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Bristol Community College celebrates Fall River, New Bedford, Taunton, Attleboro students at graduation ceremony



Photo courtesy of Bristol Community College (Ryan P. Ribeiro)
Bristol Community College celebrated its 57th Commencement Ceremony on Saturday, under the college’s solar canopies at the Bristol Fall River Campus, 777 Elsbree Street.

At the in-person ceremony, Bristol awarded approximately 880 degrees and certificates including degrees in Associate in Science, Associate in Arts and Associate in Applied Science. Certificates of achievement will also be awarded. Academic achievement with cum laude, magna cum laude and summa cum laude designations were recognized. Graduates from all Bristol Community College locations attended, including the Attleboro Campus, Fall River Campus, New Bedford Campus and Taunton Center.

In keeping with tradition, the following prestigious awards were presented during Bristol’s 2024 Commencement Ceremony:


This year’s Valedictorian is Aimee M. Rodrigues, of North Dighton, Associate in Science in Occupational Therapy Assistant and Associate in Science in General Studies (Health and Life Sciences) and the Salutatorian is Ryan P. Ribeiro, of Fall River, Associate in Arts in Business Administration Transfer.
Aimee M. Rodrigues, of North Dighton, was inspired to pursue Bristol’s Occupational Therapy Assistant program while assisting with therapies for her 17-year-old daughter who has multiple disabilities.

While studying at Bristol, Aimee maintained a 4.0 GPA while balancing family responsibilities and serving at the Massachusetts Rehabilitation Commission, where she works closely with individuals planning to enter the workforce or live on their own. She credits her supportive, loving family and husband for their encouragement while earning her degree.

Aimee plans to utilize her experience and education as a certified occupational therapy assistant (COTA) and continue serving as a disability advocate, identifying barriers and connecting family members with valuable resources.

Ryan P. Ribeiro, of Fall River, came to Bristol for an education that would allow him to shift careers from a previous trade and find his true passion. While taking mostly online classes in the college’s Business Administration Transfer program, Ryan found support from his dedicated professors and family.

In addition to excelling academically in the classroom, Ryan engages with his community by playing the trumpet in the St. Anthony’s Band of Fall River.

He plans to continue his education at the University of Massachusetts Dartmouth, with the goal of pursuing a career in the financial field.


The Distinguished Citizen Award is presented annually to an outstanding local citizen or citizens whose character and achievements have enriched the life of the community, or to an individual who has made distinguished contributions in the fields of health, education, business, industry, labor, government or the arts.

This year, the 2024 Distinguished Citizen Award was presented to John K. Bullard and Richard B. Wolfson.
John K. Bullard’s career has been devoted to bettering the health of the oceans and improving his hometown of New Bedford. Mr. Bullard served six years as Mayor of New Bedford, from 1986 to 1992, bringing the city into compliance with the Clean Water Act, paving the way for offshore wind to be located at the former Standard-Times field and leading the revitalization of the city’s waterfront historic district.

He joined the Clinton Administration, establishing the first federal Office of Sustainable Development in NOAA, and later served as Regional Administrator for NOAA Fisheries in the Northeast.

Bullard also co-founded the Southeastern Massachusetts Agricultural Partnership and the SouthCoast Learning Network. He serves as Chair of the New Bedford Ocean Cluster and the Westport Community Resilience Committee. He also serves as a board member of the Buzzards Bay Coalition and the Westport Planning Board. He and his wife, Laurie, live in Westport and have three children and five grandchildren.

Richard B. Wolfson is a dedicated supporter of Bristol Community College. Wolfson served as a member of the college’s Board of Trustees, from 1996 to 2006, and chaired the Board from 2002 to 2006. Currently, he holds a distinguished role on Bristol’s Foundation Board. In 2023, Mr. Wolfson established a speaker series at the college, providing the community access to high-profile speakers at no cost.

Mr. Wolfson earned his bachelor’s degree in history from Brown University and is an experienced financial services professional. He was a Partner at Wolfson, Zalkind and Company, before becoming a Manager and Vice President at A.G. Edwards, from 2000 to 2007, and Wells Fargo Advisors, from 2007 to 2010. In 2010, he founded the Fall River branch of Edward Jones, where he worked as a consultant and financial advisor.

Mr. Wolfson is an esteemed community leader serving on multiple boards and community organizations including the Fall River Board of Assessors, the Fall River Public Library, the Fall River Jewish Home, the Community Foundation of Southeastern Massachusetts and the United Way of Fall River. He was honored as Citizen of the Year by the Fall River Chamber of Commerce in 2000.


The Massachusetts Department of Higher Education has granted Bristol Community College the right to award honorary associate degrees in humane letters. The college awards these degrees to individuals who illustrate, through a career of intellect and service, the best of Bristol Community College’s vision – to change the world, learner by learner.

This year’s 2024 honorary degree recipients are Maria Lawton and Dr. Laura L. Douglas, President of Bristol Community College
Maria Lawton, also known as the “Azorean Green Bean,” is an esteemed host and executive producer of the multi-award-winning series “Maria’s Portuguese Table” on PBS. With a deep connection to her Azorean roots in Portugal, Maria has successfully brought the essence of authentic Portuguese cuisine and culture to American television audiences, garnering worldwide acclaim. The series has made television history as the first series on PBS to showcase Portuguese culture.

Maria is also a celebrated author, with her best-selling first cookbook, “Azorean Cooking: From My Family Table to Yours,” offering a heartfelt narrative intertwined with authentic family recipes, providing a window into the rich culinary heritage of the Azores.

When not captivating audiences, she finds solace at home as well as traveling with her husband Bob, the show’s co-executive producer. Maria Lawton embodies the spirit of resilience, passion, and creativity, inspiring all who cross her path to embrace their roots, celebrate their heritage, and savor the beauty of shared moments around the table.

The ceremony also included the special awarding of an honorary degree to Dr. Laura L. Douglas, President of Bristol Community College.

Under President Douglas’ steadfast guidance and unwavering dedication to fostering a college-going culture, she has transformed students’ aspirations and put dreams of achieving a college degree within reach.

President Douglas’ commitment to collaboration knows no bounds, as evidenced by the many partnerships she has cultivated with community stakeholders. These alliances have solidified educational opportunities from K-12 and empowered adult learners.

She is a catalyst for economic growth and innovation, propelling our region to the forefront of the burgeoning offshore wind industry. In addition, her tireless leadership has safely led the college’s faculty, staff and community members through unprecedented times.


The Last Lecture is a faculty honor created by the Bristol Community College Student Senate. The award honors one exemplary faculty member who has affected students’ education and their lives in significant ways.

Joyce Adler Fernandes, M.Ed., Professor of Communication, was selected by students to deliver the Last Lecture at Bristol’s 2024 Commencement Ceremony.


Donna Davis, Retired, Associate Registrar, was honored as the Grand Marshal at Bristol’s 2024 Commencement Ceremony. Continuing Bristol’s tradition of awarding this honor to one of the college’s longest-serving faculty or staff members, she will lead this year’s graduates to the commencement stage.

For more information about Bristol Community College’s 2024 Commencement Ceremony, visit
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