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Eckerd College Commencement
Honorary Degree Recipients

Honorary Degree Recipients

Mr. Steve Forbes

Steve ForbesFor your distinguished career as President and Chief Executive Officer of Forbes and Editor-in-Chief of Forbes magazine, America's leading business magazine with a world-wide audience of nearly five million readers;

For your editorials and articles which have made you a primary guide for business decision makers and investors;

For your strong sense of civic responsibility which has inspired you to develop and promote an ambitious agenda for reform in the areas of economics, education, medical care, and national defense;

For your leadership in a broad range of media beyond print journalism, including your service as Chairman of the bi-partisan Board of International Broadcasting and the launching of, a website visited by seven million visitors a month;

For co-authoring with classicist John Prevas of the Eckerd College faculty an important new book, Power Ambition Glory, on leadership in the ancient and modern world;

And for fostering – through your wide-ranging and highly regarded writing, editing, and publishing – dynamic, visionary, and humane leadership, Eckerd College confers on Steve Forbes The Degree of
Doctor of Humane Letters, Honoris Causa.

Dr. Jane Arbuckle Petro

Jane Arbuckle PetroFor your pioneering work in cosmetic and reconstructive surgery;

For your focus on providing hope and healing to those most devastated by severe burns and neonatal cleft palates;

For recognition by New York Magazine as one of the "Best Doctors in New York," by Castle Connelly as one of the "Best Cosmetic Surgeons," by Spotlight Magazine as the top plastic surgeon in Westchester County New York, and by Westchester Magazine as one of the "Best Doctors;"

For your distinguished career as Professor of Surgery at New York Medical College and Chief of Plastic Surgery for Northern Westchester Hospital;

For your extensive record of scholarly publication, including numerous articles and two books, most notably Rising from the Flames: The Experience of the Severely Burned, co-authored with Eckerd College Professor of Literature Emeritus Howard Carter;

For your commitment to ending domestic violence culminating in your receiving the Community Service Award from the American Medical Women's Association;

And for embodying the ideals of your alma mater as outstanding student, honored alumna, valued former trustee, and steadfast supporter,

Eckerd College confers on Jane Arbuckle Petro The Degree of Doctor of Science, Honoris Causa.

Dr. J. Thomas West

Dr. J. Thomas WestFor your central role in transforming Florida Presbyterian College, now Eckerd College, from a dream into reality as the first Director of Admissions, first Dean of Men, and first Director of Counseling;

For co-founding the psychology major with founding dean Jack Bevan, and leading the development of the flourishing Human Development discipline and major;

For being among the creators and leaders of the Program for Experienced Learners, and its longest serving faculty member;

For your imaginative, dynamic teaching, which was recognized by your receiving the Robert A. Staub Distinguished Teaching Award in 1982;

For your wise and caring mentoring of generations of Florida Presbyterian/Eckerd College students of all ages;

And for your unfailingly cheerful, positive, kindly spirit that has made you a beloved colleague of everyone in this college community for half a century, (And for staying on the Eckerd College payroll, such as it has been, for 50 years!)

Eckerd College College confers on J. Thomas West The Degree of Doctor of Humane Letters, Honoris Causa.

Howard Kennedy

Howard  KennedyPresident Eastman: I want to begin my introduction of our final honorary degree recipient by reading from the Prologue of the 50th anniversary history of the College, published just last year, entitled On Solid Rock: The Founding Vision of Florida Presbyterian/Eckerd College, by Stephanie Kadel:

For a few weeks in the summer of 1962, Florida Presbyterian College had no faculty. All but two professors, plus the dean, submitted resignations to the board of trustees at the same time. These faculty members, some of the most talented teachers in the country, who had risked secure careers to come to this upstart institution, and who had worked countless hours in the past three years to create a college from scratch, were suddenly willing to let it go.

They were willing to let go of the innovative curriculum they had designed and fought over and nurtured day in and day out.

They were willing to let go of their new home in the community of St. Petersburg, which had raised millions of dollars to bring the college to the sandy shores of Boca Ciega Bay. They were willing to let go of the best jobs of their careers, ...

And they were willing to let go of their students, the 150 founding freshmen ... who would be juniors in the fall with two additional classes coming up behind them.

But through this drastic and painful act, the faculty were still teaching the students: teaching them about justice, about standing up for your beliefs, about holding leaders accountable, about what it means to be Christian.

That summer a black student had applied for admission to Florida Presbyterian College. He had graduated from St. Petersburg's all-black Gibbs Junior College, and there was no question among those who reviewed his application that he was qualified to transfer to Florida Presbyterian and join the class of 1964.

The all-white, mostly male faculty of Florida Presbyterian College had come from both northern and southern states, but every one of them expected to be teaching in an integrated college. None of them would have come to Florida if he had thought the college would not accept black students. But the unthinkable happened: When the trustees heard about the new student, a slim majority voted not to accept him.

John Bevan, the dean of faculty, remembered, "I don't know of anything that has shaken me in higher education in my life experience more than that. It was the complete devaluation of everything we had done."

Bevan asked the president of the College, William Kadel, what it would take to get the board back together and reconsider. Kadel said, "Resignations." By the next day, Bevan handed Kadel twenty-two resignations, with Bevan's own letter on top.

The deep passion the faculty felt for the vision of Florida Presbyterian College made it impossible to do otherwise. The college, as one early student remembered, was "not a place of what you should do, but of what you must do..."

This story has two endings. Many of you know that the resignations of the founding faculty soon convinced the board of trustees to reverse itself and admit that first black student.

But most of you do not know, as I did not know until last fall, that by the time the student learned he had been admitted after all, he had already joined the United States Army, and was no longer able to enroll in Florida Presbyterian College. For many years, no one at the college knew what happened to that student, or even who he was.

His name is Howard Kennedy. He lives in New Jersey, where he became a well known and very successful entrepreneur in the perfume business. And this weekend, he is back on campus for the first time in 47 years – as an honored guest of the college and the board of trustees.

For your academic achievements that led the Admission Committee to select you as the first African American student of Florida Presbyterian College, now Eckerd College, in 1962;

For being a student of such high quality that, when the Board of Trustees denied you admission in Spring 1962, faculty resigned and students withdrew in protest causing the Board to reverse its decision in late Fall 1962;

In light of the Board's ill timing for you to commence your studies in Fall 1962, for your courage and strength of character to enter the Armed Forces to serve our country, and for your service that was recognized with an honorable discharge at its conclusion;

For being that individual over whom Florida Presbyterian College, now Eckerd College, would test its mettle and affirm its values;

In spite of your experience in 1962, for returning to be with us as the College celebrates your extraordinary life and career;

For your illustrious achievements as a successful creator and developer of fragrances and flavors to companies worldwide such that you are the first person in history to lead a company to five Fragrance Foundation Awards for Fragrance of the Year, the Oscars of the industry;

For your business acumen as founding President and Chief Executive Officer of Royal Essence, Ltd., and its evolution into H.K. Enterprises, Inc.;

For leadership in your industry as past president and chairman of the board of directors of the American Society of Perfumers and recognition as Outstanding Entrepreneur of the Year by the Black MBA Association;

And for using your scientific knowledge, entrepreneurial skills, sense of beauty, and patient fortitude to make the world a better place,

Eckerd College confers on Howard Eugene Kennedy the Degree of Doctor of Humane Letters, Honoris Causa.

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