are not fulfilling your potential and being who you’re supposed to be, you’ll never be successful because you’ll never be happy.” No matter what you do, make sure that you’re happy. Remember that your bank account isn’t the only thing that defines your success. Too often people work towards careers that provide financial security, but in turn, dims their outlook on life. Don’t let yourself burnout and don’t settle.

Towards the end of the ceremony, Master of Ceremonies and fellow 2009 Wall of Success recipient, Rick Gibson, asks the crowd, “What is the mission of community college?” Having spoken to him earlier that day, I already knew the answer… or at least his answer. “The mission of a community college is to build, strengthen, develop, and bring resources in a county so they can be better able and prepared to meet the challenges they’re going to face in their careers and their lives.” I agree, community colleges are unique in a sense because they give everyone the opportunity to succeed. Your age does not limit your success. If you get down to it, your work ethic, drive to fulfill your passions, and desire to chase your happiness all lead to your success. Congratulations to 2015’s Wall of Success recipients. Thank you for showing us that despite how our situation in life starts, we are all capable of attaining success in the most unimaginable ways.}