LAKELAND (May 1, 2019) – Florida Southern will graduate a record number of students with superior talent at its 2018-2019 spring commencement, concluding the College’s 136th academic year at 1:30 p.m. on Saturday, May 4, at The RP Funding Center. Approximately 487 students — including 31 earning graduate degrees — will receive their diplomas, surpassing the record totals of spring graduates in 2017 and 2018.
The Honorable Charles T. Canady, Chief Justice of the Florida Supreme Court and a former Congressional leader, will be the guest speaker for the spring commencement program. The College will confer upon Chief Justice Canady the Doctor of Humane Letters honoris causa.
Justice Canady, who received degrees from Haverford College and the Yale Law School, practiced law in Lakeland with the firms of Holland & Knight and Lane, Trohn, Bertrand, and Vreeland, P.A., before serving three terms in the Florida House of Representatives and four terms in the United States House of Representatives. He was a member of the House Judiciary Committee throughout his time in Congress, and served three terms as the Chairman of the House Judiciary Subcommittee on the Constitution.
In 2002, Governor Jeb Bush appointed Justice Canady to the Florida Second District Court of Appeal. In 2008, Governor Charlie Crist appointed Justice Canady to the Florida Supreme Court, where he served as Chief Justice from 2010 to 2012. His colleagues elected him to serve a second two-year term that started in July 2018.
During the spring commencement program, Florida Southern will confer an honorary Doctor of Business degree on alumnus Richard C. Jensen ’59, third-generation owner of the New Jersey-based building construction firm Michael Riesz and Co. and a member of the Florida Southern College Board of Trustees. Mr. Jensen’s firm has constructed commercial, educational, and institutional facilities throughout New Jersey, including the Tennis Pavilion Building for Princeton University and the Hospital Outpatient Surgical Center for Robert Wood Johnson University. Mr. Jensen lives in Edison, New Jersey, and has a home in Fort Lauderdale. Senior Speaker Marcos Martins, who is graduating with a double major in Theatre Arts and Communication, will deliver remarks on behalf of the Class of 2019.
Among Florida Southern’s highly accomplished 2019 graduates:
? Olivia Panda of DeLand and Kate Vita of Bayport, New York, are recipients of English Teaching Assistant Awards from the Fulbright U.S. Student Program, the flagship international educational exchange program sponsored by the U.S. government and the most selective and prestigious overseas study program in America. Olivia, who is graduating with degrees in Elementary Education and Spanish, will teach English in the Asturias province of Spain. Kate, who is graduating with a major in Elementary Education, will be teaching English to primary grades in Monnickendam in The Netherlands, as well as conducting research on international education at Breda University of Applied Sciences.
? Natalie Barton of Melbourne and Jordan Carr of Sarasota were named recipients of the 2019 Honor Walk award, Florida Southern’s highest student award, during the Founders Day Convocation in March. Only once before in the College’s history has the Honor Walk designation been awarded to co-recipients. Natalie, a President’s Scholar, honors student, and Hollingsworth Scholar was elected student body vice president in her junior year and served as president in her senior year. Graduating with a Nursing major and a Religion minor, she has been accepted into the Nursing Residency program at Duke University Hospital’s Level IV Neonatal Intensive Care Unit. Natalie’s plans include earning her Doctorate of Nursing Practice at Duke, specializing in neonatalogy. Jordan, also a President’s Scholar, is graduating with a Bachelor of Science in Biology, and is currently completing her MBA at FSC. She has been active in Alpha Epsilon Delta, the national pre-health honor society, has served as an officer in the local Habitat for Humanity chapter, and has volunteered with Lakeland Volunteers in Medicine. Jordan’s plans include medical school, focusing on emergency medicine, and ultimately pursuing a career in hospital administration.
? Alec Bigness of Englewood was named as recipient of the 2019 President’s Scholar Medal during Florida Southern’s Founders Day Convocation in March. Graduating with a major in Chemistry and a minor in Biology, Alec has presented his research numerous times at both regional and national conferences of the American Chemical Society. He will be attending USF Morsani College of Medicine in the fall.
? Jake Griner of Auburndale is graduating with a major in Molecular Biology. In his sophomore year, Jake was awarded the prestigious Barry M. Goldwater Scholarship, which allowed him to continue a research project begun during an internship with the National Cancer Institute. Jake’s goal as a researcher is to develop an effective immunotherapy treatment for chordoma, a rare cancer of the skull and spine which led to his father’s death. He will attend the Medical University of South Carolina in the fall, where he is enrolled in the MD-PhD dual-degree program. Jake is planning to pursue a career in medical oncology and cancer immunology research.
? Allie Howard of Muncie, Indiana, is graduating with majors in Mathematics and Religion and minors in Dance and Spanish. While a student at Florida Southern, Allie participated in a Research Experience for Undergraduates summer program for mathematics research at the University of Texas, in addition to attending and performing in dance classes at the American College Dance Association. Currently weighing her post-graduate options, Allie plans to pursue either a master’s degree in Divinity at Yale Divinity School or in Applied Mathematics at the University of Colorado at Colorado Springs.
? W James of Naples is graduating with a degree in Communication, with concentrations in Multimedia Journalism and Film Studies. His senior thesis film project, “A Dream of Us,” is a short film exploring the end of a relationship. W will be pursuing his MFA in Motion Pictures at the University of Miami in the fall.
? Hannah Kistler of Mulberry is graduating with majors in Biochemistry and Molecular Biology. She is proud to have received The Biochemistry Award from FSC’s Department of Chemistry, Biochemistry, and Physics in April 2018, and she has worked as a veterinary technician at Brandon Equine Medical Center for the past two years. Hannah will be attending the University of Florida College of Veterinary Medicine in the fall to pursue a career as an Equine Veterinarian.
? Rob Marusko of Springboro, Ohio, is graduating with a major in Biology and a minor in Chemistry. He is a Hollingsworth Scholar and recently received the Spirit of the Cornerstone Award, a nomination-based monthly honor for students, registered student organizations, and athletic teams who most embody the tenets of the Florida Southern College Cornerstone. After a post-graduation trip to Canada and the west coast of the U.S., Rob will begin studying dentistry at The Ohio State University, with aspirations of becoming an Oral and Maxillofacial surgeon.
? Nicole A. Mattson of Oviedo is graduating with a major in Applied Mathematics and Statistics: Business and Finance and minors in Computer Science and Business Administration. She played in the 2018 National Volleyball Championship her junior year and was awarded First Team All-American and South Region Player of the Year in both her junior and senior years. Nicole is planning to pursue a career in Data Analytics, possibly by continuing in her position as a Data Analytics Trainee in the Information Systems Department at Publix.
? James McKenna of Cherry Hill, New Jersey, a Hollingsworth Scholar, is graduating with a major in English Writing and minors in Women’s and Gender Studies and Business Administration. James was a 2018 summer intern at the Pulitzer-nominated Coffee House Press, a nonprofit independent press based in Minneapolis, Minnesota. In the fall, James will enter the MFA program at The University of Alabama as a Truman Capote Fellow.
- Commencement Weekend Activities: The commencement ceremony culminates three days of activities, which begin at 1 p.m. on Thursday, May 2, with the Water Dome Splash, an annual commencement-related tradition since 2011, at which graduating seniors are encouraged to frolic in Florida Southern’s Frank Lloyd Wright-designed fountain. The construction of the Water Dome was completed in 2007, when the graduating seniors from 2011 were freshmen.
Activities continue at 10 a.m. on Friday, May 3, with the Spring ROTC Commissioning Ceremony in the Annie Pfeiffer Chapel on campus, followed by a reception in the Hollis Room of the Buckner Building. Twelve cadets in the Moccasin Battalion will be commissioned as military officers at the ceremony which will feature Brigadier General Stanley E. Budraitis of the Mississippi Army National Guard as guest speaker. BG Budraitis, who has served at every command level from Lieutenant to Brigadier General, is an Army Aviator with 25 years of experience and more than 2,000 helicopter flight hours.
At 3:30 p.m. on Friday, May 3, the Department of Nursing and Health Sciences will conduct its 2019 pinning ceremony for students receiving their Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) degrees. A total of 59 graduates will receive BSN pins, symbolizing their entry into or advancement within the nursing profession. The keynote speaker for the event will be Dr. Cindy Tofthagen, Senior Associate Consultant in the Department of Nursing at Mayo Clinic Florida in Jacksonville. Dr. Tofthagen’s research focus is the management of symptoms related to cancer treatments, to find effective preventative or treatment methods to help patients better manage side effects at home. The ceremony will be held in the sanctuary of First United Methodist Church in Lakeland.
- More Information: The commencement ceremony is a ticketed event. A live stream of the ceremony will be accessible via the Florida Southern home page at www.flsouthern.edu.
About Florida Southern College
Founded in 1883, Florida Southern College is the oldest private college in Florida. The College maintains its commitment to academic excellence through 70+ undergraduate programs and distinctive graduate programs in business administration, education, and nursing. Florida Southern has a 15:1 student-to-faculty ratio; is an award-winning national leader in engaged learning; and boasts 30 NCAA Division II national championships. It is ranked among the Top 20 Regional Universities in the South by U.S. News and World Report; named a Top Baccalaureate College by Washington Monthly; and included in The Princeton Review’s 384 Best Colleges, The Fiske Guide to Colleges 2018, and Forbes magazine’s America’s Top Colleges Guide. The College is committed to the development of the whole student through vibrant student life programs that prepare graduates to make a positive, consequential impact on society. FSC is conveniently located within an hour’s drive of both Orlando and Tampa. FSC is home to the world’s largest single-site collection of Frank Lloyd Wright architecture and was designated a National Historic Landmark in 2012. Named the “Most Beautiful Campus in the Nation” for two consecutive years by The Princeton Review and one of the nation’s “Ten College Campuses with the Best Architecture” by Architectural Digest, Florida Southern is an internationally-recognized place of beauty and academic excellence.