Beacon College President George J. Hagerty challenged graduates of the University of Florida’s College of Public Health and Health Professions to pursue a life and career through which “your reality will be more magnificent than your dreams” during the school’s spring 2019 Graduation Recognition Ceremony.
Hagerty delivered the keynote as the “Distinguished Speaker” at the May 5 ceremony convened at the Stephen C. O’Connell Center in Gainesville, Fla. Addressing the more than 500 graduates, he encouraged his “new and very accomplished colleagues” in fields as diverse as clinical psychology, speech/language/hearing, and occupational and physical therapy to live lives of vision that “begin with the end in mind.”
Hagerty wove his remarks around recent national studies of the “well-being” of American society and its non-profit sector, his personal journey, and the meaning and niche mission of the college he shepherds.
His nearly four-decade education career often intersected the events and emergent social issues, from the desegregation of Boston public schools in the 1970s, to the disability rights movement, the growing influence of global higher education, and the academic reform of intercollegiate athletics.
Hagerty told the 5,000 attendees that he refused to allow a retinal disease contracted in his late teens that severely diminished his vision to diminish his pace and engagement in his educational and advocacy pursuits.
“Even as the graduates of this nation-leading institution of higher learning, I believe that you will find, as I did, that talent, determination, and a sense of great purpose alone may be insufficient in fulfilling the deep personal desire within to truly make a difference, to influence sustained change, to transform organizations and the people within,” he said.
“We are in a very human enterprise,” added Hagerty, who oversees Beacon, a nonprofit, private liberal arts school in Leesburg, Fla. and America’s first accredited baccalaureate school devoted to the education of students with learning disabilities, ADHD, dyslexia, and other learning differences. “So devote some time in your career to investing your professional gifts to ‘unweeded gardens’ those organizations or fields of service or research which pose great promise for society, although they may be out of the fashionable mainstream. Remember always, that in a ‘high-tech’ world, our ability in our professions to improve lives is largely a ‘high-touch” enterprise.”
In his closing charge, the Boston-bred Hagerty channeled another wise New Englander.
“Go confidently in the direction of your dreams and live the life that you have imagined,” Hagerty quoted. He then challenged graduates to “take [Henry David] Thoreau one better.”
“Make your reality more magnificent than your most lofty ambitions today. You deserve it, and those entrusted with your care will benefit immeasurably.”