The largest graduating class in the history of New College of Florida – 197 students – received Bachelor of Arts degrees in a sunset ceremony Friday, May 24 on the great lawn along the College’s scenic bayfront.
With this year's commencement, New College also reached a milestone of 5,000 graduates since its founding. The first graduating class, in 1967, comprised just 47 students. This is the College's 47th commencement.
This year’s graduates received not only diplomas, but a challenge to advance fairness and diversity, from keynote speaker The Hon. Charles E. Williams, Circuit Court Judge of the 12th Circuit of Florida.
“We must look around at every gathering – including this one – and constantly ask ourselves the question, does this gathering truly represent the diversity of the community, the State, the Nation, or the world—that we live in?” Judge Williams said. “Are we doing all we can to be inclusive to all who may seem different? To welcome new ideas, and a new way of looking at the world?”
The graduating class – the first under President Donal O’Shea—also heard from Professor of Biology Leo Demski, who is retiring from teaching, and from student Brittani “Brie” McLemore, selected by her classmates to provide the student address. The New College New Cats jazz ensemble also performed for the crowd of students, friends and family.
As always, the graduating class embodied the New College spirit of individuality and creativity by forgoing the traditional cap and gown for attire ranging from formal suits and dresses to colorful costumes. The tradition stems from students celebrating the completion of New College's rigorous coursework, capped with an oral baccalaureate exam and final senior thesis project that often is on a par with doctoral-level work.
This year’s class included six Fulbright scholars, who will travel to Germany, Sweden, Taiwan and the Czech Republic to teach or continue their studies, as well as six students who will serve as teaching assistants in France under awards from the French Embassy, and a State Department Critical Language scholar who will study in Morocco. More than half the graduating class is expected to enter programs for a master’s degree or doctorate within a year.