Valedictorian 2009

Happy PCCC student

Spotlight on Our Graduates

Class of 2009 


AA; Liberal Arts/Humanities
Phi Theta Kappa



Richard Girardin was busy gardening at one of his part-time jobs when he heard the news that he had been named valedictorian of the 2009 graduating class at Passaic County Community College. “I was planting tomatoes when the call came,” laughed the 19-year-old West Milford resident who graduated with a perfect 4.0 average.  “I was quite surprised and honored.”

A member of Phi Theta Kappa, the international honor society for two-year colleges, Richard was also in the College’s Honors Program. He earned his Associate in Arts degree in Liberal Arts with a focus on humanities and plans to enter Fairleigh-Dickinson University in September to continue his studies toward a baccalaureate degree in philosophy.

Though still uncertain of his future path, Richard said he would like to eventually pursue graduate studies in philosophy and theology at Boston College, and he is considering a career as a college professor or a lawyer. “I’ve always been interested in constitutional law,” he explained.


College President Steven Rose with Girardin and Jessica Hoffman, the 2008 valedictorian.

Family Background and Homeschooling

The son of a carpenter and a schoolteacher, Richard is the eldest of four siblings and has been home-schooled since the age of nine. Initially, he had attended a private Christian school where his mother was on the faculty, but when a younger sister was born, his mother left her teaching position to raise the growing family, which expanded to include twin daughters who were born several years later.   

Disenchanted with public education at the time, Richard’s parents sought a home-schooling program for their son and chose the Illinois-based Christian Liberty Academy School System.  “I had a tough, but fantastic education,” said Richard. “I didn’t realize what a great education I had until I got to college.” The young scholar credited his home-schooling program with an excellent humanities curriculum and high academic standards. “They really taught me how to write well,” he said.

Dedicated to his religious faith, Richard is a member of Cornerstone Chapel in Pompton Plains, New Jersey and plans to spend the summer as a counselor and part-time missionary at Camp Orchard Hill, a Christian camp in Pennsylvania. “I attended that camp every summer since I was nine years old, and I’ve been on the staff since last year,” he said.

An Enthusiastic PCCC Alumnus

When asked why he chose to attend PCCC to start his college career, Richard replied, “Finances, and it was close to home.”  Attending classes at the Wanaque campus and PCCC online, the hard-working young man soon concluded his choice had other benefits.

“Wanaque Academic Center is a small campus that offers an excellent education,” he declared. “The classrooms are nice, there are tons of computers, and the professors are outstanding.”  

He was particularly impressed with the faculty. “The profs at PCCC really want to teach. They take time with their students and seem to care about being there,” said Richard. He  named Dr. Lonna Murphy, a psychology instructor, as one of his favorites. “She was my advisor and a fantastic teacher.” 

The professor was equally enthusiastic about him. “Richard was an excellent student in every way,” said Professor Murphy. “He likes to challenge himself… to be put into situations where he's a little uncomfortable and needs to think things through. This type of critical thinking is what all college professors hope to inspire in their students,” Murphy noted, adding, “he's also a genuinely nice and caring young man.”

Now that Richard Girardin is on the road to his next degree, would he recommend PCCC to others?  “Absolutely,” insisted the valedictorian.  “It’s a great place to start off a college career.  It’s close, inexpensive, and an excellent school.”


Richard Girardin delivers the valedictory address at the 2009 commencement.


Passaic County Community College:  Pride in Our Graduates