Above left: Joseph Agresti, a former 10th Mountain Division (LI) officer and retired Fort Drum education services officer, serves as keynote speaker at the 2023 Graduation Recognition Ceremony on June 9 at Fort Drum. Above right: Sgt. Xavier Mantock addresses his fellow graduates as the student speaker at the ceremony. Originally from Jamaica, Mantock enlisted in the U.S. Army Reserves in 2013. He entered active-duty service years later as an infantryman. He earned an associate degree in educational studies from Empire State University, and he plans to pursue a bachelor’s degree with a goal of teaching English language and literature. (Photos by Mike Strasser, Fort Drum Garrison Public Affairs)
Fort Drum community members celebrate academic achievements at Graduation Recognition Ceremony
Fort Drum Garrison Public Affairs
FORT DRUM, N.Y. (June 12, 2023) – Dozens of Fort Drum community members celebrated an educational milestone June 9 during the Graduation Recognition Ceremony at Fort Drum.
Whether they earned a master’s, bachelor’s or associate degree, a professional certificate or doctorate, the graduates were applauded for their commitment and determination to forge a path toward academic excellence.
“What an amazing group of graduates we have here today,” said Mary Anne Vaughn, Fort Drum Army Education Center education services officer. “Working through challenging military schedules, balancing family obligations or just trying to stay on top of things as they worked it all out. This determination, persistence, grit – whatever you want to call it – carried you through to this moment.”
Sgt. Xavier Mantock, with Headquarters and Headquarters Company, 1st Battalion, 32nd Infantry Regiment, 1st Brigade Combat Team, said it was his stubbornness that helped him achieve his goal of earning an associate degree in educational studies from Empire State University.
“I wanted my degree in a specific timeframe, so even when I was on deployment, I managed to get almost 18 credits,” he said. “It was stubbornness in wanting to get it done. Even if it meant sacrificing sleep and down time, I would just do school work.”
Mantock addressed his fellow graduates during the ceremony with a commencement speech. He said every journey has a start point and an end point, but also a third set of points.
“I know it must bring a sense of solace knowing we’ve overcome the challenges and demands of college coursework,” he said. “Now that we’re all here today, it marks the new beginning of our next step in our educational endeavors, as well as the cessation of commencement for our individual courses.”
Mantock said that his goal is to teach English language and literature. He plans on returning to school for his bachelor’s degree, but first he wants to tackle Ranger School.
Joseph Agresti, a former 10th Mountain Division (LI) Soldier and retired Fort Drum education services officer, served as keynote speaker for the event.
“Waypoints,” he said. “Those moments when we stop and weigh our options based on factors that weren’t on our original ‘map.’ When we reach a waypoint, each of us is asked to decide – do we adjust our azimuth and move out, change our major, or do we plant the end point symbol and make the best of ending short of our original goal.”
Agresti said the ceremony recognizes the graduates’ ability to reach each academic waypoint and make decisions that allowed them to complete the journey.
“However, tonight’s honor comes with a responsibility,” he said. “It is a task that falls on accomplished pathfinders, leaders and people to help others through on their academic journey – to determine where the waypoints are and where they will lead to end points.”
Teresa Henning, an Empire State University academic adviser at the Fort Drum Army Education Center, has helped Soldiers and family members to pursue their academic dreams while also achieving her own.
“I love working with Soldiers and family members and seeing them get their diplomas,” she said. “I’ve been working in higher education for 13 years now, and they go through a lot to earn their degrees. So, it’s an awesome feeling when they do.”
In addition to serving as master of ceremonies at the graduation, Henning also was recognized for earning her doctorate in higher education administration from Liberty University.
“My goal is to be full-time faculty, and to do that you need to have a doctorate,” she said. “I have two master’s degrees so I am able to teach, but this will open up those full-time teaching positions.”
The biggest challenge she said – besides managing doctoral studies during the pandemic – was completing her dissertation.
“That was no joke – it was hard to do,” Henning said. “It took me about a year to do all the research, then to write my findings and compile it into about 138 pages by the time I finished.”
Fort Drum community members who are interested in learning more about the resources and opportunities available at the Army Education Center can call (315) 772-6878 or visit the facility in Bldg. 4300 on Camp Hale Road (next to the Robert C. McEwen Library).
There is also virtual counseling available by calling or sending a text to (315) 681-0861. For more information, visit https://home.army.mil/drum/index.php/about/Garrison/directorate-human-resources/ACES.