Cuesta College commencement marks a milestone for 724 grads

Libby Cripps, 33, had just begun pursuing an art degree in North Carolina when her husband, who is in the Army, was transferred to Camp Roberts near San Miguel.

She nearly bypassed attending Cuesta College because of the distance of the San Luis Obispo campus — where the studio arts program is taught — but was so enthralled by the course offerings that she took the chance.

“It is a decision that I will never regret,” Cripps said.

On Friday, she graduated with her associate degree. Cripps was one of 724 students to receive their degrees at Cuesta College’s 49th annual commencement ceremony. The collection of graduates, which included students who completed degree requirements in fall 2013, spring 2014 and summer 2014 semesters, earned a total of 900 degrees — a 10 percent increase from the number of graduates and degrees awarded last year.

In the past, Cripps has worked as an executive assistant and as a production manager in an office in North Carolina. She credits her husband, Jon, with encouraging her to pursue her passion of art.

“It’s never something I took seriously, and right out of high school going to college for art wasn’t an option,” Cripps said. “I thought I would pursue nursing or teaching because I would be able to get jobs wherever we were transferred, but he told me to pursue what I loved. There is no way I could have done it without his support.”

She already has several local art shows lined up in coming months.

Friday’s graduates ranged in age from 17 to 67 and included students from five countries and nine states. Of the graduates, 186 earned honors or high honors by achieving a grade point average of 3.5 or higher, including 15 who earned a 4.0.

Student Malcolm Sutton, 21, also received his diploma. The Santa Barbara native transferred to Cuesta College last year because he knew he wanted to obtain a degree from Cal Poly eventually. He credits his mom, Laurie Haynes, as his inspiration and role model.

“She told me to pursue my passion, not As,” Sutton said. His plan was successful — Sutton will attend Cal Poly as a senior to study business with an emphasis in finance. Ultimately, he wants to become a hedge fund manager.

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