FRONT ROYAL – Never use the word “just” to describe any part of your life, featured speaker Olivia Henderson told fellow graduates at Saturday’s commencement ceremony for Lord Fairfax Community College.

A part-time hairstylist who admits she had to be talked into pursuing a college education, she shared five lessons she learned while at LFCC, beginning with not downplaying one’s achievements.

“Your accomplishments are worth celebrating, because not ‘just’ anyone can choose such greatness,” she said.

Lesson two, she said, “Even in this great big world, we are never alone. … If we look around right now, we will see living proof we are and have always been surrounded by people who value us.”

“Lesson three,” she said. “Two words: Student discounts.”

Here, she thanked the people at Hulu, Amazon Prime, Spotify Premium and Showtime for offering discounts to students who are “dirt poor, but still enjoy music, television, and free shipping.”

“I think I can safely say we are all grateful for their understanding and generosity,” Henderson said.

On Saturday, 1,214 students graduated from LFCC--279 from Frederick County, 192 from Fauquier, 79 from Page, 20 from Rappahannock, 151 from Shenandoah County, 121 from Warren, 49 from Clarke, and 165 from the city of Winchester.

Graduates included students who met all their graduation requirements in spring 2018, fall 2018 and spring 2019.

The ceremony, held at Skyline High School in Front Royal, also honored 372 Governor’s Scholars – ”high school students who have earned enough college credits through dual-enrollment courses to obtain either an associate degree or certificate in general education,” the college wrote in a news release prior to the ceremony.

This is a 28-percent increase over last year’s Governor’s Scholars, the college reported.

“This is what it’s all about, recognizing our outstanding graduates and the hard work that has brought them to this point,” LFCC President Kim Blosser said on Saturday.

The college awarded Medallions of Recognition to the following people:

  • Joel Barkman, president, CEO and founder of Golden Rule Builders Inc. in Catlett. A parent of two former LFCC students, he and his wife, Patricia, provided a $250,000 gift to the LFCC Educational Foundation to support the Hazel Hall building project.
  • Joanne Cherefko, a retired educator, former Warren County School Board member, LFCC adjunct professor, and founding member of Mountain Vista Governor’s School, housed at LFCC’s campuses in Middletown and Luray
  • Kenneth Garrison Jr., executive director of the Heavy Construction Contractors Association, which played a vital role as the college established and expanded its heavy equipment operator credentialed program
  • Fran Jeffries, a career educator for Frederick County Public Schools, who served 13 years on LFCC’s College Board
  • Nancy Penney, who retired in 2018 as LFCC’s longest-tenured English professor after 48 years

Two other faculty members were named professors emeriti for their contributions and service to the college: math professor Michael Garrand and former psychology professor Stephen Wisecarver.

Henderson was named outstanding graduate of 2019 for LFCC’s Fauquier campus, and Emily Walker was honored as outstanding graduate at the college’s main campus in Middletown.

Henderson, who on Saturday earned an associate of arts and sciences degree in business administration and will transfer to George Mason University in the fall to pursue a bachelor’s degree in communication with a concentration in public relations, shared two other lessons from her three years at LFCC.

“Be confident in yourself. Confidence is not an emotion,” she said. “... [I]t’s an understanding that no matter what social situation you’re in, you will be OK.”

“Instead of fearing your mistakes,” she continued, “laugh at them. Instead of dwelling on them, learn from them and move on."

And, lesson five: “Show your gratefulness.”

“Find the people in this room who have helped you succeed. Or if they couldn’t be here today, find them in your heart,” she said, “... [and] give them a round of applause.”

“We are thankful to have your support and grateful for the knowledge and wisdom you shared with us. ... We are honored to share these moments of our lives with you, and we hope to make you proud as we begin this next part of our journey.”

Contact Josette Keelor at