ST. PETERSBURG — With a view overlooking sailboats and a tent keeping them out of the rain, 584 students graduated from Eckerd College on Sunday morning.
Late-arriving friends and families of the graduates followed the sound of bagpipes to the South Beach Field of the campus, where the outdoor ceremony took place at 8 a.m. under a large tent.
Miles C. Collier, chairman of the Board of Trustees, welcomed the class and gave the new alums a friendly reminder to donate to the college.
Violet Smith, a Vermont native who has earned a sociology degree and a minor in law and justice, spoke to her class about meeting future challenges. She quoted from the Dr. Seuss book, Oh, the Places You'll Go!
"It is how we respond in the face of adversity that shows true character," she said.
Linda Kay Rendleman, who graduates with a degree that has a concentration in global business, spoke as a representative of the college's program for adults. They're the ones who rush out of their full-time jobs by 4:45 p.m., race to be in class at 5:30 p.m. and crawl into bed at 3:30 a.m. mumbling to their spouses about passive voice and APA format, Rendleman said.
Stephanie Richards' sister-in-law, Susan Diane Richards Davis, was graduating from the adult program called Program for Experienced Learners. Richards was debating whether to leave the commencement early to prepare for Davis' surprise party.
"We're very proud of her," Richards said. "It's a lot harder to go back (to school) when you're working and have a family."
The family of Porsche Braddy, 22, was so proud that they began their celebration of her graduation the night before. Her degree is in business administration with a minor in law and justice.
"We ran around excited until 1:30 a.m., when we realized we had to get up early," said Braddy's mom, Veronica Braddy-Stotts.
The commencement address was given by U.S. Rep. Kathy Castor. She told the graduates that they were among the largest, most diverse and most tolerant generation in U.S. history.
"This complicated world needs you like never before," she said.
Tamara El-Khoury can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (727) 445-4181.