On a sunny spring day that matched the joyous mood of the occasion, members of the Beacon College community came together to celebrate Commencement Exercises for the Class of 2015, the College’s 26th graduating class. Forty-four students participated in this ceremony, including ten that had officially completed degree requirements in December.
In the days leading up to the big occasion, seniors made their final memories as Beacon College students with formal and informal celebrations, including the beloved annual traditions of Senior Luncheon, Senior Day, and the Parent & Grandparent Reception held the day prior to Commencement. At the Senior Luncheon, awards were presented and students were recognized for their contributions to fundamental College programs, such as the Peer Tutor, Teacher Assistant, and Resident Assistant Programs. Qualified graduates were inducted into Psi Tau Omega Honor Society. Senior Day this year was transformed, due to popular demand, into an overnight event. On Thursday, the students headed to Universal Studio’s Cabana Bay Resort and spent a fun evening at City Walk in advance of their Friday visit to the theme park. The Friday Parent & Grandparent Reception provided an opportunity for faculty, staff, and Board members to mingle with families and graduates, as well as a chance for the College community to express pride at the graduates’ accomplishments and the graduates to thank everyone who had supported them throughout their college experience. The “Thank You” video from the graduates may be viewed here.
The Commencement ceremony was held on Saturday, May 2nd at Lake Receptions in Mount Dora. The room was packed with happy families and friends, excited graduates, and proud faculty, staff, and board members. Dr. Andrea Brode, Dean of Student Success, presided over the ceremony. Associate of Arts degrees were conferred on 13 students, and 33 students received Bachelor of Arts degrees.
The honored Commencement Speaker was Dr. Shelly Chandler, current Vice President of Academic & Student Services and historically a favorite Beacon College faculty member. In introducing Dr. Chandler, President Hagerty declared, “Dr. Chandler defines what it is to be a consummate educator…she has touched and defined every element of our institution.” In Dr. Chandler’s Commencement Address, titled “The Gifts of Beacon,” she focused on the community aspect of Beacon. Dr. Chandler advised that research indicates that the happiest people are those that feel a sense of community, and that is exactly what students experience at Beacon, with daily support available from numerous personnel around campus as well as from peers. Students, likewise, contributed to the community through their personal traits and ambitions. Dr. Chandler listed some of the academic, professional and personal achievements of the class of 2015, including their plans following graduation. Dr. Chandler declared, “Many of the members of the 2015 class displayed remarkable resilience, compassion, persistence, and the ability to inspire others” and is confident that graduates will ‘take the gifts of Beacon with them.’ ”
Students were recognized and honored for their academic achievements. A total of six students graduated cum laude, thirteen magna cum laude, and nine summa cum laude, as indicated by their yellow honor cords displayed atop their academic regalia. Ariel Ben-Chitrit, Peter Volkov, and Bryan Westphal were recognized for having earned the highest GPAs in their respective departments. Peter Volkov was also presented as the class valedictorian, and Daniel Bordenkircher as the salutatorian.
In his valedictory address, Peter Volkov recognized and thanked those faculty and staff who personally contributed to his academic success. Amongst the uncertainty of life, Peter has some advice for his fellow graduates. He insists, “Like a student in an art class, we have to make our lives vary and stand out…If you make a mistake, improvise and take it as a chance to start something new. Crafting a life that satisfies you will take years, but it’ll be worth the effort in the end.”
In his salutatory address, Daniel Bordenkircher declares, “There is no other place that is quite like Beacon College.” His speech focused on encouraging his classmates to be aware of themselves, their strengths and weaknesses, especially in terms of their learning disabilities. He states, “Awareness- get, start, work at and nurture the awareness of your strengths, abilities, and talents that have been put in you that uniquely work in the person you are.”
In his final remarks, Dr. Hagerty created a new tradition at Beacon, requesting that all graduates, faculty, and staff sign the College yearbook so they would leave a piece of themselves at Beacon, something they could check out in the Founders Room upon return visits to campus. Dr. Hagerty concluded the ceremony with a quote from Henry David Thoreau: “Go confidently in the direction of your dreams. Live the life that you have imagined. “ The final message to the graduates was inspired by the motto featured on the College’s seal: “Live life well…and abundantly.”
Congratulations to the Class of 2015!
View the photos from Commencement on Flickr.
Photos Courtesy of Robin Hamel