In a commencement keynote address peppered with pop culture, Rollins’ Vice President for Academic Affairs and Provost Roger Casey presented a list of life rules to this year’s Holt School graduates as he bid farewell to the Rollins community he has served for a decade. Filling the Alfond Sports Center to capacity on Saturday, May 8, the 278 graduates and those celebrating their achievement greeted that list—which Casey called “The Seven Tweets of Highly Effective People”—with spirited applause and plenty of laughter. Perhaps it was Casey’s opening rendition of soul singer James Brown’s “Whoa! I feel good!” that got the crowd in the mood for his “postmodern digital” catalog of wisdom.
The audience was enthusiastic, and, using sources ranging from Stevie Wonder to Albert Einstein to a Balinese taxi driver named Nyoman D’Artana, Casey proceeded to give them a New-Age hip-hop version of seven age-old maxims, each pithy enough for Twitter. In the parlance of rapper Eminem, sage advice like “Seize the day” and “Be ready for the moment” became “You only get one shot. Do not miss your chance to blow. This opportunity comes once in a lifetime. Yo.” In Lady Gaga-speak, “Enjoy life’s journey” turned into “Just dance, d-d-d-dance. Dance, dance, just, j-j-just dance.” And Kanye West bestowed Friedrich Nietzsche’s famous quote with an electro beat: “That, that that that don’t kill me, can only make me stronger.” A cheering Class of 2010 was clearly receptive to Casey’s message.
Departing in June for his new role as president of McDaniel College, Casey closed his address by expressing his gratitude for his years at Rollins with his personal translation of Lao-tse. “When the teacher is finished, the pupils say, ‘Amazing! We learned this by ourselves,’” he said. “It’s not about me, friends. It’s about you. You are Rollins College, and you are all amazing. Thank you for learning me a great deal.” The audience thanked Dr. Casey for his advice, his wit, and his service to Rollins with a standing ovation. Read Roger Casey's Full Speech.
Outstanding Graduating Seniors Jenny Ackerman and Norah Perez also addressed the graduates, both speaking of the struggles faced by students pursuing their education while holding down jobs, raising families, caring for elderly relatives, and meeting other personal challenges of working adults. Jenny Ackerman summed up those challenges with one word: Life. “Life doesn’t care about midterms or deadlines,” she said. “It just happens. In six and a half years as a student, I’ve had four jobs and moved six times.” Ackerman’s solution for meeting all the challenges was also one word: Balance. “It takes a keen sense of balance to get through it all,” she said. “A significant part of balance is the ability to adapt to change.” She had a maxim of her own to encourage adaptability. “There is nothing to lose from living in the comfort zone. But there is everything to gain from stepping out beyond it,” she said, “That’s the way to a fulfilling and enjoyable life.”
Norah Perez also acknowledged the difficulties the graduates faced during their educational journey at Rollins. “The truth is, making the commitment to pursue a college degree wasn’t an easy one,” she said. “We’ve all been there, having to buy snacks from the vending machine to eat for dinner between classes. We’ve all missed out on events and occasions that we wished we could have attended, because we had to study.” Perez credited the mutual support of classmates with making the journey easier. “We’ve all faced problems, but we’ve found comfort in the kinship of our shared experience,” she said. “We bonded in knowing that we were all going through this unique experience, different in our own ways, but similar in so many.” For Perez, that kinship brought another one-word summation to mind: Family. “We are all a family,” she said, “and the home where we grew up was Rollins College.”
Read the Orlando Sentinel feature about graduating sisters Norah and Andrea "Andi" Pérez.
Hamilton Holt School Faculty Awards
Adjunct Professor of Philosophy Reverend James Armstrong received the Walter E. Barden Distinguished Teaching Award, an award presented by the Hamilton Holt School Student Government Association to a faculty member who has demonstrated innovation and creativity in teaching and responsiveness and commitment to adult learning.
Hamilton Holt School Student Awards