Thursday, May 24, 2018
Education

Members of USF's first graduating class reunite on campus

TAMPA — The lifelong friends can still recall the first time they met.

Sue Parrish and Mary Garrison were waiting to register for classes at the fledgling University of South Florida in 1960 when they struck up a conversation. They chatted about life and the new university and instantly hit it off.

"We started talking right over the girl between us," Parrish recalled. "She said, 'Why don't y'all sit next to each other? You seem to have a lot more in common.' "

Today, along with another college friend, Jane Keegan, they will walk across the stage in their caps and gowns and receive a gold medallion honoring the 50th anniversary of the university's charter class.

As an added bonus, they'll watch Parrish's granddaughter receive her degree as part of the 2013 graduating class.

"It's very special to share this day with her," Parrish said. "She's ready. She works full time and paid her way."

In honor of the first 50-year class, the USF Alumni Association created the Golden Guard Society to induct a new class each year.

Founded in 1956, USF opened its doors to students in 1960. The first graduation ceremonies were held in a campus parking lot in 1963. Since then, the four buildings have multiplied to more than 100. A large, sprawling field was filled in with dorms and class buildings and state-of-the-art athletic facilities.

"I can't believe the size of the campus now," fellow graduate Dell Shadgett of Winter Park said. "It's very spread out. It's beautiful. The size, the programs, the curriculum — it's wonderful."

USF's current graduating class of 4,276 will be significantly larger than the original 325.

Graduates from the first class include Earl Lennard, Hillsborough County's former school superintendent and supervisor of elections; and David C. Jordan, who served as assistant director of USF's Fort Myers campus, which closed in 2007.

The group of more than two dozen graduates spent Friday touring, visiting colleges, watching a historical presentation and meeting coaches. The day culminated with a cocktail party and a 1960s-style dinner and dance.

"It was nice to see where USF has gone in the past 50-some years," said junior Natalie Pearson, a USF ambassador who spent Friday with the honorees. "On the bus, they were going around comparing student ID numbers. " 'I'm five,' one said. 'Well, I'm three,' said another. It was definitely inspiring."

Parrish, Garrison and Keegan traded jokes about the extravagant athletic facilities as they toured the campus.

"Oh, hot tubs," Garrison said, pointing at the whirlpools in the athletic training room. "Are they going to give us a free massage?"

"There's nothing here for me," Parrish said as they stepped into the massive weight room.

"Except maybe him," she said, pointing at a young man sitting on a workout bench.

As they snapped photos on their iPhones — Parrish with Garrison next to Rocky the Bull, Keegan shooting a photo of a tennis player, hoping to inspire her grandson — they laughed about the memories they shared and the way things have changed.

They spent the years after graduation teaching at Brandon High School. Keegan would move to Gainesville and Garrison to South Carolina, but they always found time to reunite. In preparation for the anniversary weekend, Garrison drove down from South Carolina and picked Keegan up on the way.

"Everything has been so well organized, and they've had so many special arrangements for us," Garrison said. "We're just so excited to be back."

Caitlin Johnston can be reached at [email protected] or (813) 661-2443.

Comments
Hillsborough teachers hope to get some, but not all of their raise money

Hillsborough teachers hope to get some, but not all of their raise money

TAMPA — Teachers in Hillsborough County came closer on Wednesday to reaching an agreement with the school district that would give them most, but not all of the pay they expected this past year.The deal, if it happens, will end a year-long conflict t...
Published: 05/23/18
Ridgewood High faithful recall ‘Pride of Pasco’ as school forges a new path

Ridgewood High faithful recall ‘Pride of Pasco’ as school forges a new path

NEW PORT RICHEY — The line snaked through the hallways and into the cafeteria, as the Ridgewood High faithful waited for their chance to secure a piece of the school’s 40-year history.They came by the hundreds — current and former students, staff and...
Published: 05/23/18
Words of wisdom from Class of 2018 on how school shootings have transformed them

Words of wisdom from Class of 2018 on how school shootings have transformed them

TAMPA — The pain of the Parkland shootings Feb. 14 was fresh on the minds of Hillsborough County’s graduating seniors when about 300 of them received an assignment. Write a 250-word essay on how decades of school shootings have touched y...
Published: 05/23/18
Sheriff: Weeki Wachee High student posted fake school shooting threat

Sheriff: Weeki Wachee High student posted fake school shooting threat

WEEKI WACHEE — A 16-year-old was arrested Tuesday on allegations that she created a fake social media post threatening to shoot students at Weeki Wachee High School, according to the Hernando County Sheriff’s Office.Deputies said the 16-year-old told...
Published: 05/22/18
Hillsborough school district, teachers move closer to pay deal

Hillsborough school district, teachers move closer to pay deal

TAMPA — The Hillsborough County School District and its teachers’ union moved closer to resolving their salary dispute during Monday’s negotiating session — but stopped short of reaching an agreement.The teachers, who have spent this school year work...
Published: 05/21/18
Updated: 05/22/18
Parents score victory in effort to make travel safer for Westchase students

Parents score victory in effort to make travel safer for Westchase students

TAMPA — Hillsborough County school leaders call it courtesy busing, but to Lauren Hawkins it’s more a matter of life and death.More students living close to their schools in the Westchase community used the Hillsborough school district’s courtesy bus...
Published: 05/21/18
Eckerd College hosts a royal celebration of its own

Eckerd College hosts a royal celebration of its own

A day after England’s royal wedding between Prince Harry and Meghan Markle, St. Petersburg hosted a royal celebration of its own. Among the estimated 500 graduates to receive an Eckerd College diploma at Sunday’s graduation ceremony held...
Published: 05/20/18
Updated: 05/21/18

Hooper: SEL lends a solution to the increasingly toxic world of kids

An incident recently arose between students at Jesuit High School and Academy of the Holy Names that involved allegations of cyberbullying, homophobia, misogyny and assault.It only involved a fraction of the students at two of Tampa’s most prestigiou...
Published: 05/23/18
At vigil, another school mourns: ‘It is hope in the face of tragedy that brings us together today.’

At vigil, another school mourns: ‘It is hope in the face of tragedy that brings us together today.’

SANTA FE, Texas - They gathered here by the dozens Friday evening, wearing their school colors, T-shirts that said "Texas Tough," while huddling under the shade of a gaggle of pine trees, not 11 hours after the first shots were fired.They came to pra...
Published: 05/19/18
‘I always felt it would eventually happen here’: A Santa Fe High School survivor’s reaction to the shooting

‘I always felt it would eventually happen here’: A Santa Fe High School survivor’s reaction to the shooting

Paige Curry tried to keep calm Friday morning as a gunman tore through her Santa Fe High School, eventually killing 10 people and injuring another 10. The 17-year-old watched as a girl nearby panicked. Curry, herself terrified, considered running out...
Published: 05/19/18