STOCKTON — San Joaquin Delta College will graduate 1,815 students at its traditional commencement ceremony on Thursday, an event that will feature remarks from two very different speakers: a graduate who is the first member of her family to attend college, and an alumnus whose ties to Delta date back nearly half a century.
Thursday’s ceremony takes place at 6 p.m. at the Stockton Arena. Superintendent/President Kathy Hart will preside.
All told, Delta expects to award 2,947 degrees and 783 certificates, meaning that some of the 1,815 graduates will leave the college having achieved multiple qualifications.
Here’s a look at the speakers chosen for Thursday’s ceremony:
Student speaker Marina Khan
Marina Khan’s parents will be watching with pride Thursday as their oldest child obtains two degrees from Delta College.
Marina was the first in her family to pursue higher education.
“It’s amazing,” she said. “My mother and father are very proud because I have fulfilled their dream.”
Marina grew up in Lodi after her parents immigrated to the United States from Pakistan. “Not all women are given the opportunity to get an education in their country,” she said.
She thought she wanted to be a dentist, until she began working at a rehabilitation center where she met patients suffering from dementia. She began taking psychology courses at Delta and is now transferring to the University of the Pacific for a bachelor’s degree in psychology; someday she wants to help women and children who suffer from mental disorders or trauma.
“When natural disasters occur throughout the globe I want to be there and help the people and be the light of their tough situation,” she said.
Marina graduated from Lodi High School in 2015 and came to Delta partly because it was close to home, but also because she wasn’t sure exactly what she wanted to study. At Delta she found a supportive team of professors and counselors who helped chart her course. She struggled with an English class but didn’t quit working until she saw an “A” on her transcript.
“Coming to Delta College was the best decision I’ve made,” she said.
Marina said she couldn’t believe it when she was selected to speak at commencement. “I’m honored and excited,” she said. “I’m grateful to share my story of struggle and accomplishments at Delta College.”
Alumnus speaker Jeff Palmquist
Jeff Palmquist is grateful to Delta – and not just for the education he received here.
His parents met when they were paired up as lab partners at a Delta College chemistry class in the spring of 1973. If it wasn’t for Delta, there would be no Jeff Palmquist.
With such a close family connection to the college, Delta served as a kind of “north star” for Palmquist as he grew up. It was always assumed he would attend, too. And now the tradition spans three generations: Palmquist’s 17-year-old daughter, Abby, is a Delta student by virtue of her enrollment in an early college program at Benjamin Holt College Preparatory Academy.
It was Abby, in fact, who nominated her father to speak at this year’s commencement ceremony.
“It’s obviously a huge honor,” said Palmquist, who is also father to Peter, Issac and Lily. “It means a lot to my family with the roots we have in this community and the roots we have at this college. There really isn’t a bigger honor.”
Palmquist started at Delta in 1993. It was at Delta that he discovered a fondness for the humanities, while kicking around a soccer ball for the Mustangs in his spare time.
He went on to transfer to the University of California, Santa Barbara where he earned a degree in English. He married his high school sweetheart, Leah, and the couple returned to San Joaquin County where Palmquist got a job as the outdoor trainer at the San Joaquin County Office of Education ropes course.
His foot in the door at an educational institution, Palmquist went on to become a teacher and later an assistant principal at Lodi High School. Today he is an associate superintendent at Aspire Public Schools’ Central Valley Region, where he helps manage 14 charter schools, though he will soon be returning to Lodi Unified as an assistant superintendent.
To Palmquist, Delta is more than a fond memory. The college represents opportunity for members of our community, whether they want to transfer to a prestigious university or whether they want to learn a new trade or skill that will better their lives.
“It’s not a small task that we ask of places like Delta to be all things to all people,” he said. “And yet I’m proud of what Delta’s been able to do in our community in meeting that very lofty expectation, providing opportunities to tens of thousands of people so they can realize their dreams.”