Families and friends gathered at Tropicana Field in downtown St. Petersburg on Sunday, May 20, 2018, for the 55th Eckerd College Commencement.
A total of 472 degrees were awarded — 384 to residential students and 88 to students in the Program for Experienced Learners. In all, 361 Bachelor of Arts Degrees and 111 Bachelor of Science Degrees were awarded.
The graduates hailed from 13 countries and 44 states, including the District of Columbia. Their families and friends were welcomed by Eckerd College President Donald R. Eastman III and Board of Trustees Chairman, John G. Finneran Jr.
Mark Tluszcz ’89, CEO of Mangrove Capital Partners, Board Chairman of wix.com and initial investor in Skype, delivered the commencement address and received an Honorary Degree of Doctor of Humane Letters.
Award & Honorary Degree Recipients
The Philip J. Lee Honor Award is presented to the senior student whose scholarly achievements have demonstrated both exceptional accomplishment and superior promise.
This year’s recipient is from Birmingham, Alabama, and will graduate with a major in Biology.
The two-thousand-eighteen Phillip J. Lee Honor Award recipient is Timothy P. Lee.
The 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.
This year’s recipient is from Brandon, Florida and will graduate with a double major in Religious Studies and Communication.
The two-thousand eighteen James A. Robinson Award
recipient is Chelsea C. Gaines.
The 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.
This year’s recipient is from Benson, Arizona and will graduate with a major in Physics.
The two-thousand eighteen Ronald Wilson Memorial Award recipient is Helena B. Hurbon.
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.
This year’s recipient comes from Durham, North Carolina and is graduating with a major in Anthropology.
The two-thousand eighteen Miller Award recipient is Madeline Streilein.
The Irving G. Foster Award recognizes a graduate of the Program for Experienced Learners who demonstrates excellence in overall academic achievement.
This year’s recipient is originally from Miami, Florida, now residing in St. Petersburg. She is graduating with High Honors with a major in American Studies.
The 2018 Irving G. Foster Award Recipient is Kimberly Ann Drake.
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 life-long learning.
This year’s recipient is originally from Kokomo, Indiana, but now resides in Valrico, Florida. She is graduating with High Honors with a major in Humanities.
The recipient of the 2018 David and Blanche Colgan Memorial Prize is Janice Lynn Umbarger.
For sharing with your students and your colleagues your tremendous expertise in Spanish language, culture, and literature in ways that have enhanced the global dimension of an Eckerd College education;
For designing and offering ten study abroad language immersion Winter Term courses and two Spring Break Service Trips in the past eleven years, taking students to Argentina, Cuba, Ecuador, Peru, and Spain, providing students the opportunity for the profound language skill development that occurs during cultural immersion;
For embracing interdisciplinary teaching and new technologies, collaborating with colleagues across the language programs to develop new and experimental teaching techniques;
For sharing with students and colleagues your personal history of coming to the United States from Cuba as a child during the Mariel boatlift and having to learn English as a second language, which gives you insight into and empathy for the challenges students face in learning a second language;
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 Yanira Angulo-Cano, Associate Professor of Spanish.
For mentoring hundreds of students in the fields of Human Development and Creative Arts Therapies through their years at the College and well beyond into their careers and lives beyond Eckerd;
For your thoughtful, honest, and straightforward guidance of each one of the approximately thirty students for whom you serve as an official mentor every year as well as the many, many others who come to you for informal mentoring;
For providing your students with unwavering support in their academic and personal lives, teaching them what it means to learn, how to challenge themselves in order to grow, and how to approach the complicated world into which they will graduate;
And for, in the words of one of your students, creating an environment for all of your students in which “their learning can flourish,” Eckerd College presents The John Satterfield Outstanding Mentor Award to Paige Dickinson, Assistant Professor of Human Development.
For serving as an exemplary role model of the fully engaged undergraduate student scholar, manifested by your many accomplishments at Eckerd College, including your participation in the highly selective Ford Scholars program; induction into the Phi Alpha Theta, the history honor society; graduation with double majors in international business and history with honors; and induction into Phi Beta Kappa, our nation’s most prestigious academic honor society;
For proving that Eckerd College graduates do change the world, demonstrated by your successful career, including your role as an initial investor in Skype; as Chairman of the Board of Wix, a free cloud-based web development platform; and as an investor, board member and advisor to other emerging companies that share your philosophy that the internet should be accessible to everyone;
For leading innovatively as co-founder and CEO of Mangrove Capital Partners, a company that invests in unproven or unusual technologies rather than chasing the latest fad, believing that talent is everywhere and that bold entrepreneurs who want to disrupt the norm and change the world will drive our global economy forward;
For maintaining close ties to Eckerd College though you are a citizen of the world; for celebrating the 25th anniversary of the Ford Scholars Program at Eckerd College as its keynote speaker; and for giving to Eckerd College a gift honoring Elie Wiesel, supporting scholarship in history, and establishing the Tluszcz Undergraduate Research Fellows Program;
For living your life as a visionary and global entrepreneur espousing the values fostered at Eckerd; and for challenging our students, graduates and alumni to dare to dream beyond;
Eckerd College is proud to confer to you, Mr. Mark Tluszcz the Degree of Doctor of Humane Letters, Honoris Causa.
Saturday, May 19, 2018
PEL Graduation Celebration
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.
President Eastman will offer his major address to the Class of 2018 during this ecumenical service. All graduates and their families are encouraged to attend.
Dean of Students Celebration
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 20, 2018
Buses start shuttling graduates to Tropicana Field
Pick-up at Cobb Loop
Graduate check-in begins
Tropicana Field, Enter Gate 6
Gates 3 & 5 open for families and guests
Tropicana Field, Park in Lots 1 & 2
Speeches & Remarks
Saturday, May 19, 2018
Sunday, May 20, 2018
O God of goodness and mercy, we give thanks this great day for all your fine gifts, especially our families, friends, teachers, mentors, and the cherished memories of our years at Eckerd. We ask your blessing and an extra measure of your grace on each graduate today and express loving gratitude for all who have supported, guided, and encouraged them along the way.
As we go forth into this new day, O God, help us to renew the notion of simply being good neighbors to one another — offering kindness, showing mercy, and doing justice in every neighborhood and community — so our lives and this world might be filled with friendship, peace, and well-being. Amen.
Eckerd College Class of 2018:
You students who graduate today have not only excelled academically, but have also volunteered in schools in St. Petersburg and in a clinic in West Africa; 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 Ecuador, Nicaragua, India, and dozens of other countries;
Each year you have carried out hundreds of rescues at sea through EC-SAR and responded compassionately to medical emergencies through EC-ERT;
You have won Fulbright Fellowships and Hollings Scholarships – and so much more.
You will soon begin careers in a world in great need of your talent and knowledge and energy.
You leave here to conduct research; to address social, political, scientific and environmental challenges; to attend law school and medical school and graduate school.
You will become engineers, teachers, businessmen and women, oceanographers, counselors, artists and scientists; and you will take leadership positions in your jobs and in your communities.
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:
Class of 2018, please stand so we can recognize your achievement and your promise.
President Eastman, Dean Harrison, Dean Annarelli, Mr. Tluszcz, distinguished faculty, families, guests, and graduates of the Class of 2018, as Chairman of the Eckerd College Board of Trustees, I bring you greetings and congratulations on behalf of the Board–and what a great pleasure it is!
Yesterday afternoon, on the recommendation of your faculty, the Board of Trustees granted the awarding of 510 bachelor’s degrees. No other action required of the Board of Trustees brings as much pleasure as the granting of degrees each May.
The members of the Board joining you here today are honored to have the privilege of being the first to congratulate you as you cross the stage later in the ceremony this morning. We will see each of you soon at the top of the stairs.
Congratulations, graduates of the Class of 2018!
Family, friends, faculty, and staff: Good morning. Ah, the TropiKAPPAfield where it all began. Was anyone else doubtful that this day would come, or was it just me? And I don’t mean that in a “I can’t wait to get out of here” way.
I mean it more in a “panic, abandon ship” kind of way. If you are like me, you probably had a few questions about today. Primarily concerning logistics. An outdoor graduation in Florida? In May? What could possibly go wrong? But, reflecting on the situation, this really does seem fitting for the class whose senior year began with an evacuation from a category 5 hurricane. And if I learned anything from that experience, it is that things can always be worse, and most importantly, how lucky we all are to feel so strongly about Eckerd College, knowing that the sadness we are experiencing today is merely indicative of how meaningful these last four years have been, and for that I am so grateful. Those 53 acres consist of more than academic buildings, sports fields, residential houses, and the all famous Kappa Field. They are made up of friends, family, memories, and most of all: a place we call home.
I don’t have much time, and I understand we all have brunch reservations we are trying to make, so I want to tell just one brief story, and then we can get this thing started. Through my studies abroad with Eckerd to Australia, I was able to also travel to New Zealand. There, I learned about the country’s rich heritage, including the meaning behind their national symbol, which is a silver fern. You see, this fern only exists deep in the forests of New Zealand, and even there they are a rarity. And back in the day, when folks would get lost in the forest, they would flip over the fern to its silver side, to use it as a marker, so they always knew where they’ve been, and where they were going. A local summed up the fern’s symbolism to me, saying that it means quote “We are moving forward, together, towards victory.”
How rare and special is it, that we all found each other? Whether you came to Eckerd as an aspiring marine science major, only to quickly change to communication or read about it in the Colleges that Change Lives book, we all made it here. I am not going to pretend that we are all thrilled about this new phase of our lives. But I want to encourage you, as so many of you have extended that same courtesy to me throughout the years. We are leaving this place and entering a world in turmoil. But I feel no despair. Because when I look out at all of you, I am looking at the chemistry majors who will find the cure to cancer. I am looking at the future politicians, who will run for President in 2032 and win. I am looking at the young educators, who will inspire the youth of the next generation just as we ourselves were once inspired. I am looking at you. As you remember kappa field, south beach, bare feet, and even all the way back to autumn term, I hope you think of the silver fern. I hope you remember that no matter where you go in this world, we are going together. And we are going towards victory. Now, it is my honor to welcome you, the graduating class of 2018, to Commencement. We did it.
Greetings from the Graduating Class - Stephanie Krebs '18, 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 2018 Eckerd College commencement ceremony.
PEL is the Program for Experienced Learners also known as the “adult” degree program. As adults, going to college was not the logical next step for us. In most cases our friends and family were supportive. However, there was that one person who said “At your age? Are you crazy?”, just in case we weren’t already questioning ourselves.
In fact, we questioned ourselves every step of the way. Before enrolling:
- We questioned if the time was right?
- We questioned if we could juggle school with work, family, and other commitments?
- We questioned if we could be busy all day and still count on our brains for a night class?
And then we enrolled and started the journey to our degree. And the questioning continued. But our questioning started to change as Eckerd College taught us how to “Think Outside”. With that thinking came new questions…different questions.
- We learned to question the deeper meaning of messages, novels and art works.
- We learned to question if there are new ways to look at old business problems.
- Through Students in Free Enterprise and Quest for Meaning, we learned to question what problems can be solved in our own communities and in the world around us.
Our questioning changed again to a simple “Why I didn’t I do this sooner?”.
On behalf of all PEL students, we want to say a special thank you to our advisors, our Professors and the dedicated PEL team. We wouldn’t be here today without your never-ending support.
I’d like to share a quote from Albert Einstein. He very wisely said “Learn from yesterday, live for today, hope for tomorrow. The important thing is to not stop questioning.”
Now that we will leave here today with a hard-earned diploma and the inspiration to act, the new and very loud question in our heads is… “What’s next?”
Congratulations to my fellow PEL graduates…. we are now a part of a very exclusive and amazing alumni group. Thank you!
Mark Tluszcz co-founded and has been the Chief Executive Officer, Head, and Managing Partner of Mangrove Capital Partners since 2000. He is mostly involved with Internet consumer businesses and travels extensively throughout Europe looking for the next big thing.
Mark is a former international student who grew up in Africa and settled his postgraduate business in Luxemburg. He majored in international business and history and graduated from Eckerd College in 1989.
His most notable successes include being the first investor in Skype which was sold in 2005 to eBay for $3 billion and Wix, currently trading on the NASDAQ for nearly $3.5 billion.
Mark is interested in weird ideas; in fact, the weirder the better. He engages with entrepreneurs who want to disrupt the norm and change the world. Mark was named to the Forbes Midas List in 2007, 2008 and 2009 as one of the top 100 global deal makers in technology.
He has appeared on Bloomberg TV and CNBC; been quoted in Forbes, The Wall Street Journal and The Boston Globe; and has published in the Financial Times.
Mark is a visionary, a global entrepreneur and a proud Eckerd College graduate and an inaugural Ford Scholar. He continues to foster relationships with mentors from his undergraduate days and, through his business practices and principles, continues to espouse the values fostered here at Eckerd. We are honored to have him back with us at Commencement.
Please join me in welcoming an accomplished investor, and entrepreneur who integrates values of ambition, humility and open- mindedness to all his ventures.
Welcome President Eastman, Trustees, Faculty, my friend and Mentor Carolyn Johnston, Proud Parents, my Parents, and especially the class of 2018. Being here is an honor and a privilege and I thank you for the opportunity. Truth be told, I’ve had a smile on my face for the past couple of days as the flood of memories reminded me of my time at Eckerd.
To the Class of 2018, let me offer my Congratulations….to you and your families. Getting to this point has all been about teamwork. Families, as the saying goes: you’ve done well. You’ve put your graduate in a position to have a great life, in a position to make choices, in a position to succeed – the world is their oyster in large part because of you. Their responsibility is now to seize the opportunity and to live the life they want. So to you I say bravo.
Graduates: Wow, its over….
Let me be the first to offer you my condolences: the coolest 4 years of your life are over. As I toured the campus with my family, my 17 year-old daughter said with a mix of humor and sarcasm “Dad are you serious? You’ve been telling us how hard your college days were… have you seen South Beach”. Somehow the myth I had promulgated about my time at college had been debunked, and I had to admit: Life was pretty cool at Eckerd.
Now, note the choice of the word: coolest, not best years of your life….As a futurist, I believe that what is to come is always more interesting than what has happened, herein lies one of the great lesson of my life: love the past, learn from the past but always look forward. Live for what is to come, not for what you’ve done.
I want to wish you the best of luck in your new journey, for a journey is the best way to look at the next 80 years of your life. Perhaps some of you are little anxious about things to come: remember this – Stress and anxiety are like Red Bull: they keep you focused….. so embrace them like you have so often embraced Red Bull before exams and you will do just fine.
I came to Eckerd unsure of what I wanted to study, and even more unsure of what I wanted to become. I wanted to learn skills to be a successful businessman without really knowing what that meant. Back then, my simpleton’s definition of success was a good job in finance. Remember this was the 1980 and Wall Street ruled. Luckily Eckerd saved me.
I still remember two classes on my freshman first semester schedule: Western Heritage and Accounting. I was naturally sure which course would advance me towards my success and I can promise you I did not think it was Western Heritage. In retrospect I can confirm that it was not accounting.
As my time at Eckerd advanced, the very nature of this great institution pushed me to new horizons. I became a feminist at Eckerd, a Humanist and an advocate of classical liberalism, all of which have played a key role in both my professional and personal life. Eckerd transformed me……but I was only to fully comprehend this much later in my life.
As a historian at Eckerd, I became a futurist in life. The “critical thinking skills” I learned through the study of Humanities became the building blocks for my crystal ball…..the one that has helped me predict trends and build companies whose products are used by more than 1.2 billion people today.
From Skype to Wix to and more than 100 other companies, each new company was a conundrum that required out-of-the-box thinking, demanded we challenge the existing status quos and in many cases break rules. I like to think that none of this would have been possible without the benefits of a Humanities degree. Humanities forced me to explore my Self, encouraged me to explore questions of morality, decency and even love. This wonderful cocktail has undoubtedly given me an upper leg in life as it has now given you one.
But perhaps you don’t fancy my tech world. Consider Fellow graduates Dennis Lehane, Hank Green, Aaron O’Connell and Stephen Updegraff. All superstars in their fields and all intellectually born at Eckerd just like you.
My hope today is that I can offer you a few things to consider as you start the next 80 years of your life, but before getting into that, let’s consider the world as we know it today.
You might be tempted to believe that we live in a miserable world, that our society is unfair, toxic and likely getting worse. After all, news organizations and social media remind us constantly that this is the case. Wars, shootings, terrorism, refugees, racism, climate change are but a few of the things that bombard us as proof the “state of the world is bad”.
Compound all of this with the despicable nature of the political debate, where facts matter little, where “alternative facts” seem acceptable and where any semblance of civility has disappeared…..and yes, I might excuse you for becoming a little cynical.
I ask you to think again.
By any measure we are better off today than at any other time before. To make my point, let me refer to Steven Pinker’s fabulous new book entitled Enlightenment NOW:
- The number of nuclear weapons is down in the world by 85% from its peak.
- Two centuries ago, only 1% of the world lived in democracies, today that is near 2/3rds of the world population.
- The share of people killed annually in wars is less than a quarter of that in the 1980s.
- IQ scores are up 30 points in the last 100 years. To put this into perspective that means that the average human scores better than 98% of the people just 100 years ago.
- One of the great injustices of the past 100 years “The Education gender gap” has been reversed. Today near 60% of college graduates are women in the US and the UK….a trend observed globally.
Today, we take all of these things for granted, but with the perspective of time afforded to an historian, you come to realize that the world has never been better. It is of course not perfect and many inequities exist, but bad it is not.
The world in which you are entering is beautiful and full of wonder. It is also full of opportunities……As I travel the world and visit more than 30 countries every year these opportunities are visible like never before. What you require is simple: a bit of luck, hard work and core values.
Looking forward, I can tell you with a high degree of certainty that things are only going to continue to improve. As we enter the second decade of the knowledge revolution exemplified by the advances resulting from the Internet, we are beginning to see the next great revolution: Genomics.
Juan Enrique author of Evolving Ourselves puts it beautifully: “We are entering the next great phase of life on earth, one where humans will manipulate DNA, and become proficient at re-coding the human genome”.
To that end, I can tell you with a high degree of certainty that the majority of you will live past 100 years of age, with many reaching 125 years of age. You will have a lot of time on your hands and do things for your which you have not been trained. The one constant will be your liberal arts education.
My generation is the last generation not to benefit from the advances in Genomics, yours is the first. Make the most of it and embrace it….it is a species changing moment. Yet know that you will face significant moral questions as the line between need and want will get more blurred than ever.
Ladies and gentlemen humanity’s future is bright. Don’t let anyone fool you.
I came to Eckerd 29 years ago and found my path. I’ve had a blessed life and succeeded professionally where I did not know I would. While serendipity has played an important role in my life, let me suggest just a few things that have worked for me:
Stop watching the news: It is a waste of your time when there is little NEW in NEWS. Americans spend more than 1.5 hours per day consuming news on TV and social media and yet most say they don’t have enough time to do the things they love. You can still stay informed.
I stopped being interested in the news when I realized I had become an addict and this addiction was consuming me. This addiction was taking away from what was important to me, yet reinforced the belief that we do it because we love drama and tragedy. It somehow makes us feel more human, as if somehow, we are sharing and understanding the pain of others. It’s a mirage.
Focus on what is important: In my case it’s my family, friends and causes that I cherish. All else is noise and have learned to tune it out. It sounds so easy, but….most of us fail to do this well and end up getting stuck into the void of “uselessness”. We waste so much of our time on things that either don’t affect us.
Zig when others are Zagging: Do not conform; be different in everything you do. Greatness never came from uniformity, but from people who understood that being different is a strength.
Define your core values: I’ve had the privilege of being involved with some tremendously successful individuals and we’ve built some pretty amazing companies together. At the core of our successes lie a set of values that I consider the bedrock of what I’ve achieve. These values include: gender diversity, wealth distribution, compassion, generosity to name but a few.
Leave St. Pete: While a wonderful place to go to college, it may not the best place to start your career…there are simply not enough professional options nor is their enough competition for talent. You may want to return later.
Never be satisfied: 29 years after leaving Eckerd my definition of success has of course changed and by that measure I give myself a C+. Be happy, thankful, but never satisfied. Satisfaction is the great killer of ambition and dreams. Being satisfied is not to move forward, not to progress, it is to stay where or what you are and slowly wither away.
For my part, I have decided that my next dream is to fundamentally change healthcare. Did you know? 75 million Americans can’t go to see a generalist and medical diagnosis in rural India and China is less than 25% accurate. Less than 25% accurate for 2 billion people and I’ve not talked about Africa and South America. Healthcare around the world is broken.
My dream is to bringing FREE primary healthcare to the world and I am going to do this with software. I envision a world where primary healthcare is available and free to every human being in world, no matter where you live or your socio-economic situation. This should be a right for every human being, not just for those who can afford to pay.
We have started building a self-learning system called K Health. K is designed to behave like a human doctor, only it is smarter and faster and more accurate. It is based on a data set of more than 2 billion health events which it manipulates to find people like you that have symptoms like yours. It then suggests what you have and how others with similar diagnosis have been treated.
We started with the idea that going to the doctor has not changed in 5000 years. With energy, passion and critical thinking we came up with K and believe that it will mark the entrance of artificial intelligence into the realm of healthcare. After all, 90% of people already try Google when they have something wrong, so the propensity to want peace of mind is clear.
K is my way of kicking the world in the shins and saying “damn you, we can do better”.
I leave you to ponder this question: What is your dream?
Class of 2018, I wish you a life rich in emotion and an adventure worthy of the tales of the South African writer H. Rider Haggard.
Men and women of Eckerd College, at the Ceremony of Lights, on August 8, 2014, I handed you who were freshmen Eckerd College medallions commemorating the beginning of your college careers, and today we handed you your diplomas to end it. The first was a gift; the second was earned.
Four years ago, at your first ceremony as Eckerd College students, and yesterday at Baccalaureate, 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.”
We will know by the lives you lead if we have succeeded.
As you march off today to lives of imagination, service, and discovery, remember all those who have helped you get to this great day: your parents, spouses, lovers and loved ones, mentors and teachers, all your family of Eckerd faculty and staff and fellow students.
Of course, 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.
You are, as Dylan Thomas should have said, the boys and girls of summer, and autumn beckons. So I say hail and farewell, the old Roman salute, to you now.
Hail to all the imagination and heart you bring to create the future; farewell to your life here as students who have felt, I hope, not only well tutored, but well loved.
We will miss you.
Finally, remember this: Cardinal John Henry Newman’s famous statement, from “The Idea of a University”: “A university is an Alma Mater, knowing her children one by one, not a foundry, or a mint, or a treadmill.”
One by one. Each student an individual. A hand-made education. A school for non-conformists: residential; global; environmental; spiritual; personal. Eckerd College – whose future is now in your hands.
Our revels are now ended. Would all please rise, and the bearer of the mace will do his duty.