By Julie McCay Turner
Bedford Chief of Police Robert Bongiorno delivered the 2019 Middlesex Community College Commencement Address on May 23 in the Lowell Memorial Auditorium, a room full of attentive degree candidates and family members, President James C. Mabry and his Cabinet, along with faculty, professional staff and administrators.
An MCC alumnus, Chief Bongiorno earned an associate degree in Criminal Justice in 1993. After graduation, the Chief earned his bachelor’s and master’s degrees at Western New England College while employed in the Concord Police Department and as a corrections officer at MCI Concord.
In his address, Chief Bongiorno noted, “I began my law enforcement journey in Bedford, at Middlesex, and I will end my law enforcement journey in Bedford as police chief. ” He added that he credits MCC with providing him with the career opportunities that led to his position as Bedford’s Police Chief.
The Chief said that he “… stands before you today simply as a super proud alum of this institution who has experienced the benefits of MCC’s faculty and student engagement efforts firsthand.
“I enrolled in college classes with a specific goal. In my case, to study criminal justice. But I just wanted to get going with a career, so I didn’t stick with college and apply myself as best I could, and I stopped being a full-time student. I left to get that all-important job I had been seeking, went on to attend the Department of Correction Academy, became a Corrections Officer and then realized if I really wanted to pursue my dream to its fullest, I actually needed that college degree. So I came back to Middlesex. And then I left again, to attend the police academy. I became a police officer and then FINALLY came back to MCC to finish and obtain my associate’s degree, which led me to my eventual Master’s degree.
“So yeah, MY two-year degree at MCC took me more than four years. I may not have followed the script to the letter, but I knew at the end of the journey what I needed was that degree,” concluded the Chief.
Joe Gardner, one of the Chief’s mentors at MCC, was in the audience for commencement.
“As I reflect on my many students in forty years of college teaching,” said Gardner who recently retired as the chairperson of the Criminal Justice Department, “I would say that Chief Bongiorno excelled in three areas at MCC: leadership, perseverance, and a commitment to public service.
“It is a process for most college students to determine their career path, however, some commit to it early. Chief Bongiorno knew he wanted to be a police officer. He had natural leadership skills with his classmates and led by example-rarely missing a class and I taught at 7:30am.
“He worked full time to pay for his tuition and returned to complete his degree. One of the courses that he excelled in was his internship at the Concord Police Department which required the practical application of what he learned in the classroom.
“That course is the true test for a criminal justice student and he passed with “flying colors,” said Gardner.
In conclusion, Chief Bongiorno noted five practical suggestions for students seeking success in their post- college careers:
- Manage the adversity that comes your way
- Stay humble
- Don’t take yourself too seriously
- Don’t be a victim-based thinker
- Worry only about the things you can change