More than 300 Durham Tech students receive diplomas at 2023 spring Commencement 

Durham Technical Community College held Commencement Exercises on Wednesday, May 24, at the Durham Performing Arts Center, with 305 students graduating with degrees, diplomas or certificates in the 2022-23 school year.  

Hundreds of family members, friends, Durham Tech faculty and staff, and alumni filled the theater to celebrate the students’ accomplishment.  

Keynote speaker Dr. Elizabeth Fenn spoke to the graduates about her pathway in education, which included attending Duke University as an undergraduate and Yale University for graduate work, before deciding to return to Durham. She enrolled in Durham Tech’s automotive program and then worked for almost a decade in Durham auto shops before returning to Yale and finishing her doctorate degree.  

Fenn, who is a distinguished professor at University of Colorado at Boulder, historian, author and 2015 Pulitzer Prize winner in history, spoke about how her experience at Durham Tech helped shape her and how working in the auto shops helped her grow.  

“We need each other. That awareness is not a technical skill, but it’s something Durham Tech teaches,” Fenn said. “It’s not something you can take a class on. But it’s one of the most valuable things I learned at Durham Tech.” 

She noted the value of giving and accepting help, whether it’s from fellow students, instructors, neighbors or family members. She reflected that she was one of the few women, liberal and with a different education background from many of her colleagues. 

“We’d argue in the shop, but I learned it was OK to love people with whom you differed profoundly,” she said. “Knowing I could love people with whom I differed made me a much better teacher and scholar.” 

The Durham Tech Board of Trustees awarded Fenn, retired Durham Tech employee Mary Marsha Cupitt and community leader Wanda Garrett honorary degrees during the ceremony. 

Cupitt taught at Durham Tech, restarted the College’s University Transfer program and assisted in the creation of the N.C. College Transfer Program Association, among other contributions to the College. Now retired, she and her husband, Larry, continue to provide opportunities for students through the C2 Scholarships they offer to Durham Tech students.  

Garrett, a retired educator, taught on the high school and college level. She joined Durham Tech’s Board of Trustees in 1982 and served until 2008. She has worked tirelessly to ensure that all students have access to the education opportunities they want to pursue.  

As the soon-to-be graduates prepared to cross the stage Wednesday evening, the audience applauded their accomplishment and celebrated what the members of the Class of 2023 had achieved. Students crossed the stage and received their diplomas from Durham Tech President J.B. Buxton. 

After the ceremony, they celebrated, taking photos and exchanging hugs.  

Isaiah Bryant, Student Government Association president for the Class of 2023, has received multiple degrees and certificates from Durham Tech. He received a certificate in industrial HVAC systems on Wednesday. He credited his success to both his mother and Durham Tech faculty and staff.  

The faculty and staff, he said, were instrumental in helping students transition from in-person learning to virtual learning during Covid, and just as key in helping students transfer back to in-person post-pandemic. “Having a great staff who supported us the whole way through made it possible.” 

Bryant said he also is proud of what his mother has accomplished.  

“I grew up in a single-parent household. One person I always looked up to is my mom,” he said. She took care of Bryant as a single parent, while also working full-time as a teacher and earning her doctorate degree. 

His gratitude toward his mother was a common theme among many graduates, who said their spouses and family members had inspired them and supported them in multiple ways to help them earn their degree.