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Class of 2025


Beacon College’s commencement will be held on Saturday, May 10, 2025, at 11 a.m. at the Brownwood Hotel & Spa, 3003 Brownwood Blvd., The Villages, Florida.


Info for Students

All graduates must arrive at the venue no later than 9:30 a.m. for check-in, portrait photograph session, and line-up in preparation for the ceremony.

Doors will open up at 10:15 a.m. for guests of the ceremony.

Graduation will begin promptly at 11 a.m.

A professional photographer will be present to take a studio portrait of each graduate before the ceremony and photographs of each graduate receiving their diploma from President Hagerty. Family and friends are welcome to take pictures with their graduates before and after the ceremony.



If you are looking for hotel accommodations, the Brownwood Hotel & Spa has set up a room block just for Beacon’s graduation. Make your reservation online at Brownwood Hotel & Spa (travelclick.com). Or call the hotel directly at 352-626-1246, and ask for the Beacon College Graduation block.

These nearby hotels also offer Beacon College rates.

Honorary Doctorate Recipients

At commencement, we are humbled to honor movers and shakers who have made a difference and personify the mission and values of Beacon College through the recognition of an Honorary Doctorate degree. The honorary doctorate is routinely regarded as the highest form of recognition a university can bestow.

2024 Honorary Degree Recipient: John "Jack" Horner

After finding his first dinosaur bone when he was eight years old, John “Jack” Horner is now recognized as a world-renowned paleontologist best known for his groundbreaking research on dinosaur growth. In addition to his paleontological discoveries, Horner served as the technical adviser for the first five “Jurassic Park” films and was a partial inspiration for one of the lead characters of the franchise, Dr. Alan Grant.

Aside from his scientific discoveries that transformed the paleontology field, Horner’s life story has the potential to transform the societal understanding of what can be accomplished by neurodivergent people. Despite his struggles through school, he still held tight to his dreams, which he knew he could fulfill if allowed to pave his own path. Horner’s passion for paleontology and expertise in fossil curation eventually landed him a role as a technician at Princeton University’s Natural History Museum. It was there that an assessment finally helped him make sense of his academic struggles: he was dyslexic. But Horner’s learning differences gave him a competitive edge as his innate talent for “thinking outside the box” led to many successful research projects.

In Montana in the mid-1970s, Horner and his research partner discovered the first dinosaur eggs and embryos ever found in the Western Hemisphere. Their findings provided the first-known evidence of nesting and parental care among dinosaurs, establishing Horner’s career. Since then, he has published more than 100 professional papers, eight books (including children’s books) and numerous journal articles. He retired in 2016 from Montana State University and the University’s Museum of the Rockies, where he served as regent’s professor and curator of paleontology, respectively. After his retirement, the MacMillan Foundation honored his work with a multimillion-dollar endowment for the John R. Horner Curator of Paleontology Chair at the museum. Currently, Horner is a lecturer at Chapman University and a research associate at the University of Washington’s Burke Museum.


2024 Honorary Degree Recipient: Richard O. Williams, Ph.D.

A molecular biologist by training, Williams earned his bachelor of arts and a doctor of philosophy in biology from the University of California, Berkeley, and a master of science in finance from George Washington University. He spent 25 years in medical sciences in academia, doing research and teaching at the University of London, the Pasteur Institute in Paris, the University of Karlsruhe in Germany, and the World Health Organization in Africa. He is also the author of 85 peer-reviewed research articles on the molecular genetics and microbiology of infectious diseases. Williams also has managed and consulted for more than 35 years in the startup and development of 15 pre-public biotechnology companies, three of which are listed on NASDAQ.

While his work as a molecular biologist and entrepreneur is impressive, what is truly exceptional about Williams is his devotion to autism research, which has greatly benefited families navigating the journey of learning differences. After his 8-year-old daughter was diagnosed with Asperger’s Syndrome, Williams began reading all that he could find on child development and developmental delays. He knew that long-term success for his daughter was possible if the right setting and school could be found. Beacon College proved to be the perfect fit. In 2002, Williams’ daughter earned her degree in human services from Beacon College.

After her graduation, he was elected to the college’s board of trustees, for which he served from 2002 to 2015, including a decade of distinguished service as chair of the board. As chairman of the board, Williams oversaw the tripling of admissions and full accreditation of Beacon College by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools, helping the institution become the first college in the nation accredited to award bachelor’s degrees exclusively to students with learning disabilities and ADHD. He also played an integral role in developing new curricula and new degree offerings at the college. After retiring from the Beacon College board, Williams fully devoted his research efforts to exploring various aspects of the autism spectrum, with a special focus on sensory issues.

Past Honorary Degree Recipients

2011: Bambi Lockman

Former chief of the Bureau of Exceptional Education and Student Services in the Florida Department of Education

2012: Dr. Alexa Posny

Former assistant secretary of the Office of Special Education and Rehabilitation Services and former director of the U.S. Education Department’s Office of Special Education Programs

2013: Dr. John M. Hutchinson

Former interim president of Beacon College

2016: Rep. Daniel A. Webster

U.S. Representative

2017: Sen. Tom Harkin

Former U.S. Senator and architect of the Americans with Disabilities Act

2018: Sheikha Jameela Al-Qasimi

Director general of Sharjah City for Humanitarian Services (United Arab Emirates)

2018: Sen. Andrew and Camille Gardiner

Former Florida State Senate President and disability advocates

2019: Dr. Charles Vert Willie

Professor of education, emeritus, at the Harvard Graduate School of Education

2019: James T. Brett

National disability advocate and former Massachusetts legislator

2021: Dr. Marsha Glines

Beacon College founding president

2022: Jhillika Kumar

A social impact entrepreneur, diversity and inclusion community builder, and advocate for disability empowerment

2022: Dr. Harold “Hackie” Reitman

Dr. Harold “Hackie” Reitman, founder of Different Brains/PCE Media, where he leads and mentors neurodivergent interns over the age of 18, providing opportunities to develop social and job skills as well as tools to maximize their potential and independence

2023: Dr. Temple Grandin

A distinguished scientist and author, Grandin notably transformed the design of livestock facilities. She has authored more than 400 scientific journals on livestock practices and over 25 books on autism.