From the opening prayer by outgoing ECOS president Robert Blake Johnson, who asked God "to open our eyes so that we may recognize injustice and confront it with conviction," to Eckerd President Donald R. Eastman's hope that the Eckerd experience has prepared the graduates "for a life of ceaseless change, ceaseless service, and moral courage "'for the facing of the hour,'" Eckerd College's 46th Commencement on May 17, 2009 affirmed the College's values from beginning to end.
Steve Forbes, Chairman and CEO of Forbes and Editor-in-Chief of Forbes Magazine, delivered the Commencement address to an audience of nearly 5,000 that included Eckerd's 550 graduates. With quick-fired wit, Steve Forbes offered words of encouragement by recounting stories of leaders who founded and sustained successful business opportunities during tough economic times. "That's why you have a liberal arts education," said Mr. Forbes. "You never know what life is going to throw your way." He added that, "the true source of wealth is not the physical, but the metaphysical "the human mind."
The 377 graduates from the Residential Program and the 173 graduates from the Program for Experienced Learners (PEL) adult degree program - totaling 550 graduates in all - received their bachelor's degrees in arts and sciences. The graduates hailed from 35 states and 11 countries including Venezuela, South Korea, Jamaica, England, the Netherlands, and India.
Special student awards were presented to graduates Galway Traynor, Jonathan Tennis, Blake Johnson, Aleisha Austin, Lynn Townsend, and Stephanie Wolfe. Tom Oberhofer, Professor of Economics, received The John Satterfield Outstanding Mentor Award, and Harry Ellis, Professor of Physics, received The Robert A. Staub Distinguished Teacher Award. Steve Forbes, Dr. Jane Petro '68, Dr. Tom West, and Mr. Howard Kennedy were awarded honorary degrees.
A graduate of the all-black Gibbs Junior College, Mr. Kennedy was the first African-American student admitted to Florida Presbyterian College in 1962. His application that spring caused discord among the Board of Trustees, and they voted 16 to 13 not to admit him. The faculty protested, and all but two submitted their resignations. The Board relented, and ultimately accepted Howard Kennedy's application that fall, but by that time, he had enlisted in the Armed Forces.
As depicted in the ceremony's closing prayer by Eckerd Chaplain Mona Bagasao, it was clear to all who were present why Mr. Kennedy's honorary degree presentation received two standing ovations:"Class of 2009, you might deserve a break today, but tomorrow you'll not only make your own breaks, you'll make breaks for those who haven't your experience, your preparedness, your privilege. You'll do it because you're called to it; you must do it."
Honorary Degree Recipients