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Stetson University Celebrates 132nd Commencement

A crowd of happy graduates smile and wave their hands in the air.

Happy graduates wave to family and friends during the Commencement ceremony in Spec Martin Memorial Stadium in DeLand on Saturday morning, May 12, 2018.

Stetson University faculty, staff, students, families and friends celebrated the graduation of 828 seniors and graduate students at two 2018 Commencement Ceremonies this week. Stetson conferred degrees on 180 graduate students in Edmunds Center on Thursday, May 10. Another 648 undergraduates received degrees at a ceremony this morning, Saturday, May 12, in Spec Martin Memorial Stadium.

2018 Undergraduate Commencement Ceremony

“To the Class of 2018, congratulations,” President Wendy B. Libby, Ph.D., said in her charge to the graduating class. “All your hard work, sacrifices and sheer persistence, and the support of the people that love you, have gotten you to this milestone day, to new beginnings. I am so proud of you.”

Wendy Libby at the podium on stage with Stetson banner behind her.

President Wendy B. Libby, Ph.D., addresses graduates, their family and friends, faculty and staff in Spec Martin Memorial Stadium on Saturday morning.

The speakers at each ceremony were students from the graduating class who are nominated by faculty or their peers, and selected from nominations by a faculty committee. The speakers for the undergraduate commencement were Lucas Ludwig Coura, Bachelor of Music in voice and music theory; and Kaitlyn Orien Silva Forsythe, Bachelor of Arts in digital arts.

In his address to the undergraduate Class of 2018, Coura compared the ups and downs of life to a game of Pokemon.

Lucas Ludwig Coura

“Strength is found in diversity,” Coura said. “As a Pokemon trainer, you form a team of creatures who fight on your behalf, each with a unique skillset. ‘Types’ play a crucial role in battle…You can’t get by with one type, with one point of view, with one manner of thought, with one set of experiences….Who is in your team of creatures?…[A]re they of diverse backgrounds, capable of exposing your weaknesses, but also of covering your blind spots? Can you work together, though you are different as fire and water, towards a common goal?”

Forsythe spoke about the Stetson community saying she “watched leaders in this community work like gardeners to prime organizations, programs and campus spaces to blossom.”

“The point of being blessed with wealth or privilege or knowledge or opportunity is that it’s our responsibility to share it, to re-distribute it,” Forsythe said. “The point of our success is to put us in the best possible position to show up, turn off our egos and be of help to others. And we’re better able to do that because we came here.

Kaitlyn Orien Silva Forsythe

“Because we invested in ourselves and in this community, because we trained in economics and environmental science, Spanish and molecular biology, creative writing and computer science, and in compassion and civil dialogue, in healthy skepticism and humility, in integrity and intellectual honesty.

“We’re better able to roll up our sleeves and serve because we spent four years working on ourselves, to become citizens who are well equipped to solve the world’s biggest challenges. And as citizens of the world, it’s not our duty but our privilege to serve others.”

During Saturday’s undergraduate commencement ceremony, Provost and Executive Vice President Noel Painter, Ph.D., presented awards to a student and members of the faculty.

  • The Etter McTeer Turner Award honors Stetson’s first woman dean of students, and was established by the family of former Stetson President J. Ollie Edmunds through their Gualala Foundation. It is awarded for outstanding academic performance, leadership and community service. Painter presented this year’s award to Alexandra Overdijking, Bachelor of Business Administration with double majors in accounting, and business systems and analytics.
  • The Hand Awards for Distinguished Faculty Achievements are made possible through the generosity of longtime trustee and alumna Dolly Hand, LL.B.’49, Hon ’08, and her husband, Homer Hand. The recipient of this year’s Hand Award for Community Impact is Pamela Cappas-Toro, Ph.D., assistant professor of world languages and cultures (Spanish). The recipient of this year’s Hand Award for Research, Creative and Professional Activity is Terence Farrell, Ph.D., professor of biology.
  • The William Hugh McEniry Award for Excellence in Teaching is considered Stetson’s most prestigious faculty award, and the winner is chosen by students and faculty. Excellence in classroom teaching is the primary criterion, although other factors, such as intellectual growth, academic activities outside the classroom, and service to students and the university may be considered. Last year’s recipient, Dan Plante, Ph.D., presented the 2018 McEniry Award to Megan O’Neill, Ph.D., associate professor of English.

Stetson awarded an Honorary Doctorate on Saturday to Gordon H. “Nick” Mueller, Ph.D., president and CEO emeritus of The National World War II Museum in New Orleans. Mueller earned a Bachelor of Arts in history at Stetson University in 1961, an M.A. and Ph.D. at the University of North Carolina and has done postgraduate work at Yale, Harvard and several European universities.


On Saturday, May 19, at 8:30 a.m., Stetson University College of Law in Gulfport, Florida, expects to graduate 266 J.D. students including four J.D./M.B.A. students, two J.D./LL.M. Advocacy students and 16 part-time J.D. students. Seventeen students are candidates for the LL.M. in international law, 10 students are candidates for the LL.M. in elder law and five students are candidates for the LL.M. in advocacy degree.