Michelle Dondero will say good-bye not only to graduating students, but to her own 27-year career at Western Nevada Community College with her commencement address at the ceremonies Monday and Tuesday.
"The students asked me to do it and I consider it an honor," she said. "After working so hard within the college and university system, to be asked by those you serve is just a rare honor and I appreciate it."
Dondero, vice president of academics, will speak at the commencement exercises in Fallon on Monday at 8 p.m. and in Carson City Tuesday at 8 p.m.
She began as a counselor on the Fallon campus in 1973 and has seen the community college system in Nevada develop from infancy to more than 50,000 students.
"There has been tremendous change and growth and an outstanding amount of success, much greater than anyone expected," Dondero said. "The opportunity to offer post-secondary education outside of Reno and Las Vegas really transformed the state."
In her 27 years, Dondero has served as counselor, dean, vice president, and interim president.
"To be a part of the community college from the beginning was very exciting," she said.
The college's first president, Jack Davis, said he felt confident in Dondero's abilities when he hired her.
"I knew things were going to be done and done well at the Fallon Campus," Davis said.
He said Dondero served a fundamental role in establishing the college in Fallon.
"Michelle was vitally interested in getting the college in a position to serve the Fallon community," Davis said. "She was always trying in every way to improve opportunities for our students of all ages."
Current college president Carol Lucey is also pleased with the work Dondero has done.
"Vice President Dondero is a treasure," Lucey said. "She has been a loyal and skillful member of the Western team for nearly 30 years. I will always be grateful that I had such a strong vice president my first year at WNCC."
When Dondero began her career, the college operated out of a leased building on Carson Street.
"I think the most exciting times were when our first buildings were constructed in Carson City and later in Fallon," she said. "The faculty and staff were so pleased to have a home."
Dondero said because of her demanding schedule she has not been able to take off for more than two weeks at a time. She said she is looking forward to having more free time and plans to visit her children and grandchildren in Denver.
"I plan to do some fishing and some snorkeling," she said.
The college will graduate 321 students next week.
If you go:
What: Western Nevada Community College Commencement Ceremony, Fallon campus
When: Monday at 8 p.m.
Where: Churchill County High School Auditorium
What: Western Nevada Community College Commencement Ceremony, Carson City campus
When: Tuesday at 8 p.m.
Where: Carson City Community Center