RVCC Awards Degrees, Certificates to over 1,300 Graduates

Tuesday, May 15, 2018
heads of grads

Raritan Valley Community College (RVCC) awarded associate degrees and certificates to more than 1,300 graduates at its commencement, held Saturday, May 12, in the Soccer Field at the College’s Branchburg campus. Judge Paul W. Armstrong (Ret.), a nationally recognized pioneer of patients’ rights, delivered the commencement address and received an honorary degree during the ceremony.

The program featured RVCC student commencement speaker Randall S. Petronko of Flemington, a disabled US Navy Veteran. Petronko signed up for the military while he was still in high school, but did not leave for boot camp until right after 9/11. His ship, the U.S.S. Tarawa, was deployed to the Persian Gulf in 2003, prior to and during Operation Iraqi Freedom. After cancer derailed his military career, Petronko decided to enroll at RVCC. On campus, he has been active with Project Healing Waters. A Liberal Arts major and member of the Phi Theta Kappa honor society, Petronko is graduating from RVCC Summa Cum Laude with a 4.0 GPA. He will be transferring to Rutgers University in the fall, and eventually continuing to law school.

Deborah Gottesman Corbett of Montclair, Professor of Psychology, delivered the faculty commencement address. Corbett, who is retiring from the College after 42 years, has developed and taught multiple courses in Psychology and was part of the first team-taught class at RVCC, Psychology and Literature. She received a Princeton Mid-Career Fellowship in 2004. Corbett has chaired the Humanities, Social Science and Education Department and was the Committee of the Faculty’s first chairperson. She was a founding member of the group that developed the College’s Academic Awards Ceremony and oversaw it for 22 years. She also helped create the Prison Program and coordinated it for seven years, giving people who are incarcerated the opportunity to earn college credits toward a degree. She has a Ph.D. in Psychology from New York University.

The other graduates speaking during commencement included Barbara Kania of Somerville and Sierra Cole of Branchburg. Kania, an Honors College student, introduced the commencement speaker. Kania is a Pre-Medical Professional major who is the founder and president of RVCC’s Pre-Medicine Club, as well as an EMT in Somerville. She is a member of the Phi Theta Kappa honor society and a Galileo Scholar, and was selected as one of the first group of students to participate in the Sanofi Corporate Mentorship Program. Kania is graduating from RVCC Summa Cum Laude and has been accepted at Boston University and Rutgers University. Her eventual goal is to become a physician.

Cole, a Communication Studies major, introduced the faculty speaker. Cole is active on campus with RVCC’s United Caribbean Club. The recipient of several prestigious scholarships, Cole also is a member of the Phi Theta Kappa honor society and Sigma Chi Eta, the National Communication Association’s official community college honor society. Cole plans to attend Montclair State University in the fall to obtain a bachelor’s degree in Public Relations. She eventually plans to attend graduate school and work in the field of social work, social justice, or public affairs.

Paul W. Armstrong served as a New Jersey Superior Court Judge from 2000-2017. He was assigned to courthouses in Somerset, Hunterdon and Warren counties in the Civil, Criminal and Family Divisions, as well as the Morris County Historic Courthouse. He also served as the inaugural Drug Court Judge in both Somerset and Hunterdon counties. Among his many well known cases, Judge Armstrong presided over the case of State of New Jersey v. Charles Cullen, the convicted nurse serial-killer.

As a member of the bar, Judge Armstrong was a pioneer of patients' rights and argued before the Supreme Court of New Jersey in In Re Quinlan and Matter of Jobes as counsel to the families of Karen Ann Quinlan and Nancy Ellen Jobes. In cases before the United States Supreme Court, Judge Armstrong appeared as Counsel of Record to the amici curiae (“friend of the court”) for the American Hospital Association in Cruzan v. Director, Missouri Health Department and the Medical Society of New Jersey in Vacco v. Quill.

He served as Chairman of both the New Jersey Bioethics Commission (formally known as the Commission on Legal and Ethical Issues in the Delivery of Health Care) and The Governor's Advisory Council on AIDS, and is a past President of the Samaritan Homeless Interim Program.

A widely published author and photographer, Judge Armstrong holds an M.A. in history from the University of Dayton (Distinguished Alumnus, 1997), a J.D. from the University of Notre Dame, and an LL.M. from the New York University School of Law. An Adjunct Professor at the Rutgers Law School and the Robert Wood Johnson Medical School, Judge Armstrong was Of Counsel to the Bridgewater law firm of Kern, Augustine, Conroy & Shoppmann.

Judge Armstrong served as a principal draughtsman and legislative architect of the New Jersey Advance Directives for Health Care and Declaration of Death Acts and is the author (with Professor Robert S. Olick) of “Advance Health Care Directives” in West's New Jersey Legal Forms. Judge Armstrong joined several distinguished authors in Counting Justice — 10 New Jersey Cases that Shook the Nation (Rutgers University Press, 2013, edited by Professor Paul L. Tractenberg). He was a member of the Editorial Boards of the Medical Society of New Jersey's New Jersey Medicine and the New Jersey Bar Association's New Jersey Lawyer, as well as Seton Hall Law School’s Health Law and Public Policy Advisory Board. Judge Armstrong served as Chairman of New Jersey Health Decisions and as Co-Chairman of the Medical Society of New Jersey's Expert Panel on Late Term Abortion. He frequently appeared as a legal commentator on network and Court T.V., and was privileged to share in the legal labors of the Medical Society of New Jersey and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation's anti-tobacco initiatives. Judge Armstrong served as initial counsel, trustee and incorporator of the Karen Ann Quinlan Hospice as well as the New Jersey Hospice Organization.



May 12, 2018

Media contact: Donna Stolzer, 908-526-1200, ext. 8383

PR #152