ST. CLAIRSVILLE -- Belmont College officials conferred degrees upon a multitude of graduates as part of the college's 2017 Spring Graduation Ceremony in St. Clairsville, Ohio. Hundreds of parents, extended family, faculty, and staff were present to congratulate the Class of 2017.

President Dr. Paul F. Gasparro welcomed the graduates, "I want to offer my warmest congratulations to our graduates. You have worked long and hard to be here tonight, and this ceremony is just the beginning of your future. Graduating from college is a major life accomplishment, and we are pleased to be able to share this momentous occasion with you."

He continued, "I wish I could promise that it gets easier as you move forward, but I cannot. However, by taking this first major step towards your future, the hardest step is definitely behind you. You have proven you can complete what you put your mind to. So, set your sites and move forward."

"Remember, no matter how far or how high you travel, you started here and you have a great foundation to build on. Tonight is your night and I hope that you enjoy and celebrate it. We are very proud of your achievement and wish you good health, happiness, and continued success in whatever path you choose for your future," Gasparro added.

The keynote speaker at the commencement ceremony was Mr. Richard L. Riesbeck.

Mr. Riesbeck currently serves as President and Chief Executive Officer of Riesbeck's Food Markets Inc., a privately-owned retail firm with 1,200 employees operating 15 supermarkets in Ohio and West Virginia.

He is a graduate of Mountain State College with a Certificate in Accounting, Wheeling Jesuit University with a Bachelor of Arts Degree, as well as Muskingum University with a Master of Education Degree, and Cornell University with a Graduation Certificate in Marketing Strategy.

Speaking to the graduates Mr. Riesbeck said, "Nothing will propel your career, nothing will bring you personal fulfillment, nothing will create a fullness of life as much as serving others. Nothing else will come close. Truly, a needy world awaits you - all of this begins tonight."

The Class of 2017 co-valedictorians were Ashley Dunfee of St. Clairsville, Ohio who earned an Associate of Applied Science Degree in Radiologic Technology, and Amanda Teeman of Shadyside, Ohio who earned an Associate of Applied Science Degree in Criminal Justice. Both valedictorians achieved a grade-point-average of 4.0 and graduated with honors. Teeman also serves as a member of Phi Theta Kappa, the International Honor Society for two-year colleges.

The class salutatorian was Katie Frederick of St. Clairsville, Ohio, who earned an Associate of Applied Business Degree in Business Administration and Leadership. She achieved a grade-point-average of 3.9 and graduated with honors.

Additionally, a pinning ceremony was held prior to commencement to honor the 32 graduating Associate Degree Nursing students.