New College of Florida celebrated its 50th commencement Friday, May 20, sending off the 2016 graduating class with a sunset ceremony on the College’s Bayfront.


Save the Date

The 2017 Commencement of New College of Florida will be held Friday, May 26, beginning at 7 p.m. on the College’s Bayfront.

Looking Back

New College of Florida celebrated its 50th commencement Friday, May 20, 2016, sending off the graduating class with a sunset ceremony on the College’s Bayfront.

Commencement speakers


Charlayne Hunter-Gault
Charlayne Hunter-Gault

The commencement speaker was civil rights activist and journalist Charlayne Hunter-Gault. Read her address here.

In 1961, Charlayne Hunter and Hamilton Holmes were the first black students to enroll at University of Georgia.

The school suspended them, saying it was for their safety. More than 300 faculty members signed a resolution supporting their return, and another court order mandated their reinstatement.

Her journalism career began after her graduation in 1963, with a job as an editorial assistant at The New Yorker. She became a staff writer for the magazine, then, after an academic fellowship, became a reporter and anchor for a Washington D.C. television station.

In 1968, she went on to The New York Times, where she was a reporter for 10 years, then joined the MacNeil/Lehrer report on PBS. She left PBS in 1997 to join her husband, banker Ronald Gault, at his job in South Africa, and became NPR’s chief Africa correspondent. She was CNN’s South Africa bureau chief 1999 to 2005.

She has written two books, the memoir In My Place and To the Mountaintop: My Journey Through the Civil Rights Movement. The latter book was New College’s summer reading assignment for incoming freshmen.



Raina Senae Nelson
Raina Senae Nelson

Our student speaker, Raina took a long route to New College, born in California, graduating from Manatee High School in Bradenton, and now living in Sarasota.

Raina’s AOC was political science, and their thesis – on how racial diversity in a person’s social network influences their political views – was very strong. But Raina somehow also devoted many hours to the cause of improving diversity at New College.

Raina is the NCSA’s vice president of diversity and inclusion, and the first to serve in the position for a full year. Raina also served on the diversity committee their first year on campus, and most recently served on the Black History Month committee.

Our faculty praise Raina for being outspoken and committed to social justice, and for incorporating those passions into academic work. Raina plans to work in government or the nonprofit sector before pursuing a doctorate.

Commencement Numbers

50 – This is the 50th commencement ceremony in the College’s history. The first was in 1967.

47 – number of students in first graduating class (1967).

170 – number of students graduating this year (2016).

78 – number of different Areas of Concentration (majors) among members of graduating class

17 – number of states represented by graduating class

Commencement Facts

New College President Don O’Shea likes to call this year’s graduates “my class” – they came to New College in 2013, the same year he arrived.

The top 5 AOCs, in order: psychology, humanities, biology, chemistry and English

Top 5 hometowns: Sarasota (22), Miami (12), Jacksonville (10), Tampa (8), Fort Lauderdale (5)

Student Awards

This year’s graduating class includes several winners of major academic awards:

Two Fulbright Scholarship winners, Bradley Baker (Oviedo; mathematics and philosophy) and Gerina Gjergji (Jacksonville, international and area studies/Spanish).

Two Gilman Scholarship winners, Shana Bergman (Davie; computational biochemistry) and Madeleine Yount (Fort Pierce; international and area studies).

One of Florida’s nine Frost Scholars for 2016, Nick Abboud (Gainesville; physics and mathematics), who receives a full scholarship for a graduate degree at University of Oxford in England.

This is also the inaugural year for New College’s Four Winds Awards, recognizing “outstanding graduating fourth-years who have made positive contributions towards illuminating our campus and community.”

There are two categories of Four Winds awards, the Impact Award, recognizing students for their accomplishments during their time here, and the Legacy Award, recognizing students for enduring contributions to the College.

Four Winds Impact Award winners are Brennan Kent (Ft. Lauderdale; economics/political science), Clifford Lundin (Andover, NJ; psychology) and Tricia Johnson (Cocoa; literature/anthropology).

Four Winds Legacy Award winners are Corey Culbertson (North Port; English), Nasib McIntosh (Palm Beach Gardens; African diaspora studies) and Neal Lacey (Gulf Breeze; molecular and cellular biology).

Graduation DVDs and Photographs

GradImages® will be photographing all graduates at the upcoming graduation ceremony. Visit their website,, and click on Pre-Event Email Registration. Enter your email and up to six emails of loved ones who would like to share in your accomplishment by viewing and ordering your photos.

Order online at, or call 800-261-2576.You can also order a DVD of the ceremony. Download an order form here.