(Photo by Jordan Weiland / Florida Southern College)
Dec 22, 2020
On Saturday, Dec. 19, Florida Southern presented a virtual commencement program via streaming links on the College’s official YouTube and Facebook pages. Students, parents, and friends were invited to view the ceremony as a real-time webcast, and video links to the presentation were posted on FSC’s website to accommodate later viewing.
President Anne Kerr welcomed the candidates for graduation — along with their family members and friends — to the second virtual commencement of 2020; both the spring and winter ceremonies were conducted via webcast out of an abundance of caution, to address health and safety concerns related to the COVID-19 pandemic.
“The graduates of the Class of 2020, in varied ways and by many means, will have a transformational impact on society,” Dr. Kerr said. “This graduating class is composed of extraordinary individuals who have world-class talent.”
Dr. Kerr then introduced the Senior Speaker, Vanessa Alvarez, a first-generation college student who majored in communication with a concentration in advertising and public relations.
Noting the trials and challenges that had come along during their undergraduate careers, Alvarez reminded her classmates of the power of empathy. She asked whether they will choose to stay in a bubble that satisfies their existing beliefs and values, "or will you choose a path that challenges the way you think and act, one that impacts the way you perceive the world?”
“As this new chapter begins, I encourage you to constantly treat people with kindness. Remember to actively listen, to be understanding, and to look forward to the future with optimism and hope.”
Madelyn Walsh, president of FSC’s Student Government Association, introduced the keynote speaker, Patrick J. Geraghty. Considered an expert voice on a wide range of healthcare topics, Geraghty is president and CEO of GuideWell Mutual Holding Corporation, a $19 billion health solutions organization that is the parent to a family of companies focused on transforming healthcare, including the state’s leading health insurance company, Florida Blue.
In 2018, Florida Southern College presented Geraghty with the degree of Doctor of Humane Letters, honoris causa, in recognition of his exceptional business achievements, visionary leadership, dedication to community service, and forward-thinking investment in young talent.
“Some of you are sitting out there, saying ‘Why is this health insurance executive our commencement speaker?’” Geraghty said. “To be truthful, 39 years ago at Colgate University, I would have been sitting there asking that exact, same question. I’m here to tell your mom and dad that you can go to a small liberal arts college on a beautiful campus, major in sociology, and get a job. It can be done!”
As the architect of a restructuring of GuideWell that put it at the forefront of efforts to reimagine the future of health in the U.S., Geraghty also talked about the qualities of leadership: “A good leader makes you confident in the leader; a great leader makes you confident in yourself. Think about that difference. That’s the leader you want to be.”
Following Geraghty's address to the graduates, Dr. Kerr awarded the President’s Scholar Medal to graduating senior Angel Holmes, a native of New Jersey who came to FSC with a strong interest in social justice issues. The President’s Scholar Medal is awarded to a student who has achieved extraordinary academic scholarship and who exemplifies the values of Florida Southern College.
Quoting her professors, Drs. Anna Caney and Mike Denham, Dr. Kerr said Holmes cares deeply about the well-being of all people — an orientation toward the world that motivates her research and writing, and demonstrates her genuine dedication to making a difference in the world.
Holmes plans to pursue a master’s degree in social work, with a focus on elementary-age children.
Before the ceremony’s video roll call of undergraduate, graduate, and doctoral candidates, Dr. Kerr applauded the resiliency of the Class of 2020.
“The challenges that you have faced the past few months are indeed unprecedented for your generation,” she said. Despite academic, emotional, and economic stress, you diligently balanced class, work, and family needs, and excelled academically. My hope is that you will carry the determination, creativity, and perseverance that you have shown at Florida Southern College everywhere you go in the future. If you do, I know that you will experience extraordinary success.”
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