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San Joaquin Valley College Blog

Aviation hangar makes perfect graduation location

May 28, 2014
For the first time in the twenty or so years since the SJVC Aviation Campus has existed, it hosted its own graduation ceremony, separate from the Fresno campus.

For its more than twenty years in existence, the Aviation campus has shared the Fresno Campus’s graduation stage twice each year. For many years the number of graduates from the Aviation Maintenance Technology program did not justify holding an independent ceremony. This month, Aviation Campus Director, Jack Macfarlane decided it was time to break away from that campus-shared event and conduct the Aviation campus’ own graduation exercise.

“I think that it was the right time,” says Mr. Macfarlane. “We’ve grown, and we have the space – lots of room to have it here in the hangar. It is also great exposure for family members and friends who might have an interest in our program to have the chance to see us.”

The 90-minute ceremony was attended by around 100 guests gathered to celebrate their graduate’s achievements. Speakers included Erik Newlander, Site Supervisor for URS Aviation Support, who spoke of SJVC’s program growth and very motivationally about the increasing need for highly trained aviation technicians.

Graduate Michael McGee, who had previously been on SJVC’s social media’s Student Spotlight, addressed his fellow graduates with the confidence gained from successful completion of the AMT program and the spirit of camaraderie they all shared.

“I am very proud to be a part of this group of mechanics,” Michael told the crowd. “Mr. Macfarlane: this is his shop, and he runs it well, with the help of his amazing crew.”

Michael made note of the fact that five AMT students had already tested for and earned the coveted A&P licensure before graduation:

Airframe Licensure                                                    Powerplant Licensure

Jerry Napoli                                                                 Trayvionne Jackson

Josh Lee                                                                      Leroy James

Michael McGee


Both Leroy James and Michael McGee are scheduled to take their Airframe exams, as well.

“Public speaking is not my forte,” Michael offers. “But it was pretty neat, and everything went off without a hitch.”

Behind the scenes…not so much. “We learned a couple of tricks for next time,” laughs Mr. Macfarlane. “But the crowd didn’t pick up on it, and you keep the show moving along.”

The huge hangar on the Aviation campus, which is located at the Fresno-Yosemite International Airport, was well suited for this event. Not only did it make a stunning visual backdrop for the graduation exercise, it provided abundant room for seating and the after-graduation celebration – which definitely conveyed a homey welcome to visitors.

“So many contributed to the ceremony,” says Macfarlane. “Sue Smilie-Janecek (Director of Research and Development) donated chairs from her church, one of our students let us use his PA system and my wife made a cake with an airplane on it. It all very much had a family feel and wholesome atmosphere.”

As the first-time site for AMT graduation, the Aviation campus is also sure to be the first-choice site for all that follow.

“As the Campus Director, it gave me a great deal of pride, having the ceremony here and that so many people showed up,” says Mr. Macfarlane. “I heard nothing but positive comments, and it was an absolute success.”

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