GPC Staffer Realizes Dream at 2013 Commencement

Contact: Beverly James
Phone: 678-891-2686
Fax: 678-891-2966
Author: Beverly James

For Immediate Release

It took Rick Bertaccini several stops and starts over 41 years, but the Georgia Perimeter College student proudly walked across the stage recently to accept his associate degree in business administration.

Bertaccini, 58, joined approximately 500 of 2,267 eligible graduates for the spring commencement ceremony at the Atlanta Civic Center. Alumnus Jerry Wilson, who retired as a senior vice president from Coca-Cola and now leads a marketing consulting firm, gave the commencement address.

“I am you and prove that you can be whoever and whatever you want to be,” said Wilson, who graduated from GPC, then DeKalb College, in 1974. “I was the first college graduate in my family, and it was a profound, life-changing experience. Graduating proved that I could succeed in a college environment, and propelled me to go further. This is not an end, but a beginning for you.”

Bertaccini graduated high school in 1972, the same year the GPC Decatur Campus opened. After a couple of semesters, Bertaccini realized he wasn’t ready for college and joined the Army. He served his country for four years and re-enrolled at the college. However, he dropped out after a few months.

“I kept going and stopping because I wasn’t taking it seriously,” Bertaccini said. “So, I became a carpenter and went to work.”

In 1991, Bertaccini was hired by Georgia Perimeter for a position at the Clarkston Campus. He waited a few years and then, once again, enrolled in classes.

“I focused on my three girls and getting them off to college before I gave higher education another shot,” said Bertaccini, a GPC facilities manager. “I wanted to enrich myself, but I also knew that I needed a degree if I wanted to get a higher position in management.”

On May 3—with Barbara, his wife of 37 years, and three daughters cheering him on—Bertaccini flipped the tassel from the left to the right side of his graduation cap and beamed for the cameras.

“It was the hardest thing I have ever done, but also the most rewarding,” Bertaccini said. “I am so glad that I stuck with it and earned this degree. It took more than 40 years, but it was worth every bit of sweat and tears.”

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Georgia Perimeter College, the largest state college of the University System of Georgia, serves approximately 23,000 students through four campuses and several sites in metro Atlanta. For additional information, visit