Beacon College capped a year that began with record enrollment by celebrating the school’s largest graduating class May 4, 2019 at Lake Receptions in Mount Dora, Fla. during its 30th Commencement.
The Class of 2019 boasted a long list of high-achievers. That included Sean Patrick Keenan (3.98 grade point average), Kaitlin Rose Jackson (3.96 GPA), Serena Ray Partlow (3.98 GPA), and Alejandro Javier Montes (3.94 GPA) who posted the highest grade point averages in their respective departments.
The 2019 Salutatory Award underscored that excellence. Alana Esther Simon and David McDonough — who both graduated with a cumulative 3.98 GPA — jointly shared the honor.
Cassandra Lee Bergman, who nurtured a perfect 4.0 GPA, ended her Beacon tenure as Class of 2019 Valedictorian.
The Commencement ceremony also recognized with honorary degrees two esteemed advocates for racial equality and equal opportunity for Americans with disabilities.
The college recognized James T. Brett, a former Massachusetts legislator, president and chief executive officer of The New England Council, an alliance of schools, hospitals, corporations, and other private groups dedicated to promoting economic growth in the six-state region, for his dedication as a national disability advocate.
“Learning is a lifelong experience, and some of our most important lessons are learned from ‘teachers’ who are simply folks we live and work with,” Brett told the crowd of about 800.
Among his numerous disability-related appointments, Brett has served as chair of The President’s Committee for People with Intellectual Disabilities and was congressionally appointed in 2016 to the National Council on Disability.
In accepting the honorary doctorate of letters, Brett saluted the inspiration for both his political path and his dogged advocacy for Americans with disabilities — his brother Jack who lived with congenital disabilities.
“Whether [Jack] knew it or not, his simple presence underscored to me and others, in an emphatic way, why it was worth running for office in the first place.”
The college awarded the second honorary doctorate to Dr. Charles Vert Willie. A sociologist by trade, Willie is a prolific author on race, gender, socioeconomics, education, urban communities and other subjects.
However, his more transformative legacy lies in how his expertise on race influenced desegregation efforts in the courts and classrooms around the nation. As an expert witness, he testified in a number of desegregation trials in Boston, Hartford, Dallas, Denver, Lee County, Fla. and other communities around the country.
With Willie battling health issues, Dr. Sarah Willie-LeBreton, provost of Swarthmore College in Pennsylvania, accepted the honor on her father’s behalf.
Beacon Provost Dr. Shelly Chandler reflected on Willie’s life and Willie-LeBreton’s words:
“We are deeply touched by your remarks and honored by your family’s presence with us to celebrate the enormity of your father’s influence and accomplishments,” Chandler said. “Yours is a rich legacy that you so vitally and openly share for our benefit and the generations beyond.”
Marking its 30th anniversary, Beacon College, a private, nonprofit liberal arts school and America’s first accredited baccalaureate school to educate primarily students with learning disabilities, ADHD, dyslexia, and other learning differences, celebrated its largest graduating class (85 students).