Polk State College will hold its 104th Commencement on May 5, 2011, at 6:30 p.m. at the Lakeland Center Arena in Lakeland, Florida. According to College officials, this event will be among Polk State’s largest in history and include an address by the Chancellor of the Florida College System and the presentation of the Distinguished Alumnus Award to a world-famous golf course designer.
Over 700 students will be eligible to march at the Commencement. Most of those (about 73%) will receive associate in arts (AA) degrees, which are parallel and transferable to state universities or for continuing in Polk State’s Bachelor of Applied Science programs. Another 20% will receive associate in science (AS) and associate in applied science (AAS) degrees, while about 3% will receive bachelor of applied science (BAS) degrees. The remaining graduates will receive various workforce-related program certificates.
The Commencement Address will be delivered by Dr. Willis N. Holcombe, who has served as Chancellor of The Florida College System since October 2007. The Florida College System is the primary access point to higher education in the state and serves more than 887,000 students.
During Holcombe’s tenure, the state system has achieved national recognition for both the scale of its service and the advances that have been made in academic quality and community engagement. According to Dr. Eileen Holden, president of Polk State College, the Chancellor has also worked to focus attention on Florida’s need for strategic planning and comprehensive reform in the state’s public education model, while also exploring expanded partnerships with the state’s public and private universities, even as many of the state’s public colleges have developed their own four-year degree programs.
Holcombe’s distinguished career has included 17 years as President of Broward Community College, as well as service as Vice President of Brevard Community College, provost and academic dean for Broward’s Central Campus and assistant to the President for Broward Community College.
A former U.S. Marine, Holcombe completed his undergraduate studies at Baldwin-Wallace College and earned both his Master’s in Education and Ph.D. in College Administration from the University of Florida.
Polk State College’s Distinguished Alumnus for 2011 is Ron Garl, who received an AA in 1966 as a member of the college’s first graduating class. He subsequently obtained his bachelor’s degree in turf grass science from the University of Florida in 1967 and has become a highly regarded golf course architect. He founded Ron Garl Golf Design in 1973 and has served global clients from the firm’s Lakeland offices.
Garl has designed more than 250 courses worldwide, including more than 100 in Florida. He owns golf courses in several countries and is currently building golf courses in 15 countries, including course designs for the kings of Thailand and Morocco. On numerous occasions his designs have been selected as sites for the PGA, Senior PGA, and Canadian and European tours. While most firms never have the opportunity to design an oceanfront golf course, the Polk State graduate is currently designing five oceanfront courses.
Garl is president of the Florida Golf Alliance and is one of the founding board members of the International Network of Golf. He also co-authored the Urban Land Institute’s book Golf Course Development in Residential Communities. Garl gained acclaim for his environmental work at the Indian River Club in Vero Beach, Florida, the first course to be awarded Audubon International’s highest award: the Audubon Signature Cooperative Sanctuary Status.
In 2003, Garl received the University of Florida’s Distinguished Alumnus Award, and was inducted into the Polk County Schools Hall of Fame in 2009.
Polk State College has awarded over 35,000 degrees since its inception in 1964, and Holden is proud to note that more than half of those graduates continue to live and work in Polk County.
This graduating class ranges in age from 17 to 59 and hails from Florida, Alabama, Georgia, Iowa, North Dakota, South Dakota, Maryland, and Illinois.
This Commencement will be held in the Lakeland Center’s arena space because the number of graduates and guests is so large. The event is open to the public.