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Eckerd College celebrates its 60th Commencement ceremony

By Robbyn Hopewell
Published May 29, 2023
Categories: About Eckerd, Academics, Alumni, Awards, Students

Eckerd College held its 60th Commencement on May 21 by welcoming the families and friends of 377 graduates to celebrate them at a morning ceremony on the College’s South Beach Field.

President Jim Annarelli, Ph.D., welcomed guests to his first commencement as leader of the College after spending more than 20 years as vice president for student life and dean of students. 

In his address, Annarelli acknowledged the many achievements of the Class of 2023 and congratulated them in advance for all that is yet to come. 

“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,” he said. 

Woman wearing gown smiling at podium

 LaRuby May ’97 offered the commencement address. Photo: Lisa Presnail

As a shining example, alumna LaRuby Z. May ’97 offered the commencement address. The former D.C. city councilwoman and current attorney and activist, who had served in the Eckerd College Organization of Students and the Afro American Society on top of her duties as an athlete and student, took the opportunity to encourage the Class of 2023 to use their privileges to increase access for others and leave a legacy of hope. 

“My obligation is not to inspire you, but to inspire you to inspire,” said the self-described “Kappa Kid” (so nicknamed in recognition of her former residence hall). “It will never disadvantage you to influence others to greatness.”

Watch LaRuby May address the graduating class

May’s speech even included a video message from three elementary schoolers who also asked the Class of 2023 to use their lives to make a difference. 

“The greatest privilege in life is to serve,” May said. “Few will have the opportunity and the chance to serve with resources. The opportunities you have been given to start and complete your journey with a degree from Eckerd College creates a path to resources that impacts the lives of people and families that you will never meet.” 

The Class of 2023 was also the first class to have the College’s newly adopted land acknowledgment read as an official part of the ceremony. Cameron Dasher ’23, an anthropology, biology and environmental studies graduate from Uniontown, Ohio, was selected to read the statement in light of his involvement with the committee that had crafted it and sought approval from the Seminole Tribe of Florida. 

Two veteran faculty members received awards during the program for their work in and out of the classroom. Professor of Chemistry Polina Maciejczyk, Ph.D., received the Robert A. Staub Distinguished Teacher Award, and Professor of Environmental Science and Biology Elizabeth Forys, Ph.D., received the John Satterfield Outstanding Mentor Award.

Photos: Professor of Chemistry Polina Maciejczyk; Professor of Environmental Science and Biology Elizabeth Forys

Photos: Grover Wrenn ’64 (right) shakes hands with Board Chair Ian Johnson ’89; senior Love Bauer addresses her graduating class. Credit Lisa Presnail

Student honorees at the ceremony included: Isabel Berry ’23, winner of the Philip Lee Honor Award for scholarly achievement; Evin George ’23, winner of the James H. Robinson Award for contributions to the Eckerd community to improve experiences for students from underrepresented groups; Carter Weinhofer ’23, winner of the Ronald Wilson Memorial Award for significant contributions to the total College community; and Audrey Marsala ’23, winner of the Miller Award for outstanding community service. 

Alumni LaRuby May ’97 and Grover Wrenn ’64, an honorary trustee of the College’s Board, received honorary doctorates for their commitment and leadership to their alma mater as they work to better the world.

Perhaps most anticipated was the greeting to the graduating class from the elected class speaker, Love Bauer ’23, a communication graduate from Chappaqua, New York.

Photos: Isabel Berry ’23; Evin George ’23; Carter Weinhofer ’23; Audrey Marsala ’23

“You are a fractal, constantly reverberating and influencing the fractals within and around you,” she reminded her classmates. “As Octavia Butler says, ‘All that you touch, you change.’”

Love also invited her classmates to embrace stillness and transgress those societal norms that should be deemed unacceptable. 

“This is a bittersweet end,” she said. “But it is also, of course, a new beginning. And I encourage us: If the roads ahead just don’t look like what you want for yourself, find or create your own modes of being. And not with domination; but with curiosity, connection, imagination, warmth and weirdness. The world needs it. It needs us.”

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