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50th Commencement of Eckerd College - Congratulations, 2013 Graduates!

posted on 05/20/2013

Eckerd College marked a milestone as it celebrated its 50th Commencement held May 21, 2013, on the South Beach field of campus. Nearly 530 graduates received encouraging words throughout the morning, including those by environmental activist Bill McKibben and Pixar/Walt Disney Imagineering executive John Lasseter, both of whom received honorary doctorate degrees from Eckerd.

2013 Eckerd Commencement wide

The 394 graduates from the Residential Program and the 130 graduates from the Program for Experienced Learners (PEL) adult degree program - totaling 524 graduates in all - received their bachelor's degrees in arts and sciences. The graduates hailed from 36 states, including 230 from the State of Florida, and nine countries, including Ghana, the United Kingdom, Venezuela, Slovenia, the Bahamas, Jamaica, Dominican Republic, Nigeria and Singapore.

The top five majors of this year's graduating class were environmental studies, marine science, biology, psychology and communication.

Following a stunning rendition of the National Anthem by Devon Williams '13 and an invocation shared by Rabbi Ed Rosenthal, Eckerd President Dr. Donald R. Eastman III gave the audience a glimpse into the Class of 2013 when he recounted the graduates' activities during the past four years:

You have climbed the Colca Canyon in Peru and witnessed the glories of Machupichu; you have carried out service projects all over Tampa Bay and in Nicaragua, Myanmar, Ethiopia, and dozens of other countries; each year you have carried out hundreds of rescues at sea through Eckerd College Search and Rescue (EC-SAR) and responded compassionately to medical emergencies through the Eckerd College Emergency Response Team (EC-ERT); you have won Fulbright Fellowships and Hollings Scholarships – and so much more. 

2013 Eckerd Commencement graduates

Miles Collier, Chairman of Eckerd's Board of Trustees, provided some insight about the caliber of speakers and honorary degree recipients that the graduates would have the fortune of hearing:

Nominated by students, Commencement speaker Bill McKibben resonates with your optimism that significant change can be achieved through peaceful activism. As President Eastman reminds us, "Eckerd College changes lives, and Eckerd graduates change the world."

Toy Story. A Bug's Life. Monsters, Inc. Finding Nemo. Cars. Up. You have grown up with ease stepping in and out of an animated world with heroes that have subtly influenced you and shaped your sense of right and wrong. John Lasseter, Chief Creative Officer of Walt Disney and Pixar Animation Studios, is an exemplary role model who demonstrates what can be unleashed when technology is harnessed to a creative imagination.

In remarks delivered on behalf of the Residential graduates, Elizabeth "Liz" Tomaselli '13, editor of the College's student newspaper, The Current, explained how her generation innovates, adapts and juggles:

They call us the tech savvy teens or the digital natives, we don't get stuck in the ways of the past, we embrace change, we run toward it. Think about our social networking. We were the Myspace generation and then we moved on to Facebook and Twitter and mastered those, too. When social media became fair game for employers, we learned how to clean up our Facebook pages and navigate privacy settings. Now we're leveraging Google Plus and Linkedin, too. We adapt. It's what we do, instinctively. . . . We were simultaneously doing our history homework and AOL instant messaging in the fourth grade. And now, we can text, send emails and check the New York Times headlines all while walking to class - we could probably squeeze a Skype interview somewhere in there also.

PEL student speaker Daniel Quattlebaum '13 recounted one of his earliest memories at Eckerd, "A faculty member, whose words I will never forget, stood onstage and stated, 'Four years seems like a long ways off, but regardless it will come and go. What will you accomplish during that time?' Those words are very true. We cannot prevent time from passing, but we can control what we accomplish during that time."

2013 Eckerd Commencement Bill McKibben

Keynote speaker Bill McKibben described a scene when he witnessed the arrival of Eckerd students to the Tar Sands Action Rally in Washington, D.C., in November 2011, "... To watch bus after bus roll up from Eckerd College from a long, long bus ride away—to know that this college had sent, per capita, more students off to that demonstration, and many other demonstrations, than any college in this country—was to understand that this is a key place for the future and you are key players for the future."

2013 Eckerd Commencement John LasseterJohn Lasseter, computer animation genius and father to Paul Lasseter '13, shared some tips with the graduating class:

When bad things come your way, stay positive. Learn what not to do in negative situations. I got squished at Disney by someone who told me to keep my mouth shut and do what I was told, and at that moment I told myself that if I was ever in charge, I would never ever say to anyone what that person just said to me. Life is too short to hang out with squishers like that. 

It is important to follow your dreams, but it is more important to follow your passion. Because when your dreams get shattered and you trust your passion, guess what: you get a lot more dreams, and they will come true.

Special student awards were presented to graduates Ryan Jarrett, Brianna Dickinson, Maxine Tan, Deborah Hilbert, Joelle Park and Kimberley Paczynski. Annual faculty awards were presented to Associate Professor of Human Development April Schwarzmueller, Ph.D. (The Robert A. Staub Distinguished Teacher Award) and Associate Professor of American Studies Catherine Griggs, Ph.D. (The John Satterfield Outstanding Mentor Award).

2013 Eckerd Commencement caps

In his farewell, President Eastman shared these words with the graduates:

Four years ago, at your first ceremony as Eckerd College students, we sang the inspiring words from Harry Emerson Fosdick's enduring hymn: Grant us wisdom; grant us courage – for the facing of the hour; for the facing of the hour. Residential and PEL graduates, fellow students who have arrived at this glorious day by so many various paths, we hope that your years at Eckerd College have prepared you for a life of ceaseless change, generous service, and moral courage – "for the facing of the hour." 

Congratulations, Members of the Class of 2013!

Click here for complete coverage of Commencement 2013

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