Alan Ginsburg—nationally successful real estate developer, renowned Central Florida philanthropist, and dedicated regional community activist—highlighted the concepts of pride in personal achievement and service to the global community during his keynote address to the Hamilton Holt School class of 2009 on Saturday, May 9. In a speech threaded with his trademark humor, Ginsburg used Hamilton Holt himself as the standard by which Holt School graduates might assess their self-image and their goals. He noted that even though Holt, Rollins College president from 1925 to 1949, worked diligently to promote racial and economic equality, democracy, and world peace, he became an academic “to make a difference.”
Recounting Hamilton Holt’s accomplishments as an educational innovator and reformer, Ginsburg lauded the graduates for personal sacrifices made on their own alternative route to achievement. “You have climbed up the hill by yourselves to reach the point of success that you have today,” he said. “You can be very proud of what you have done.” He called their new status as Rollins alumni a badge of honor, recognition, and prestige. “Today you are stronger, brighter, smarter. You are ready to take your place in the world and take charge,” he said. “It’s important that you raise your head high and use that badge as a calling card everywhere you go.”
Ginsburg, who is chairman and CEO of AHG Group, founder of The CED Companies and Concord Management Company, regional vice president of Seeds of Peace, a Rollins College trustee, and a Hamilton Holt School Board of Advisors member, presented a short list of ways the graduates can take their place in the global community: “Be ambassadors of your school. Come back often. Be proud.”
Ginsburg closed his address by giving the Hamilton Holt School class of 2009 a final assignment that its namesake would surely have endorsed: “The world is yours. It belongs to you. When you leave here, change it, fix it, take care of it. Make a difference. With your Rollins degree, it’s almost guaranteed that you’ll be able to make great things happen.”
Outstanding Graduating Senior Jaclyn Walker also addressed the graduates, designating perseverance, dedication, accomplishment, and success as qualities she learned at the Holt School and found in the people she met there. She cited a police officer who came to class after 12-hour shifts and a 10-year Holt student who took one class at a time as examples of the perseverance she witnessed.
To illustrate the quality of dedication, Walker spoke of the personal sacrifices she and her classmates had made. An organizational communication major, Walker worked full time for Orange County, volunteered as an elementary school mentor, and raised a toddler during her Holt years. She talked of her heartbreak in hearing her son say “Mommy stay” when she kissed him goodbye before class. “We all sacrificed time with family and friends to complete our education,” she told her peers. “And those problems made school a bit harder. However, they make our graduation even sweeter.”
As an example of accomplishment, Walker told of a Chinese student who, though living far from home and family to acquire a quality education, shared her unique insights and perspective with classmates.
Admitting she once felt a bachelor’s degree represented only a lot of time and money spent in one place, Walker credited her employer with helping her realize it also represented personal fortitude. The first in her family to receive a bachelor’s degree, Walker said her Holt success has given her a different opinion of her academic accomplishment. “Our characters are not something we are born with. They have to be earned through our actions and our deeds,” she said. “I learned what I’m truly made of deep down inside.”
Her parting words echoed Ginsburg’s challenge and praise. “Hold your head up high,” she told her fellow graduates. “You did not quit when you could have. You did not waiver when you could have. You were dedicated to your goal and you went the distance to reach it. That is success.”