Congratulations Times Two

Dec 22, 2017

by Cary McMullen
Publications editor

Winter commencement at Florida Southern took a new turn in December, with separate ceremonies held for the first time for undergraduate and graduate programs, in order to accommodate the growing number of masters’ and doctoral degrees awarded. The College presented degrees to 137 undergraduates in a morning ceremony at Branscomb Auditorium on December 16. In an afternoon ceremony, 89 masters’ degrees in accountancy, business administration, nursing, and education were awarded, along with five doctor of education in educational leadership degrees.

Jeffrey Baker, an architect in the firm Mesick Cohen Wilson Baker of Albany, N.Y., delivered the commencement address at both ceremonies. Mr. Baker has been the architect for several projects involving the college’s collection of Frank Lloyd Wright structures, including the 2008 restoration of the Water Dome and the Theatre-in-the-Round. He also designed the College’s new admissions building, which will be completed soon.

In a speech of notable eloquence, Mr. Baker cautioned the graduates not to “steal from our fund of time” and sap their potential through distraction by entertainment and lack of belief in themselves.

“You must believe in the power of your own potential, the power of your ideas, and the power of the talents given to you,” he said.

Mr. Baker went on to ask to what end our potential should be used, referring to Thomas Jefferson’s idea of the “pursuit of happiness.”

“It has become obvious to me that happiness is not achieved by pursuing it…but only by being the source of it,” he said. “Your impact on this world will be determined by how much of yourself you will give away; how much of your talents, your ideas, and your resources are shared with others. You can only do this by working hard, by being grateful for what you have, and considering the welfare of others. Acting on this understanding will secure your legacy. You’ll never have to worry if your life has meant anything, if you are relevant. Kindness and compassion are always relevant. Respect and generosity are always relevant. You will never question your worth, now or in the future, because too many people will be thankful for having you in their lives. Your potential will be reached, and your life will be filled to the brim.”

As if to exemplify Mr. Baker’s remarks about selflessness, the College conferred the honorary degree Doctor of Humane Letters on Trustee Robert Puterbaugh, a partner in the Lakeland law firm Peterson & Myers. He is well known for his pro bono work and his expertise in the field of healthcare law. Mr. Puterbaugh has been named to the prestigious Best Lawyers in America list for more than 10 years and served on the judicial nominating commissions for 10th Circuit Court and 2nd District Court of Appeals. He also has been a vigorous supporter of the arts in Lakeland, especially the Polk Museum of Art at Florida Southern College, where he is a past president.

In a proclamation conferring the degree, President Anne Kerr said Mr. Puterbaugh, is “a highly skilled and respected attorney…who has served his nation, his community, and his profession with great distinction. He is acclaimed for his exemplary professionalism and high ethical standards. Florida Southern College and Polk Museum are among the grateful beneficiaries of his impressive volunteer service and wise counsel. He is an exemplar of professional excellence, achievement, and stellar citizenship.”

President Kerr also presented the President’s Scholar medal to Edward Spansk, who graduated with a bachelor of science in psychology summa cum laude. Spansk, a four-year letterman on the men’s soccer team and a NCAA Division II Academic All-American, was praised by President Kerr as a gifted researcher and a leader in social causes on campus. The medal is presented each year to a graduating senior who exemplifies the values of the college and has demonstrated commitment to scholarship and leadership.

The Senior Speaker, chosen to represent the graduating class, was Gabriella Scoleri from Ocoee, who graduated with a BFA in Musical Theatre summa cum laude.