Bristol Community College announces the most unique commencement in Bristol history, Class of 2020 Valedictorian, Salutatorian and prestigious award recipients

Bristol Community College’s 53rd Commencement Ceremony, originally scheduled for Saturday, May 30, 2020, was postponed due to the ongoing coronavirus pandemic. The college would like to take this opportunity to announce our prestigious award recipients, including the Class of 2020 Valedictorian, Salutatorian, Distinguished Citizen and Honorary Degree; and update the community on our commencement plans. 

Over the last few months, Bristol has been working hard to determine the best and safest way to celebrate our graduates and student success. While the college hoped to hold an in-person ceremony, as the pandemic continues to evolve, we know that safely hosting our Commencement Ceremony – which typically brings together more than 3,000 guests – will not be possible in the coming months.  

More than 250 students responded to a graduation survey and a virtual commencement was voted as the first choice for many students – more than the other options presented. 

Given the student survey feedback, the continued uncertainty of the pandemic and the impact of current or anticipated social distancing guidelines, Bristol has decided to move forward with a unique virtual commencement ceremony. Students wishing to walk across the stage and be celebrated in person will also have the option to attend the 2021 Commencement Ceremony. 

In the coming weeks, Bristol will announce the date of the virtual commencement ceremony as well as instructions on how students, families and friends can participate. The reimagined commencement ceremony will feature many of the same elements of the traditional, in-person commencement, including recognizing each graduate by name. 

Offering the ceremony online will provide the opportunity for friends and family from all around the world to participate in the celebration, in real time. A recording will also be available to view later.  

For updates about Bristol’s 2020 Virtual Commencement Ceremony, please frequently visit In addition, you'll find information about this year's honorees, celebratory social graphics that you can use to support Bristol graduates and a link to sign the virtual Class of 2020 Yearbook.   

President Laura L. Douglas, Ph.D., sent graduates a special message congratulating them on reaching this milestone. “So many of our students have long balanced the responsibilities of pursuing an education while caring for loved ones, holding multiple jobs and triumphing over obstacles. The COVID-19 pandemic quickly amplified these challenges and you were able to persevere. It required creativity, resilience and compassion to navigate life’s obstacles, find balance and remain focused. The strength and determination you have demonstrated has brought you to where you are today and will take you wherever you want to go. We cannot wait to see what you will do next.” 

In keeping with tradition, the college would like to take this opportunity to recognize the Class of 2020 Valedictorian and Salutatorian and its prestigious 2020 award recipients.


This year’s Valedictorian is Viviane Goese, of Swansea, Associate in Arts in Liberal Arts & Sciences (Humanities Transfer); and the Salutatorian is Ethan Mort, of Mattapoisett, Associate in Arts in Liberal Arts & Sciences (Behavioral and Social Sciences Transfer).

Viviane M. Goese began her journey at Bristol as an English as a Second Language (ESL) adult learner. During her time at Bristol, she gracefully balanced her responsibilities of caring for her family while pursuing the opportunity she had once not thought possible – to earn a college degree. In addition to her outstanding academic achievements, she has positively contributed to the college community in her service as a tutor and a role model for others.  

She credits the support and encouragement of her instructors for her successful transition from the college’s ESL program to college courses and being asked to serve as a tutor. As a tutor for Bristol’s Quest program supporting first-generation, low-income students and/or students with disabilities, she strengthened her own confidence and academic development.   

She challenged herself and excelled as a member of Bristol’s Commonwealth Honors Program and was appointed as a supplemental instructor in the college’s Dual Enrollment Program, assisting in the education and professional development of high school students simultaneously earning high school and college credits. She also served Bristol as a tireless volunteer and advocate for the college’s Holocaust and Genocide Center’s initiatives and events.  

She was recently accepted at Brown University, in Providence, R.I., in the Resumed Undergraduate Education (RUE) Program, where she aims to pursue the open curriculum offered by the institution. Through its multidisciplinary approach, she aims to achieve her intellectual ambitions while pursuing her goal of becoming an educator. 

Ethan Mort developed his academic foundation and inspiration while earning his associate in liberal arts at Bristol before transferring to George Washington University (GWU), in Washington D.C., in Spring 2020.  

In addition to his outstanding academic record, Ethan enhanced his experience at Bristol by becoming active in the college community and participating in ongoing lecture series for students. He served as an active member of the college’s Seeds of Sustainability Club, advocating and educating communities toward sustainable lifestyles, as well as the Chief Organizer of the Bristol Climate Day of Active Education. The college-wide event promoted and raised awareness of the issues of climate change and carbon drawdown.  

He attributes the support of his hard-working family and the college’s dedicated faculty members to his academic achievements and preparation for success at a four-year institution.  

Ethan is pursuing a major in political science and a double minor in history and international relations at GWU, where he participates on the GWU Parliamentary Debate Team. He plans to pursue a career in the political field in a position he feels can create change.

The college is proud to announce the following prestigious award recipients to be honored at Bristol Community College’s 2020 Virtual Commencement Ceremony:


The Distinguished Citizen Award is presented annually to an outstanding local citizen 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 Distinguished Citizen Award is presented to Joseph A. Marshall.

Joseph A. Marshall, RFC '78, is the Founder and President of J. Marshall Associates, a financial planning firm in Fall River, and a dedicated member of the community whose contributions are highly regarded.

Upon return from his dedicated service in the United States Air Force, including a tour of duty in Vietnam, Joseph graduated from Bristol Community College in 1978, prior to transferring to the University of Massachusetts, Dartmouth, where he earned his bachelor’s degree.

He has held numerous leadership roles at Bristol throughout his devoted service to the college. Most recently, as Chair of the Board of Trustees following his service on the board since 2007. He is also the former President of the Bristol Community College Foundation. He is the recipient of Bristol’s 2007 Cornerstone Entrepreneur Award and 2016 Paragon Award. In 2018, the college dedicated the new Joseph A. Marshall Veterans Center, on the Bristol Fall River campus, for Mr. Marshall’s tireless advocacy for Bristol and student veterans.

Marshall is also a recognized community servant. He has served on several city boards and community groups, including the Fall River Office of Economic Development, the Board of Assessors, SER-Jobs for Progress, the Prince Henry Society of Fall River and currently serves as the Chair of the Vietnam Veterans Memorial Wall Committee. He was recently named the recipient of BMC Durfee High School’s Distinguished Alumnus award in 2020.

He is a life-long resident of Fall River with his wife, Joanne. They have four daughters and eight grandchildren.


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 recipient is Margery Eagan.

Margery Eagan is the co-host of 89.7 WGBH’s midday program Boston Public Radio, featuring smart and engaging conversations with leaders and thinkers shaping the Boston region. Subjects of her thought-provoking commentaries include gender and women's issues, Catholicism and politics.

Margery has strong connections to the South Coast region. She grew up in Fall River and attended BMC Durfee High School before graduating from Stanford University, in Calif., where she earned a bachelor's degree in American studies.

She has written for her hometown newspaper, The Herald News, as well as for The Standard-Times of New Bedford. She has contributed to The Boston GlobeBurlington Vermont Free PressBoston Magazine and The Boston Herald, where she was a columnist for 27 years. In 2015 and 2016, she earned national awards from the Religion Newswriters Association.

She currently lives in Brookline and has three grown children. She has a perfect attendance record at BMC Durfee High School reunions, and two of her closest friends are high school classmates.