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At Eckerd College's 48th Commencement on May 22, 2011, keynote speaker U.S. Senator Bill Nelson urged 532 graduates, "Whatever you decide to do, whether it be business, politics, arts or science, consider your humanity with the intent to make the world a better place."
The 393 graduates from the Residential Program and the 139 graduates from the Program for Experienced Learners (PEL) adult degree program received their bachelor's degrees in arts and sciences in front of an audience of nearly 5,000. The graduates hailed from 38 states, including 280 from the State of Florida, and 14 countries, including Brazil, South Korea, the Philippines, Italy, the Dominican Republic, and Romania.
During his welcoming remarks, Eckerd President Dr. Donald R. Eastman III noted, "Commencement is not simply about picking up a diploma - though it is surely about that. Commencement is also about telling the story anew about the institution from which the diploma has been earned."
Renditions of Eckerd's story weaved throughout the words of the speakers, starting with Miles Collier, President of Eckerd's Board of Trustees, who announced that the College had "successfully completed the largest capital campaign in the College's history, ahead of schedule, with gifts and pledges exceeding 80 million dollars."
"A camp Eckerd montage" is how residential student speaker Kyle Robert Newman recalled his Eckerd journey. "From Autumn term starry-eyed freshmen, to learning by serving, barefoot, in the Amazon, returning to the classroom sharing informed debate on the science of life. Then suddenly I'm in the swings at Kappa Karnival coming down from my last spin. Quickly now, and we're buying our graduation regalia, then studying for finals. Yesterday reunited with my family, and packing my belongs, my life..."
"Our undergraduate odyssey has reached its end, like those before us - we have been transitioned," reflected PEL student speaker Christopher John Mattsen. "We have risen from the Eckerd experience to a clearer vision, one that is filled with more hope and imagination."
During his address, Senator Nelson shared interesting facts about members of the 2011 graduating class, "Eckerd graduates have a long history of understanding that there's more to life than one's own self-interest." Photo right: President Donald Eastman and Senator Bill Nelson
Two graduates, Rachel Chilton and Elise Luce,have been named Fulbright Scholars. Six graduates - Hilary Browning, Becca Derex, Ashley Hibbard, Jeremy Keller, Lillian McCormick and Paul Robbins were named National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration Hollings Scholars at the end of their sophomore year. Two more graduates, Erica Magnusson and Elizabeth Renihan, are joining Teach for America this summer.
Of the PEL students, Angelina Garcia Tennis was congratulated on her recent union to Jonathan Tennis '09, as they were married the evening prior to Commencement. Jonathan, a civilian contractor, just returned from Afghanistan. And, 90-year-old Ellen Nizzi was praised for earning a degree in creative writing. Later, the crowds gave Mrs. Nizzi a standing ovation as she strode across the stage to accept her diploma.
Special student awards were presented to graduates Eric R. Hammerschmidt, Daria Lauren Hall, Elizabeth Renihan, Lauren E. Albritton, William Crofton Prescot, and Carla Marie Crombie. Denise Flaherty, Assistant Professor of Biology, received The Robert A. Staub Distinguished Teacher Award. Edward T. Grasso, Professor of Decision Sciences, received The John Satterfield Outstanding Mentor Award.
After the degrees were conferred and the diplomas were distributed, President Eastman concluded the ceremony with a remembrance of the graduates' fallen classmate, Holt Weeks. In the true spirit of Eckerd, he went on to wish the Class of 2011, "Hail to all the imagination and heart you bring to create the future; farewell to your life here as students who have felt, I hope, not only well tutored, but well loved."
Congratulations, 2011 graduates!