Dr. Donald R. Eastman, III, President of Eckerd College
Eckerd College students, parents, families, friends, members of the Eckerd College Board of Trustees, faculty and staff: Welcome to the 48th Commencement exercises at Eckerd College.
This ceremony is called a "commencement" because we celebrate not only what will end today, but what is to begin today.
At this ceremony we honor not only each graduating senior, but also the Eckerd College Class of 2011, a community of extraordinary men and women. We honor what they have accomplished, and what they will accomplish in the years ahead.
This commencement ceremony, like everything else at Eckerd College, is arranged to be an educational event in your undergraduate experience. Today, the College will again display its values by what it honors and whom it honors.
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.
Let us begin by thanking the Board of Trustees for all they have done to build this outstanding college in the liberal arts tradition and for their unstinting, unswerving support. Will the trustees who have joined us today please stand and be recognized? We also welcome the other distinguished members of the platform party for their participation in today's ceremony.
Thank you to our Commencement speaker, the Honorable Bill Nelson, and honorary degree recipients, Naomi and Leonard Block; Chairman of the Board of Trustees, Miles Collier of Naples; and my colleagues, Dean of Faculty, Betty Stewart, Dean of Students Jim Annarelli and our Director of Campus Ministries, Reverend Douglas McMahon, Jr.
Let me now ask the distinguished and dedicated men and women of the Eckerd College faculty - who are the embodiment of Eckerd College - to stand as we thank you for the labor and devotion that makes this day possible.
It is a privilege for me to serve this faculty; and it is an honor for me to be a colleague to the great staff of Eckerd College, who work, every day, with grace and skill, and at a very high standard. Will my colleagues of the Eckerd College staff - groundskeepers, housekeepers, food service staff, student life, finance, admissions, special programs, advancement… all Eckerd College staff - please stand so these students and their families and friends can applaud your service and support of them?
This day would not be possible without the support - emotional, spiritual and financial - of the families of those who graduate today: grandparents, mothers, fathers, sisters, and brothers, husbands and wives and children. Please stand so we may recognize and applaud your love and support.
Please join me in welcoming two special guests, who celebrate with us today: Mr. J. Beatty, Senator Nelson's godson, of St. Petersburg; and the warm and gracious wife of Senator Nelson, Grace, whose commitment to her faith and public service, in one example, is nobly reflected in her establishment of prayer breakfasts first in Tallahassee, the seat of State government in Florida, and thereafter adopted in Washington, our nation's capital, making the rough and tumble and often discourteous political world a more civil place, reminding us that spiritual growth has a part in making this world a better place.
Finally, let me introduce my wife, Christine: The College has no greater advocate and volunteer. She extends to each of you her congratulations and best wishes: Christine.
Eckerd College Class of 2011: You students who graduate today have not only excelled academically, you have volunteered as teachers in schools in St. Petersburg and in Cape Town; you have climbed the Alps, carried out service projects in mid-town and all over Tampa Bay and in Nicaragua, Myanmar, Ethiopia, and dozens of other countries; you have carried out thousands of rescues at sea through ECSAR, won Fulbright fellowships and Hollings Scholarships - and so much more.
You will soon begin careers in a challenged world, a world in great need of your talent and knowledge and energy.
You leave here to conduct research all over the world; to address social, political and environmental challenges; to attend law school and medical school and theology school. You will become engineers, teachers, technicians, oceanographers, counselors, artists and scientists; you will attend superb graduate schools in dozens of disciplines; and you will take leadership positions in your jobs and in your communities.
At the end of this ceremony, you will march off to show the world that Eckerd College changes lives, and Eckerd College graduates change the world: Please stand so we can recognize your achievement and your promise.