New College salutes record graduating class

By Jim DeLa

One of the 229 graduating students celebrates as they walk across the stage at Commencement May 17.
One of the 229 graduating students celebrates as they walk across the stage at Commencement May 17.

A record 229 students — the largest graduating cohort in College history — received diplomas under picture-perfect skies along the Bayfront May 17 at New College of Florida’s Commencement ceremony.

President Donal O’ Shea conferred bachelor of arts degrees to 213 undergraduate students, and master’s degrees in Data Science to 16 students, the largest graduate degree cohort in that program’s five-year history.

“Let me be the first to congratulate you on this wonderful achievement,” Provost Barbara Feldman told the group as the ceremonies began.

In the audience, Claire and Chris Redman from Westford, Massachusetts, were waiting to see their daughter, Charlotte, a psychology AOC, receive her diploma. “(New College) has been good for her,” Clare said. “It was a bit of a challenge, given the distance,” Chris said.

The night’s keynote speaker, Dr. Beverly Daniel Tatum, president emerita of Spelman College, delivered a bold message: Change is possible; resist fear and remain hopeful.

“I would like to suggest that you need to maintain a discipline of hope. I use the word “discipline” intentionally. Like regular exercise is a discipline, so is the maintenance of hope. The more you do it, the easier it gets – but like establishing a regular pattern of exercise, it requires a certain amount of willpower,” she said.

“All of you have been changed by your education in some way, and now you are prepared to go out and change your communities. Whether you are going on to graduate school, headed for the world of work, or some combination thereof, whether you plan to be a future educator, artist, scientist, health care provider, legislator, engineer, corporate executive, social worker, entrepreneur or parent, you already have the tools you need to be agents of change in your communities.” Read her entire address here.

Listening in the audience were Carmen and John Markee of Riverview, Florida, waving large cutout images of the face of their daughter, Amanda, who was receiving her degree in biology. Both said the New College experience was a good one. “She loved it,” John Markee said, adding Amanda worked her way through college and already had a job lined up in a lab at the University of Florida. “We’re very proud parents,” her father said.

The graduating class heard from one of their own, Chemistry AOC Eleni Spanolios, who shared thoughts about her journey at New College, as she and her classmates reinvented themselves during their time here. “I know that how quickly and drastically New College may be changing scares many of us, myself included. However, we will always have our community. It is the students, faculty and staff as a whole that create and uphold our core values.

“In the face of tireless adversity, our New College community is confident and secure. We are still joyful in the present and hopeful for the future. These attributes are other factors at the core of the cycle of liberation.” Read her entire address here.

– Jim DeLa is digital communications coordinator at New College of Florida.

Images from Commencement 2019

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More Commencement coverage

You can change the world, keynote speaker tells graduates

Stay joyful, student Commencement speaker urges

Data Science graduates see bright futures

President’s reception celebrates Class of 2019

Member of inaugural class finally takes the stage


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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