Sailboats, sunshine and surf served as the backdrop to Eckerd College's 49th Commencement held May 20, 2012, on the South Beach field of campus. More than 540 graduates received encouraging words throughout the morning, including those by Eckerd College President Dr. Donald R. Eastman III, "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."
The 380 graduates from the Residential program and the 161 graduates from the Program for Experienced Learners (PEL) adult degree program - totaling 541 graduates in all - received their bachelor's degrees in arts and sciences. The graduates hailed from 35 states, including 260 from the State of Florida, and 15 countries including China, the United Kingdom, Brazil, India, Guatemala, Estonia, Costa Rica and Luxembourg.
Dr. Sylvia Earle, National Geographic Explorer-in-Residence, oceanographer and author, delivered this year's Commencement address to nearly 4,500 people. She affirmed the promise she saw in Eckerd's graduates with, "You, literally, hold the world in your hands. This is the time. I can't wait to see what you're going to do next."
In his welcoming remarks, President Eastman gave the audience a glimpse into the Class of 2012 when he recounted the graduates' activities during the past four years. "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 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."
Miles Collier, Chairman of Eckerd's Board of Trustees, declared that "no other action that is required of the Board of Trustees brings as much pleasure and reward as the granting of degrees each May."
In remarks delivered on behalf of the Residential students, Stephen Barber, President of the Eckerd College Organization of Students (ECOS) reflected, "As an Eckerd student I quickly came to realize not only the value of a liberal arts education, but an Eckerd education… It is this community, our community that has invited us to question our place in the world, challenged us to grow intellectually, and has produced a class of bold imaginative thinkers, willing and eager to think outside, physically and metaphorically."
PEL student speaker Angie Jones expressed, "Today, our professors turn into friends, we students morph into alumni, and Eckerd College becomes our alma mater - our nourishing mother. Like good sons and daughters, let’s visit her often, particularly on special occasions, and help sustain her throughout the coming years. By giving back whatever we can in time and treasure, the degrees we receive today will grow even stronger and the students who follow us will experience what we have and more."
Special student awards were presented to graduates Kathryn Hamilton, John Celestin, Rebecca Hutchinson, Andrea Willingham, Aaron Coder and Linda Godwin. David Hastings, Professor of Marine Science and Chemistry received The Robert A. Staub Distinguished Teacher Award. Anthony Brunello, Professor of Political Science, received The John Satterfield Outstanding Mentor Award.
After the degrees were conferred and the diplomas were distributed, President Eastman shared these words with the graduates, "In the end, what you will most remember of your experiences of Eckerd College will be the community you were part of, the very special community of learning, exploration, discussion, service, debate, good times and bad, happy days and sad, full of deep and lasting friendships with extraordinary teachers and ardent learners.
Congratulations, 2012 Graduates of Eckerd College!