The Commencement of the Class of 2016


Sunday, May 22, 2016
8 a.m. – Watch replay!
South Beach Field Eckerd College

Jim AnnarelliCommencement offers us an opportunity to reflect upon the past and to look to the future. It is a time for families, friends, and all members of our college community to recognize and honor the achievements of our graduating students.

I invite one and all to join in celebrating the graduation of the Eckerd College Class of 2016. More than 500 students from our residential program and the Program for Experienced Learners will receive their degree Sunday, May 22 at 8 a.m. on the beautifully located Eckerd College South Beach Field, surrounded by Florida palms and gorgeous waterfront views.

I look forward to seeing you there.

Jim Annarelli
Vice President for Student Life and Dean of Students

Anne Wetmore
Associate Dean for Student Life
toll-free: 800-456-9009
local: 727-865-7163

The Venue
Commencement takes place right on campus at beautiful South Beach. With the stunning bay as the backdrop, families gather beneath an impressive tent to celebrate this wonderful occasion.


Families and friends gathered under the largest tent of its kind in Florida on South Beach on Sunday, May 22, 2016, for the 53rd Eckerd College Commencement.

A total of 493 degrees were awarded — 413 to residential students and 80 to students in the Program for Experienced Learners.

The graduates and their families and friends were welcomed by Eckerd College President Donald R. Eastman III and Board of Trustees Chairman, John G. Finneran Jr.

The Most Reverend Katharine Jefferts Schori, Ph.D., oceanographer and 26th Presiding Bishop of the Episcopal Church, delivered the commencement address and received an honorary degree of humane letters.

Award Recipients

Philip J. Lee Honor Award

The Philip J. Lee Honor Award is presented to the senior student whose scholarly achievements have demonstrated both exceptional accomplishment and superior promise.

Henry Ashworth, a biochemistry and philosophy double major from Ventura, Calif., has maintained a 4.0 GPA in the honors program. He recently accepted the Fulbright English Teaching Assistantship in Nepal. He will start the fellowship after enrolling at University College of Dublin to obtain a master’s degree in public health. The college reviewed his Mitchell Award application and offered him a Global Excellence and full graduate tuition scholarship to attend the Irish school.

Since entering the College, Henry has embarked on two different freshman research projects in the marine sciences, served in many different roles on the Eckerd College Organization of Students and in Eckerd College’s Emergency Response Team (EC-ERT), where he spearheaded many of the drills EC-ERT now follows. He’s a Ford Scholar and spent his sophomore summer at Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory in New York. Following his junior year, he did a fellowship at Harvard Massachusetts General Hospital. He has also been inducted into the Phi Beta Kappa Honor and Omicron Delta Kappa Leadership Honors societies. To supplement his education, Henry has received the Eckerd College Social justice Award, the College’s Leadership in Life Residence Award, the Academy of Senior Professionals at Eckerd College (ASPEC) Outstanding Senior Award, NAS Service and Scholarship Award, EC-ERT Best Responder 2015 Award, Jack Bevan Memorial Scholarship, Risser Family Endowed Scholarship for Study Abroad, Eckerd College Trustee Scholarship and made the Dean’s List from 2012-2016.

Outside the classroom, Eckerd will miss Henry’’s leadership as a chemistry tutor, service learning program leader, crossfit trainer and program leader and a resident advisor.

James H. Robinson Award

Daniella-EspinozaThe James H. Robinson Award is presented to a senior student who has contributed significantly to the minority experience and to a fuller appreciation of cross-cultural values on campus.

Daniella Espinoza, a biology major and psychology/Spanish minor from Chicago, has contributed to the enhancement of the minority experience at Eckerd College through her role as Vice President of Latinos Unidos, the new club for students of Latino/Hispanic heritage, her work as a Resident Advisor, and her many volunteer activities. Through Latinos Unidos she helped organize the Day of the Dead Celebration, movie nights, and socials with Abeuelitos hot chocolate and Latin music. In addition, she represented Latinos Unidos on the Multicultural Council and helped with the Global Cultural Showcase, Festival of Cultures, and Multicultural Gala. Daniella worked with Admissions to call prospective Latino/Hispanic students and interacted with admitted Hispanic/Latino students and their families at Explore Eckerd club fairs. Through her two years as a Resident Advisor, Daniella has fostered a caring community among her residents and partnered with the ELS English Language School for a social event that bridged her Eckerd residents with international ELS residents also living in West Lodge. Daniella has been active in College 101, a program that helps underserved high school students learn about college, served as Co-Chair of the Women’s Empowerment Society, and volunteered for the Suncoast Partnership to End Homelessness and Friends of Strays. After graduation Daniella will return to Chicago to teach at her former high school while earning a Master of Arts in Teaching.

Ronald Wilson Memorial Award

Derek-GodshallThe Ronald Wilson Memorial Award is presented to a senior student who has made a significant contribution to the College community through academics, student government, and other campus Organizations.

As a leader and active member of the Eckerd community and as an outstanding student in our classrooms, Derek Godshall, a double major in French and International Relations/Global Affairs from Souderton, Pa., spent has been chosen as a professor’s research assistant and also as a tutor for two separate disciplines (French and Political Science). As a member of the student body, Derek has served as resident advisor for three years, is the president of the Eckerd College Garden Club, and works as a tour guide for incoming students. Above and beyond his consistent presence on campus, Derek’s academic record is impressive. He received the Hardesty Outstanding Work Scholar award from the Eckerd library in his freshman year. He also worked as an intern on the Institute on Science for Global Policy, for which one of his jobs was to help organize a food security conference at Eckerd. He maintained a 4.0 GPA, wrote and defended an 83-page thesis for International Relations, and has been inducted into Phi Beta Kappa. Derek also received a mini-grant of $5,000 from the Tampa Bay Estuary Program for the design and construction of an aquaponics system, and he has interned with the United Nations’ Resident Coordinator’s Office in Kyiv, Ukraine.

Miller Award

The Miller Award is presented to the senior student whose life activities exemplify the ideal of unselfish and public-spirited service to the community, off campus as well as on campus. Allison “Ally” Willen, a human development major from Akron, Ohio, who passed away in 2015 during a study abroad semester in New Zealand, consistently demonstrated careful thought and concern about every word and deed. Her service work with underprivileged children in Malawi, Africa; her long-time correspondence with the inmate in Texas; her work coordinating bone-marrow drives and food drives as a member of the Hillel Board of Students all demonstrate her deep concern for others. In addition, Ally started a student organization on campus specifically devoted to recruiting and training Eckerd students to volunteer at the Salvation Army’s “Sallie House” (an emergency shelter for foster youth) every week to work with children who had been removed from their homes due to abuse, neglect, or abandonment. She did maintain a high GPA (3.84 overall), but her grades alone were not what made her stand apart from her classmates. Through the “Live Like Ally Foundation” that her parents created, they share stories of her life and provide funding to help other young people who desire to serve disadvantaged individuals domestically or internationally. Ally has truly left a legacy for other young people to create change in the world.

The Irving G. Foster Award for Academic Excellence

The Irving G. Foster Award recognizes a graduate of the Program for Experienced Learners who demonstrates excellence in overall academic achievement.

Kristine Lynn McAdams is a Florida native born and raised in Tampa, Fla. She is graduating with High Honors with a major in Human Development and as a member of the PEL Honors Program. After graduation she plans to enroll in a Master’s degree program in a field related to human development.

Kristine Lynn McAdams '16

The David and Blanche Colgan Memorial Prize

The David and Blanche Colgan Memorial Prize is awarded to a graduate of the Program for Experienced Learners who has demonstrated extraordinary determination and perseverance in achieving a solid academic record and who exemplifies the spirit of lifelong learning.

Jana Lene Gross is a Florida resident since 1960. She is graduating with a major in Human Development and a minor in History. After closing her business in 1996, Jana went to work as a data entry clerk for a children’s mental health agency. After seeing how easy it was for families to experience hardships and fall into the “system” she became interested in working with these families. This inspired her to earn her degree in Human Development so she could make a bigger impact in the field of social services. After graduation she plans to work with homeless families or with children with mental health issues.

Jana Lene Gross '16

The Robert A. Staub Distinguished Teacher Award

Professor William SzelistowskiThe Robert A. Staub Distinguished Teacher Award emphasizes the primary importance of teaching in the College, recognizes teaching excellence in an individual faculty member, and encourages the pursuit of teaching excellence by the faculty as a whole. Selection of the recipient by the faculty is based upon the instructor’s knowledge of the subject matter and ability to communicate and inspire student enthusiasm about the subject, develop student skills relevant to the subject, stimulate independent thinking and creative approaches, evaluate student progress and achievement, and respond to both individual and group needs and levels of preparation.

The award is made possible by the generosity of a distinguished former member of the College’s Board of Trustees, Robert A. Staub.

For teaching challenging and popular courses to students in marine science, biology, and environmental studies for over twenty-five years;

For your leadership in developing the College’s successful Freshman Research Program in Marine Science, which attracts and motivates some of our most talented students, and for your participation in this program since its inception;

For engaging a group of students each spring break in shark research at the Bimini Biological Field Station in the Bahamas and leading numerous study abroad trips to Costa Rica for biological field research;

For your leadership in developing a productive, collaborative relationship between Eckerd College and the Universidad de la Habana and for taking Eckerd students on the first of what we hope will be many research trips to Cuba;

For your supportive mentoring of many Ford Scholars and thesis students whose scholarly work benefits from your careful, patient direction;

For guiding many students in their successful applications for Hollings and Goldwater scholarship;

And for your sustained commitment to continuous improvement for yourself and for your colleagues in the art and craft of teaching, Eckerd College presents The Robert A. Staub Distinguished Teacher Award to William Szelistowski, Associate Professor of Biology and Marine Science.

The John Satterfield Outstanding Mentor Award

Professor Denise FlahertyThe John Satterfield Outstanding Mentor Award is named in honor of a beloved member of the founding faculty. This award honors the special and vital role of the mentor in a student’s life at Eckerd. The selection of the recipient is based on the impact on students the mentor has had in the areas of academic programming, career planning, and personal growth.

For your firm conviction that mentoring is the most important aspect of an Eckerd faculty member’s job and for using the mentoring relationship to teach students critical thinking and sound decision-making;

For your warm, enthusiastic guidance and support of each one of the thirty or more students for whom you serve as an official mentor every year as well as the many others who come to you for informal mentoring;

For your ability to inspire in your students a thirst to learn, motivating them to exceed their own expectations for themselves;

For continuing to provide our alumni the benefit of your advice and guidance, as well as hundreds of letters of recommendation, mentoring them even after graduation;

For training 134 students in your lab and mentoring each one of them in the practice and value of scholarly research in the sciences and instructing them in the many research benefits of sea elegans;

For supervising several excellent students each year in research for their senior thesis work;

And for being, in the words of one of your students, “more than any student could ever ask for in a mentor,” Eckerd College presents The John Satterfield Outstanding Mentor Award to Denise Flaherty, Assistant Professor of Biology.


Saturday, May 21, 2016

Senior Academic Awards for Residential*
Fox Hall
2-3:30 p.m.
*Due to space constraints in Fox Hall, this event is only for the award recipients and two members of their family. Award recipients have been notified via email.

PEL Graduation Celebration
Cobb Gallery
2:30-3:45 p.m.
Reception in honor of the graduates of the Program for Experienced Learners (PEL). PEL graduates, their families, and friends are invited to this event celebrating and recognizing the outstanding achievements of PEL seniors.

Wireman Chapel
4 p.m.
President Eastman will offer his major address to the Class of 2016 during this ecumenical service. All graduates and their families are encouraged to attend.

Dean of Students Celebration
Hough Quad
8 p.m. (Fireworks display over Chapel pond at 9:15 p.m.)
Graduates and their guests are invited to this dessert reception hosted by the Office of the Dean of Students. Reservations not needed.

Sunday, May 22, 2016

Doughnuts and Coffee for Families Hosted by President Eastman & Executive Staff
South Beach Field
7 a.m.

Robing for Graduates, Faculty and Platform Party 
Hough Quad
7 a.m.

South Beach Field
8 a.m.

Graduation Reception (light refreshments)
South Beach Field
Immediately following ceremony

Speeches & Remarks

Saturday, May 21, 2016

Sunday, May 22, 2016

Invocation - Rabbi Ed Rosenthal, Campus Rabbi

President Eastman. Members of the Board of Trustees. Distinguished Faculty & Staff. Parents…grandparents…brothers…sisters…significant others and most importantly…the Eckerd College Class of 2016…on this glorious day and in this spectacular setting it is eminently appropriate that we should give thanks.

We give thanks for parents who have nurtured you from infancy to this very moment. Who mended your wounds and dried your tears. Who have given you love and support…and paid the tuition. For your parents we give thanks.

We give thanks for the teachers and mentors who have taught and inspired you throughout your life and particularly during the last four years. Who challenged you to think beyond yourself, and to think for yourself. For your teachers…we give thanks.

We give thanks for the friendships which have been forged here. Whether it was on Kappa Field, at the Waterfront, or in deep conversations behind closed doors. You have laughed together. You’ve cried together. You have grown together and you have learned from each other. For your friends who are here today…and for those who are not…we give thanks.

We give thanks for Eckerd College itself. She has frustrated you and she has fulfilled you. From her you have received an education that will enable you to enter the world, and values that will ennoble you to make the world a better place. For all that she has given you…we give thanks.

And finally we give thanks to God. We give thanks to God for giving us life, for sustaining us and for bringing us to this great and joyous day.

And in that spirit, let us pray: Almighty God, Source of all goodness, we humbly ask Your Blessings upon these graduates. Be with them as they leave these hallowed grounds. Bless them in all they do and guide them along their way. Help them to recognize that the goal of life is not to get rich but to enrich the lives of others. While we pray they do well in all of their endeavors, inspire them to do good with all they achieve.

Bless them Lord with long life, good health, happiness, success and prosperity.


Greetings from the Graduating Class - Derek Godshall '16, Residential Graduate

Hello professors, friends, family members, and the Class of 2016!

Welcome to our graduation! Now, before I start, I just want to reassure everyone: I have already promised the sound guy that I won’t laugh into the mic, so your ears are safe. For some of us, getting to this day has taken 4 years, for others of us 3 or 5, but either way, suffice it to say, it has a been a whirlwind of an experience here at the ol’ Eckerd College. This is in large part because of our truly wonderful faculty who has never stopped pushing and pushing us and for the unceasing support from our families who helped get us through this nonstop push for excellence. And while we may have had varied support systems back home, the beautiful thing about Eckerd has been the support system that we have been for each other. The sheer number of people who offered to help with this welcoming is a testament to this. And while we may be graduating in the next couple minutes and to disperse to the four corners of the Earth, I am confident that this support system will continue a long, long time into the future, and I cannot wait to come back to class reunions and hear about all of the incredible things that you are all up to! Jeremy Brown is going to cure every type of cancer while forever preserving his youthful good looks; Andréa Martin is going to end world hunger; and Shannon Bownes is going to singlehandedly take down the patriarchy with a ceremonious punch to the gut. I have some pretty high standards for you all, so don’t let me down!

But seriously, I am honored to be a part of this beautiful group of people. Thank you Class of 2016 for an amazing 4 years. Now let’s go graduate!

Greetings from the Graduating Class - Andi Gordon '16, Program for Experienced Learners Graduate

Good morning.

President Eastman, Dean Harrison, honored trustees, distinguished faculty, alumni, family, friends, and my fellow graduates:

On behalf of the Program for Experienced Learners, welcome to the 2016 Eckerd College commencement.

While PEL is affectionately known as the program for us older folks, what does it really mean to be an experienced learner?

As experienced people, many of us came to Eckerd with the knowledge of rearing children, managing households, starting companies, celebrating grandkids, and some have even experienced losing everything but had the courage to get up and dare to try again.

Voltaire asked the question, “Is there anyone so wise as to learn by the experience of others?” and my answer would be, “we are”.

As students at Eckerd, we are wiser today, not only because we’ve finished classes and earned our diplomas but also because our learning happened while we were sharing our experience with each other.

We are wiser through hearing the experiences of those who have applied innovative and powerful changes in their companies.

We are wiser because we served our community by building gardens, teaching children, and serving those who have experienced challenges most of us cannot imagine.

We are wiser because we learned from faculty who are experienced in our areas of study and want us to learn from their successes…and their failures.

We are grateful to Eckerd as an institution that values learning from experience. We will cherish the memories of our time here and the opportunity to have grown through sharing our experiences.

Our time here has created new connections, and provided a lifelong network of mentors and friends.

Our education here has made us more aware of the world, its people, and the needs around us.

Now, our experience and Eckerd diplomas equip us with tools we will use to meet those needs and add value to the world.

Congratulations, Eckerd class of 2016!

Commencement Address - The Most Reverend Katharine Jefferts Schori, Ph.D.

Let’s begin with acknowledging our interconnections – the web of relationships that has supported the graduates in coming to this day and hour. None of us would be here without the love and nurture of parents and family, and of the faculty and staff who have been your mentors and companions on this leg of the journey. Their confidence has given courage to the uncertain, and helped each one of you to dream dreams and discover the vision that will shape your life’s journey. Give thanks to each and every one who has loved you enough to push and challenge and support and bring you to this place!

The work of Eckerd College is undergirded by a creative dream. This community exists to form deeply passionate students of life who will change the world – as your own lives have been transformed by your life in community here. You’ve been challenged to understand the deep web of connections that link us to human beings across the planet, as well as to the earth and all the inhabitants of its ecosystems. That web supports all life, and it continues through the effective and appropriate action of all its parts. At this stage in our long trajectory of development, human beings are the only creatures whose planet-changing effects are strong enough to give a name to this geologic age, now called the Anthropocene Age. You have the capacity to help us all Think Outside that dead-end box, to help the world live – and thrive.

Eckerd has encouraged you to discover your purpose for life in this era, and to try on some of humanity’s ancient answers. Most college students try the one called, ‘eat, drink, and be merry, for tomorrow we die.’ Yes, indeed, celebrate with friends – and keep thinking and moving outside your comfort zone. Recognize the ancient wisdom that urges us to find purpose in those interconnections binding us to one another, even when they’re not ‘solidarities of our own choosing.’ We cannot become fully functional human beings in isolation – and any number of scientists will show you that it is in the give and take of interaction with their environment (even merry-making!) that living things develop their unique character.

The cultures of southern Africa speak of human relationship as “ubuntu.” It means that “I am because we are,” and that we only become fully human in community. Native Americans speak of “all our relatives” in the sacred circle of creation. The Torah and the prophets repeatedly challenge us to welcome the stranger, care for the rejected, and ultimately to love neighbors as ourselves, for if one part of the whole is suffering and marginalized, we are all diminished. Ultimately, that ancient wisdom speaks of right relationship, respect, and dignity for all lives. The Diné (Navajo) speak of it as hózhó – akin to the Hebrew shalom – peace and beauty that comes of good and just relationships.

Keep moving outside yourselves, to partner with all who are beginning to recognize, affirm, and give their hearts to the dream of right relationship with all living beings. Western consciousness is being reawakened by the wisdom of our ancestors and the dawning awareness that we are dispossessing and marginalizing other species on this planet. We are all learning to challenge the claims that some are less worthy than others, and we are learning that we ARE only because all living things ARE.

Graduates, what have you claimed as “this I believe”? Belief means what you give your heart to, and that deeply held dream of your heart will continue to shape your vocation and way in the world if you tend it. The dream will transform you and the world if it is nurtured, visited and revisited, exercised (in the sense of “practicing it”), and shared. Let your heart’s dream keep expanding, moving and living beyond where it is now.

The world needs your dream. Tend its fire, keep that burning passion alive! Like ubuntu, your dream will grow and its purpose will prosper if you tell it out and let it encounter others. Some of those meetings will draw sparks, and some will singe the edges of your heart, but the dream only grows and spreads by setting others alight. Passion has two sides to it – both the deep well of life-giving energy, and the suffering that the world visits on those who are bold enough to drink there. Be not afraid, for exercising your passion is the road to more abundant life for all. Keep the fire burning, and when it grows dim, look around for others who share great parts of your dream and will help to fan your flame.

Ultimately, the fire in all hearts has the same source – in the creative passion that set the universe in motion, in the flaring forth of the Big Bang, in the cosmic dream that there be something rather than nothing, that there be life in the face of nothingness. Look outside, see your relatives, and remember where we have come from – and give thanks. It makes all relationships more fruitful.

The dream of a healed world, with abundant life possible for all, begins with those lively ties that bind us together. No human being is an island; no creature lives only to itself. We are made for relationship, the kind of right relationship that human society calls justice. We may differ in understanding how to get there, yet the journey and the path are made by walking – together. A 19th century philosopher put it thus, “Life is short and we have not much time to gladden the hearts of those who travel with us. Oh be swift to love, make haste to be kind.”

The deep roots of that word kindness are about relatives and doing good to one another. When we are kind to all our kin, when we love neighbors with justice, the world sings.

Whatever passion claims your heart, move outside yourself, and help the world become such a place. Go in company, aware that none of us travels this way alone. Go with confidence in the deep inner truth of your passion, supported by companions. And go seeking to learn from those who challenge and disagree with you – for we will never grow otherwise. Live in that tension, for it will teach and strengthen you and give you hope for more than you could ever imagine alone. Go with curiosity about all neighbors – and continue to discover the creative nature of diversity. You have been asking for greater diversity in this student body, for you’ve learned that diversity fosters both resilience and creativity. The same principle applies to all living communities, for creativity is born of the chaotic and unpredictable interplay of difference.

Chief Seattle put it this way in 1854, “humankind has not woven the web of life. We are but one thread within it. Whatever we do to the web, we do to ourselves. All things are bound together. All things connect.

Dream big – and put your passion out there. Expect it to light fires and expect to be singed in turn. Like sparks running through the stubble, let your fire set the world alight with a vision of greater life for the world. Go light creative and passionate fires, fueled with kindred spirit and loving kindness for all our relatives. You lit candles here four years ago…go light up the world!