Beacon College’s 2014 Commencement Ceremony
Beacon College’s 25th commencement exercises took place at Lake Receptions in Mount Dora, FL on Saturday, May 3rd. There were a total of fifty students graduating, thirty-one with a Bachelor of Arts and nineteen with an Associate of Arts degree. The Class of 2014 had the distinction of being the largest graduating class in Beacon College history.
The room was packed with happy families celebrating the completion of a goal that many of them never thought possible considering the academic challenges facing students with learning disabilities and/or ADHD… the successful obtainment of a college degree. Given that the national four-year graduation rate for students with learning disabilities is only six percent, this is no small triumph.
The Orlando Brass Quintet provided the processional and musical interludes for the occasion. Dr. Ross, as the longest serving faculty member, led the processional with the College mace. Dr. Shelly Chandler, Vice President of Academic Affairs, presided over the ceremony. Patricia Latham, one of the original founders of Beacon College, was the commencement speaker. Latham has had an illustrious career in the field of law and learning disabilities, acting as President of the Learning Disabilities Association of America in recent years and publishing several books on legal topics related to learning disabilities.
As was fitting for the College’s celebration of 25 years since its founding, Pat Latham’s speech focused mainly on the details involved in creating a college, including deciding on a name and undergoing all the legal requirements. Latham and her husband are both attorneys, and she noted in her speech that they considered themselves fortunate to be able to contribute to such a “worthy cause,” putting their legal knowledge to use in founding a college with a unique mission. Latham called it a “challenging, yet exciting, time,” and she appreciates that others have carried on their work, continuing to improve the college while staying true to the original mission. Both Pat Latham and her husband Peter “appreciated the efforts of others and were pleased to see the growth of Beacon College.”
Latham ended her speech on an inspirational note that was especially appropriate for a graduating class of students with learning disabilities. She declared, “We cannot control whether or not we will have a setback, but we can control how we handle it, what we learn from it, and how we move forward. Keeping our enthusiasm while moving forward is, in itself, a success and tends to lead to future achievements.”
President Hagerty echoed the sentiments expressed by Patricia Latham in her commencement speech, showing admiration and appreciation for the pioneers involved in the creation of the College, especially as the 25th anniversary of its founding is celebrated.
Jennie Friedman, who finished degree requirements in December and is currently enrolled at Webster University for graduate studies in mental health counseling, earned the title of valedictorian. Telling the crowd that every student at Beacon has his/her own story to tell, she announced, “I’d like to tell you mine.” She proceeded to tell the crowd about her fears of leaving her support system of friends and family behind, only to find a “welcoming and supportive culture at Beacon College” with an “individualized learning environment.” Jennie found academic success and, with it, confidence, and she believes her peers experienced similar growth. She deemed the graduating class ready for their future, saying, “We will forever see ourselves as we truly are- magnificent individuals with the ability and courage to not only overcome, but to achieve.”
In his concise speech, salutatorian Brett Daly emphasized the importance of each graduating student celebrating his/her success and also remembering important memories, whether they be positive or negative. It is all of these experiences combined that help form us, and they are what we learn from.
Dr. Hagerty, upon conferring degrees, declared his hope that all new graduates would “live life abundantly!” as decreed in the College motto. Alumna Chelsea Eubank welcomed the new graduates to the Beacon College Alumni Association, sharing her experiences and reminding students that the College wants to be kept informed on important changes in their lives.
As is always the case with commencement ceremonies, there were mixed emotions of excitement about the future and sadness about leaving familiar territory. Freshman Suzy Finlon attended the ceremony to cheer on her graduating friends. She found the speech by Jennie Friedman “inspiring,” and says she was excited to “watch my friends move on to the next step in their lives.” As our graduates head out across the country, we anticipate that they will carry the lessons from Beacon with them. We look forward to hearing from in the future and to learn how they have lived life abundantly.
The entire collection of photos from the commencement ceremony may be found on Flickr
The compilation of social media posts may be found on Storify
The thank you video from graduates may be found on YouTube
Read more about Pat Latham, the 2014 commencement speaker, here.
Commemorate the Occasion
Buy a commemorative brick to celebrate your graduate’s accomplishment and leave his/her lasting legacy at Beacon! The brick may be personalized with the name of the graduate, along with a special message. Each brick can be inscribed with up to three lines of text, 15 characters per line. The bricks will be displayed in a prominent position on campus as an enduring memento, so they make a great graduation gift!
List of 2014 Bachelor Degree Graduates
Callahan, John (Jack)
LaChapelle, Charles J.
Smith, Samuel Drake