Historic City News reporters were on hand as one hundred sixty-five Flagler College students became newly-minted graduates Saturday during the college’s fall commencement ceremony. Family, friends and loved ones filled the Lewis Auditorium to witness the ceremonial rite of passage.
Senator Jack Latvala, who represents Florida’s 16th district, including portions of Pinellas and Pasco counties, served as commencement speaker. In his talk, he spoke of Henry Flagler’s legacy — of the significance of the 19th century railroad magnate’s ambition to expand tourism in an unpopular state plagued with mosquitoes. Success, he said, doesn’t come without its challenges.
“Flagler had a vision, and he used his leadership skills to bring people to Florida,” Latvala said. “Don’t watch the world from the sidelines. You should take responsibility for your own success. You should be your biggest advocate.”
The senator spoke of George Washington, and the three key attributes that contributed to the first president’s achievements.
“Washington was a visionary who developed an organizational culture to achieve goals, he had charisma, which he used to sell his vision to others, and most importantly, he had the moral authority to lead,” Latvala said.
At the end of his speech, Flagler College President Dr. William T. Abare, Jr. conferred on Latvala an honorary Doctor of Laws degree for his sustained commitment to public service and the advancement of education.
The President’s Award for Service went to Megan Dawn Maxwell.
One of the students recognized during commencement was Katie Frazier. She double-majored in Secondary Education and English, received awards from both departments and graduated with highest honors — summa cum laude.
“It feels amazing, but bittersweet,” she said as she met up with family members after the ceremony. “I chose this college because I wanted close relationships with the professors. I’m really going to miss them.”
Frazier excelled academically, presenting academic papers at the English Department’s annual Colloquium on English Studies and Women’s History Month events and serving as a research assistant to English professor Dr. Wesley King. She also devoted her time and skills outside of the classroom. She was involved in Enactus’ Quality Time Mentoring program, visiting juvenile offenders at the local correctional facility to teach them job interview skills and help them navigate the college application process. In addition, she completed a student teaching internship at St. Johns Technical High School. She hopes to secure a teaching job in her hometown of Inverness, Fla.
Graduate Braemen Weiner also waited outside the auditorium for loved ones. He clutched a railroad spike that was given out to grads, symbolizing the legacy they created at the college and the one they would carve in the future. He echoed Frazier’s sentiments regarding the impact of faculty.
“One thing I realized when I saw all those teachers is how many experiences I’ve had with them,” the History major said. “It was a nice feeling.”
Later in the day, the college conferred upon 39 additional students the Bachelor of Public Administration degree during a second ceremony also held in the Lewis Auditorium. The undergraduate degree program at Flagler is designed specifically to meet the educational and career objectives of public sector professionals and includes courses such as management, program evaluation, public budgeting, human resources, administrative ethics, public policy and grant writing. Historic City News editor Michael Gold is an honors graduate of the program, Class ’07.