More than 500 degrees were awarded during the 51st Annual Eckerd College Commencement on Sunday, May 18, 2014, which took place under the largest tent of its kind in Florida on South Beach Field.
The crowd of more than 5,000 people were blessed with sunny skies and some of the coolest temperatures for Commencement in recent memory. A total of 527 degrees were awarded -- 404 to residential students and 123 to Program for Experienced Learners students. A total of 431 Bachelor of Arts degrees and 96 Bachelor of Science degrees were awarded.
The class of 2014 hailed from 41 states and 10 countries. They and their families and friends were welcomed by Eckerd College President Donald R. Eastman III and Board of Trustees Chairman Miles C. Collier.
Melissa Harris-Perry, political scientist and aunt of graduating senior Christina Smith, delivered the Commencement address and received an honorary degree.
"This is the moment when you begin your own journey," Dr. Harris-Perry told the graduates. "Your families laid your foundation. Your teachers gave you tools and raw material. But you must now construct a life. It is the only one you will have and you are uniquely responsible for how well or poorly it is crafted. But be careful, because it is easy to be seduced by the outward trappings of success: beauty, wealth, fame. If you want those things, go for it. But then stop and ask, if I am beautiful, so what? What difference does that make? If I am rich, so what, what difference does that make? If I am famous, so what? What difference does that make? I ask you to think often of this question, not because it makes you snarky, but because it should make you earnest. Not because it makes you haughty, but because it should make you humble. Ask it about the meaning of your work. Ask it about the meaning of your nation. Ask it about the meaning of your actions."
Residential graduate Wyatt Cameron McMurry and Program for Experienced Learners graduate Kevin Duane Johnson were chosen by their respective classes to offer greetings to the graduates.
In addition to hundreds of diplomas, eight special awards were presented to graduates.