50th Anniversary Events

50th Anniversary Opening Convocation Remarks

The Remarks of Mr. Grover C. Wrenn Jr. '64

Vice Chairman, Eckerd College Board of Trustees | Watch Video

Mr. Grover C. Wrenn Jr. '64On behalf of the Eckerd College Board of Trustees and the founding class of Florida Presbyterian College, I want to thank all of you, and particularly Professor Elie Wiesel, Mayor Rick Baker and the other members of our platform party, for sharing this special evening honoring the 50th Anniversary of the founding of my alma mater.

The tag line for our 50th anniversary web site says, "Transforming Lives for 50 Years." That is not a hollow claim. Eckerd College does change the lives of those who study here, and those who teach here, and others who are part of this unique community.

When I arrived in St. Petersburg at the interim campus of Florida Presbyterian College in the summer of 1960 along with 154 other Founding Freshmen, I had no idea what a profound effect my experience here would have on me for the rest of my life. I was welcomed enthusiastically by a caring and nurturing faculty and staff. Over the next few years, they coached me and goaded me through that important transition from being a dependent child to becoming an independent thinking young adult ready to go forth into the world. They equipped me with the tools for a lifetime of learning, leadership, and service. The members of that founding class are not the only ones who have had this experience. At Eckerd, the mentoring relationship between student and teacher has been a rich tradition from the start, and it continues strong today.

There have been times of great challenge in the college's history, and there are moments when we look back and wonder how we made it through. As one who was privileged to be here when it all started and who has served on the Board of Trustees for 18 years, I know well what we've overcome to achieve the enormous success we enjoy today. We stand here today because of the vision, beliefs, commitment, gifts, and efforts of many people over the past fifty years. On behalf of the entire Eckerd community, I want to express appreciation to:

  • The Presbyterians of Florida who initially supported the establishment of a high quality liberal arts college in Florida,
  • To the Founders, especially President Bill Kadel, Dean Jack Bevan, and that amazing group of founding faculty who created the innovative curriculum and the high academic standards that have distinguished the college for its entire history,
  • To the many donors who believed in the vision of the college and whose gifts have sustained the college, even in the toughest times--especially Jack Eckerd, John Galbraith, and Miles Collier whose gifts and personal leadership not only sustained but also transformed the college,
  • To the faculty who have always been the heart and soul of this institution,
  • To the trustees who have maintained a steadfast commitment to the founding principles of the college,
  • To the people of St. Petersburg who provided us a home,
  • And to my fellow alumni who are growing in number and in age and are taking an ever increasing role in assuring the future of Eckerd through their gifts of time, talent, and treasure.

In the spirit of our founders, we have held true to the ideals of liberal arts education, and we continue to hire the best faculty and dedicated administrators exemplified by President Don Eastman and Dean Lloyd Chapin, provide first-class learning resources, and prepare our graduates for lives of leadership and service to others. This is a legacy to be proud of, and tonight marks a truly momentous occasion, one that makes me prouder than ever to be associated with this place that transforms lives.

Thank you again for being a part of this evening as we say Happy Anniversary Eckerd College!  And let all of us who love this place dedicate ourselves to assuring that the transforming experiences we have enjoyed will be available to generations of students and teachers for the next fifty years.