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President Donald R. Eastman III

President's Remarks

Golden Triton Society Induction Dinner

Reunion Weekend | Friday, March 7, 2014
Fox Hall | 5:30 p.m.


Good evening. I’m Don Eastman, President of Eckerd College, and it is my pleasure and privilege to welcome you to the inaugural induction of a 50th anniversary class into the newly created Golden Triton Society.

All spring, indeed all this academic year I have been waist-deep in the tidal pools of Boca Ciega Bay, wandering through the Palmetto scrub, stepping gingerly over the fire ants and sand spurs, watching the fiddler crabs scuffle into holes, admiring the great blue herons and snowy egrets soaring by. I have created as best I can in my mind’s eye the visionary leadership and righteous enthusiasm of Bill Kadel, the penetrating, demanding imagination of John Bevan, and the glorious cacophony of the brilliant, contentious, devoted founding faculty, including names that now at this College resound like a biblical roll call. Although the longer I have been here, and it has now been nearly a quarter of the time that Eckerd/Florida Presbyterian College has existed, the more I understand that some of them were not exactly angelic. God bless them for it. Those names include: Clark Bouwman, Howard Carter, Bettye Rae Crane, Iggy Foster, Ashby Johnson, Ken Keeton, Bob Meacham, George Reid, John Satterfield, Dexter Squibb, Pedro Trakas, Tom West, Fred White, Francis Whitaker, Bill Wilbur, and Billy Wireman, who, along with Stan Chesnut, Emma Conboy, Jim Crane, Sarah Dean, John Ferguson, Jim Harley, and Bob Hodgell, built the dream to which we are, all, still in glorious thrall.

There are many institutions of higher learning throughout the world, and to most of them 50 years is no big deal. They’re older than us; they have established traditions; and we’re still trying to get you in the same room at the same time to have dinner. They’ve been having 50th anniversaries annually for, in many cases, hundreds of years.

For Eckerd College, tonight is only our second. The first, the 50th anniversary of our founding as Florida Presbyterian College celebrated in 2008, commemorated the boldness and braveness of those individuals—some of whom are in this room—who chose to create a school in a most unlikely place out of whole cloth. There was no campus in 1958, no curriculum, no accreditation and not much money. Just a vision. And from 1958 to 1964 that vision was realized, acre by acre, brick by brick, professor by professor, student by student, class by class, until June 1, 1964, when the first of those classes entered Pasadena Community Church as college students and left it as college graduates.

Those years of creation were both exciting and challenging. Even before the Class of 1964 arrived, they were asked to read Alan Paton’s Cry, The Beloved Country; Robert Redfield’s The Primitive World and Its Transformations; the Book of Genesis; and the Gospel According to Mark.  For many of you, the world you grew up in was turned upside down by the faculty at Florida Presbyterian College.  And yet, you persevered and prospered. In her history of the early years of Florida Presbyterian College, Stephanie Kadel Taras, member of the Class of 1989 and granddaughter of Bill Kadel, writes of the day of graduation:

“The administration and faculty had every reason to bust buttons over the students’ accomplishments. Ten graduated with high honors. More than 60 percent went on to graduate and professional schools. Three won Fulbright fellowships, two won Woodrow Wilson fellowships, and three won NDEA (National Defense Education Act—for graduate study in science, engineering, and foreign languages) fellowships. Hugh McEniry, Dean of the College of Liberal Arts at Stetson University, chaired the Woodrow Wilson fellowship committee and reviewed the applications from FPC students. He called Bevan to say, ‘I don’t know what it is you’re doing, but what we saw—we couldn’t believe it! Whatever you’re doing, I want to learn about it.’”

Tonight we celebrate not only those 65 graduates of the Class of 1964, but also every member of that intrepid group who came to Florida Presbyterian College in the beginning, stayed until the end, or attended somewhere in between. All of you recognized here tonight are members of the founding Class of 1964, all of you are Eckerd College alumni, and tonight all of you become members of the Golden Triton Society.

It is fitting, and unsurprising, that so many other people are here to acknowledge this milestone for Eckerd College and the Class of 1964. Also present are representatives from the Classes of 1965, 1966, and 1967, who with you here established Florida Presbyterian as a four-year college; here, too, are members of the Class of 1968, who recognize their own place in our history as the symbols of the College’s continuance past its creation, the way the “New Nine” astronauts followed the Mercury Seven. I am pleased to recognize in our audience tonight several special guests who helped shape the experiences of this class those first four years:

  • Stan Chesnut, professor emeritus of religious studies;
  • Bettye Rae Crane, founding faculty member in women’s physical education;
  • Katherine Meacham Conover, wife of founding faculty member Robert Meacham, joined tonight by her husband Lloyd;
  • John Ferguson, professor emeritus of biology, joined by his wife Rebecca; and
  • Jim Harley, basketball coach, athletic director, and world class raconteur.

We also welcome another honored guest. If anyone can be called an architect of Florida Presbyterian College, along with founding president Bill Kadel, it would surely be founding Dean John Bevan, aka the “burning bush,” whose portrait still hangs in the Faculty Lounge, sternly expecting those who gather there to rethink, reimagine and redesign undergraduate education, as he did when he was Dean. Here representing him is his wife, Louise Bevan, and we are thrilled to have her with us.

Please join me in a round of applause for these visionaries whose hard work, enthusiasm, and dedication made this College what it was for you then, and paved the way for what it would become.

I would now like to invite the Rev. Bill Heck, member of the Class of 1964, to deliver the blessing. Following dinner, I’ll rejoin you for the ceremonies.


This weekend, like all truly great reunions, is made possible by the passion and hard work of volunteers. The Class of 1964 Reunion Committee has met on line or via conference call nearly every month for two years to discuss finding their classmates, getting in touch with them, and encouraging them to come back to this reunion. I would like to take a moment to recognize the individuals who have served on this committee:

  • Peter France;
  • Carolyn Hall Horton;
  • Wilmer LaBrant;
  • Richard Miller;
  • Roger Porter;
  • Sue McEwan Vastine;
  • Grover Wrenn;
  • Fred Wright; and
  • Janie Wright, watching via the Net along with 20 other alumni.

Thank you for your service and dedication to making this reunion a success. As always, what the class of 1964 does matters immensely because you set the stage for everybody else.

The first commencement address of Florida Presbyterian College was delivered by—do you remember?--J. Peter Elder, Dean of the Graduate School of Arts and Sciences of Harvard University. He discussed the distinct advantages of a liberal arts education in contrast to that of a university. And he said that the “continuing welfare of the college is the direct charge of the endless procession of alumni” that started with that first commencement. It is the “moral job of alumni to see that the fine education available at Florida Presbyterian College becomes even better.”  I could not have said it any better myself, and I have tried. He was right from the opening bell.

The choice that any person entering college makes is not a choice he or she lives with for four years; it is one he or she makes for life. Each of you, on the day you entered this College, began a relationship you will have for the rest of your lives. The young alumni I spoke to in San Francisco last week, two or three years out, probably haven’t realized that yet. But you, 50 years later, surely have. You, this college, your classmates, and your professors are yoked together. The experiences you had here will never be unstrung from your identities. Florida Presbyterian College is part of who you are.

The relationship between alumni and their institution is continuous and, in its best iterations, rewarding for both. This relationship has distinct phases, ebbs and flows. Tonight, for the Class of 1964, it enters a new phase. As you did when you arrived in 1960, you are defining, even in the act of being who you are, just what that means. You are Golden Tritons, and it is up to you to show us just what a Golden Triton is. And next year, you will welcome more into your fold, and the year after, and the year after, until one or more of you—and I hope it’s a lot—at the age of 92 will greet a graduate from the Class of 1984, and on and on.

When you began your college careers, you were presented with a pin, the Fiddler Crab, emblematic of the creatures inhabiting the odd patch of ground upon which you would eventually find yourselves learning and growing. Tonight, you will receive another: the seal of Florida Presbyterian College, but with that name replaced with the one this place will have forevermore. This pin symbolizes your role as co-creators of a remarkable place of higher learning, and your special role in clearing the path for all those who followed you.

It is my honor to confer upon the members of the Class of 1964 the pin representing their induction into Eckerd College’s Golden Triton Society. To help me, the representative of the current administration, present your pins, I believe it is apt that a representative from the first administration join me, and I think there is no person more fitting than Louise Bevan. Louise, will you join me?

When your name is called, please come forward and remain at the front.

On the occasion of the 50th anniversary of the Commencement of the founding Class of 1964, Eckerd College proudly inducts the following alumni into the Golden Triton Society:

Meredith Anne Black McGuire
Jerrold Arthur Burton
Albert Howard Carter, III
Sandra Lee Caruthers
Virginia Ann Disharoon Henry
William I. Fadden
John Peter France
Carolyn Hall Horton
William G. Heck, III
Leonard Francis Henry, III
Paul Everett Hoffman
Henry Thompson Houchins, Jr.
Sally Johannes
Amelia Jean Johannessen Smoot
Jennifer Lu Jones Otto
Richard W. Kadel
Wilmer Scarborough LaBrant
James Greg Lofstrand
Susan McEwan Vastine
Richard Graydon Miller
Peter Roberts Moore
Michael Lawrence Netzloff
William Ashley Phillips, Jr.
Roger John Porter
Betty Ann Ratsch Hammer
Allison LeRoy Reams, II
Karen Reynolds Kadel
Raymond LeRoy Schmidt
Julian Paul Sellers
Sandra Sloan Coleman
Alice Marie Castilla Wasson Fadden
Grover C. Wrenn
Frederick William Wright, Jr.

Eckerd College also confers the status of Golden Triton to all living and deceased members of the Class of 1964.

Ladies and gentlemen, I present to you the inaugural members of the Golden Triton Society, the Class of 1964.

Eckerd College has had class after class of extraordinary men and women, but nobody who came first unto this sandy karst but these guys. We are proud of you and grateful. Thank you very much; you may return to your seats.


As you can imagine one natural response to this great celebration for our class was for us to do something to give back. So we have raised funds that are going to be used to endow scholarships for students: For current students and for future students, and we are extremely proud as a class who is celebrating this 50th reunion to add a few zeroes to this check that we the class of 1964 proudly present to President Eastman and to Eckerd college for $500,116.


I accept this great gift on the behalf of a grateful College, and proudly announce that this is the largest class gift in the history of Eckerd College. As some of you know for several years the class of 1968 has been walking around like cock of the walk. I think ’64 has shown them. What I have heard from some of the members of ’68—and I am looking at several members of the class of ’65 that serve on the Board of Trustees—if you guys want to be in second or third or fourth place forever, that’s your legacy, John, and Randy, not to call any names. I have only a few more years left as president of this great institution. I have made it my primary task in those years remaining to do an even better job then we have done so far.

Tell the truth to the people who graduated from here or attended and enjoyed here. It’s a double-edged truth. On the one hand it’s an institution that gets better every day. Our faculty is extraordinary; obviously our physical plant gets better; our programs get stronger. Our students are just like you all. They are fascinating, they are interesting, they march to their own drummer. They came here, as I said earlier, an average of eleven hundred miles not to do it the way someone else showed them how to do it, but to figure out their own way, to have their own path. To be what we have now decided is really in the DNA of Eckerd College, however it came about. I have my own theories about that, and I could go on and on about it. But I will only say this: when you get a bunch of Presbyterian ministers in skinny black ties with a sense of mission and changing the world, on a campus at the same time in American life when faculty are made up by people that have sandals and long hair, that want to change American life in very different ways, it creates a combustible mixture. Your memories of the faculty who came here early, away from great jobs and institutions that actually had an endowment, a word that Eckerd College could not spell for 20 or 25 years, to create American higher education for undergraduates in a brand new way, your memories and your cheers when I mentioned their names earlier is an extraordinary thing. What has happened here is an extraordinary story.

The truth that I tell alums when Matt Bisset and I were in San Francisco, and we are going to lots of places this year, and next, and the year after that, is that the future of colleges like this has always—but particularly now given the financial and demographic environment—is that those colleges who have alumni who love and appreciate it enough, to share their philanthropy and make it a priority, will survive, and those that don’t, won’t. I don’t want to say this in any scary way, particularly for young alums who are barely getting out of college loans or barely getting into them, but it is the truth that we need to tell over and over. The colleges that wind up with endowments that can absorb the cost of a place that gives every single student attention will survive. Those that don’t, won’t.

There are 250 national liberal arts colleges in this country and everyone agrees that there will be half that number in fifteen years. We intend to be one of them. And with your help we will. This gift from the first class is a great challenge, as they have challenged us all the way through our history, to all the others.

Thank you all so much for coming. Have a great time, and stay as long as you can.