Member of inaugural class finally takes the stage

By Liz Lebron

Bruce Guild defends his thesis.
Bruce Guild defends his thesis.

Bruce Guild is one of the 213 students who walked across the stage during New College’s commencement ceremony on Friday and received his diploma from President O’Shea. Like the rest of the graduating class of 2019, Guild’s family was on hand at the bay front to celebrate his accomplishment.

Unlike his classmates, however, Guild’s journey across the stage began more than 50 years ago.

Guild is a member of New College’s inaugural class, which arrived on campus in the fall of 1964. The college was founded only four years earlier, and students initially lived in a hotel.

“When we came down here, the Pei dorms were not finished,” said Guild, referencing the I.M. Pei-designed dorms still in use today.

The 101 18-year old students who made up the inaugural class lived at the Landmark Hotel on Lido Key during the first three months of class. Students rode a bus to and from campus each day from the hotel, which a New College trustee owned, until construction was completed.

Guild was a mathematics student, and he has fond memories of the college’s early days. He recalls, for instance, fellow alumnus William Thurston, who went on to win the Fields Medal prize in mathematics, hiding from security guards in College Hall until they left for the night and he could sleep there undisturbed.

While Guild admits to joining his classmates in similar campus pranks, there is one thing he did not do: complete his thesis. He reached out to New College last year and asked about the possibility of submitting the final requirement for his degree, and Assistant Professor of Mathematics Christopher Kottke agreed to serve as his thesis advisor.

“The reason I did not finish my thesis at this time is I had to wait for my advisor to be born,” joked Guild, who worked with Kottke on designing the course that would serve as his thesis project.

Though Guild did not graduate from New College, he did go on to complete a bachelor’s degree in engineering and earn a master’s degree at other institutions. He has worked as a high school math teacher in Sarasota most of his life, and he brought that experience with him when he re-enrolled at New College. Guild created and taught a course on the history of mathematics through the lens of the men and women who shaped the discipline.

“Nobody knows anything about mathematicians,” said Guild. “They know the math, but they don’t really know who the people were.”

In addition to the course’s subject matter, Guild also wrote about the pedagogical differences between teaching mathematics to high school students and doing so at the collegiate level.

“The tutorial evolved from an ineffective lecture to an energetic small group seminar,” wrote Guild, who adjusted his method of instruction to suit the smaller class sizes at New College.

As is tradition at New College, Guild did not wear a traditional cap and gown to the commencement ceremony. He crossed the stage in black pants and t-shirt, and a white dinner jacket. Guild also wore dark sunglasses and his silver hair in a ponytail. He looked every bit the New College student as he crossed the stage and officially became a New College alumnus.

— Liz Lebron is associate director of marketing and communications at New College.

New College 50 years ago

Bruce Guild’s theses presentation included images of New College earliest days:

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Located in Sarasota, New College of Florida has educated intellectually curious students for lives of great achievement since its founding in 1960. As the State of Florida’s designated honors college, New College provides an exceptional education that transforms students’ intellectual curiosity into personal accomplishment. The 110-acre campus on Sarasota Bay is home to more than 800 students and 80 full-time faculty engaged in interdisciplinary research and collaborative learning. New College offers nearly 40 areas of concentration for undergraduates and a master’s degree program in Data Science.

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