Latimore Urges PTC Fall Graduates to Match Passion with PurposeFebruary 12, 2023
‘No One Ever Asked If We Were Okay’
A jarring experience with law enforcement when she was a young child resonated permanently with Piedmont Technical College (PTC) alumna and newly minted U.S. Marshal for the District of South Carolina Chrissie Latimore. The trauma of that night ultimately led her to be a change agent in police culture. Latimore shared her story with PTC fall graduates at last month’s commencement ceremonies.
“My family were victims of domestic abuse. The police were called, and officers arrived. They were matter of fact — what happened, who did it, where did they go — but no one ever asked if we were okay,” she recalled. “Not a single officer came over and said, ‘You’re safe now.’ I was terrified, and the very people who were supposed to make me feel safe never even looked at me.”
The ordeal lit a fire in the young girl, fueling a passion she since has brought to her esteemed career in law enforcement. “I made a promise that no person would ever feel the way I felt that night,” she said.
Latimore, the former chief of Laurens Police Department, has served in law enforcement for 23 years. She held numerous leadership positions throughout the course of her career before being appointed Chief of Police in 2018, making her the first African American and first female police chief in Laurens County. Last year, U.S. President Joe Biden nominated Latimore to serve as a U.S. Marshal, and she was confirmed in December.
PTC officials conferred diplomas and other credentials on an estimated 180 summer graduates on Dec. 13, 2022. In addition to Latimore, two students also addressed graduates. Cardiovascular Technology major Madalyn Harris spoke at the morning ceremony, and Human Services major Thomas Thompson spoke at the afternoon ceremony.
Many graduates express that they were inspired to choose their career path because of the example left by someone in their life, even a stranger. For Harris, it was a compassionate healthcare professional.
“At 13 years old, you never expect to need heart surgery, and I was terrified,” Harris told those assembled. “Before the procedure I needed a pre-op echocardiogram, which is what I’ve been training to do for the last four semesters. The echo tech who performed my echocardiogram relieved so much of my stress by taking the time to explain what she was doing and what the surgery would be like. I will never forget how she eased my fears by treating me with kindness and empathy. I decided that day, I wanted to be an echo tech, and I strive every day to treat every single one of my patients with the same kindness.”
A three-time PTC Presidential Ambassador, Harris started at the college as a dual enrollment student and earned her first associate degree three weeks before her high school graduation. She immediately started working on a second associate degree in Cardiovascular Technology/Non-Invasive Adult Echocardiography.
“My favorite thing to tell people was that I had to ask permission to miss my high school classes to attend my college graduation!” she said. “I am so grateful to be attending my second PTC graduation a year and a half later.”
Harris has been employed at Self Regional Healthcare since October.
Thompson was disabled and retired in 2020 when his adult son, Zachary Elijah Thompson, succumbed to the ravages of addiction. He had been completely unaware of his son’s struggle until it was too late. He vowed to make a difference in memory of his late son by pursuing an associate in applied science degree in Human Services.
“During my first required internship in the Guardian Ad Litem Program, I realized I had found my passion,” he said. “I remained with the program after I finished my internship and have already helped multiple children and families.”
A nontraditional student in his late-50s, Thompson plans to pursue a second associate degree in Criminal Justice at PTC and transfer to a four-year college to earn a bachelor’s degree.
“Your life’s journey is a testimony to the people who have, in some way, helped shape you into the person you are today,” Thompson told his fellow graduates. “The path you now venture down will inspire many, while your legacy will continue to ripple through the countless lives you were blessed enough to touch.”
Like the student speakers, Latimore has been inspired by those who went before her. PTC feels like a family tradition, as her mother graduated from the college’s LPN Program in 1988, and her sister graduated from PTC in 2015. “Piedmont Technical College has been instrumental in the professional development of my family,” she said.
A U.S. Army and Army Reserve veteran, Latimore received her associate degree in public service from PTC and went on to earn a bachelor’s in criminal justice from Lander University, and a master’s in criminal justice from Anderson University Command College. She feels strongly that the smallest actions can affect many and even change the course of history.
“Everything you do matters. Every move you make, every action you take, matters,” she said. “Always remember what your passion is, find your purpose, and have patience. Know that someone is counting on you to show up. And always remember that someone is watching you, even if you do not see them. … Represent yourself and your profession in the best light possible.”
- Chrissie Latimore, U.S. Marshal for the District of SC, addresses the graduates.
- Chrissie Latimore (left) with PTC President Dr. Hope E. Rivers
- Commencement speaker Madalyn Harris speaks as PTC President Dr. Hope E. Rivers looks on.
- Commencement speaker Thomas Thompson
- Graduates prepare to enter the Medford Family Event Center for their commencement.
- Graduates celebrate the end of an epic journey.