Rifle native and former Colorado legislator Russell George, who once sat in similar classes to the ones they learned in, gave the graduates advice to take with them for the rest of their lives.

“He’s a testament that a man from a small western Colorado town can do anything,” CMC President and CEO Carrie Besnette Hauser said in her introduction.

George, a graduate of Rifle High School, Colorado State University and Harvard Law School, has years of experience in education, most recently serving as president of Colorado Northwestern Community College.

Prior to that, he served as the executive director of the Colorado Department of Transportation, held leadership roles at the Colorado Division of Wildlife and the Colorado Department of Natural Resources.

He was elected to the Colorado House of Representatives in 1992 and later voted by his peers to be Speaker of the House. Currently, he is chairman of the Boettcher Foundation trustees.

“Think about what you’ve done here at a moment’s happy pause,” he began.

George shared his own struggles in education as he had to learn a new technology — computers — after already graduating from Harvard. It was something that deeply scared him at the time.

Graduation photo of Russ George, Carrie Hauser and Carole Boughton.

From left, Rifle native and Colorado statesman Russell George, CMC President Carrie Besnette Hauser and CMC Rifle dean and vice president Carole Boughton on stage at Rifle’s December graduation ceremony. Photo Chelsea Self/Post Independent

Eventually, a friend convinced him to take an introduction to computers course at CMC Rifle, and his appreciation for education at home was born.

“Had there not been CMC I don’t know if I ever would have learned computers,” he said.

He feels his decision to learn how to use computers paid off in today’s world.

“In time, I realized the value of having CMC at home,” he explained. “It takes the community and all its resources to support the opportunity we have here.”

George praised community colleges as a resource for the entire community and said they remain under appreciated today.

“There are all levels of success in education,” he said.

Over 50 students were on hand to receive their diplomas Friday. In total, CMC had over 200 students complete degrees or certificates in the summer and fall 2017 semesters.

Photo of graduate Artemio Baltazar Jr.

Graduate Artemio Baltazar Jr. gives one of two student address speeches at the Rifle CMC graduation ceremony on Dec. 15.

“I encourage you to face your fears,” said student speaker Kerri Binns in her address. “Every decision has shaped me to the person I am today.”

In addition to granting associate degrees, certificates of occupational educational proficiency and high school equivalency diplomas, Friday celebrated students receiving bachelor’s degrees from the college.

“I wound not trade my experience at CMC for anything,” said student speaker Artemio Baltazar Jr.