May 11, 2010
Graduates, parents, families, friends, faculty and staff packed the Warden Arena on Mother's Day, Sunday, May 9, for the commencement ceremony of the College of Arts & Sciences, during which more than 400 graduates received diplomas.
Rollins President Lewis Duncan opened the ceremony and reminded graduates of their time at Rollins. “You took part in Dance Marathon and Campus Movie Fest and reached out to children at Fern Creek Elementary, the homeless and victims of Hurricane Katrina. You are indelibly part of Rollins history,” said President Duncan. “And as our most famous alumnus Mister Rogers said, ‘It is worth the struggle to discover who you are.’”
Rollins’ Director of External and Competitive Scholarships Jayashree Shivamoggi gave the invocation. Highlights of the ceremony included the presentation of Honorary Doctorates of Humane Letters to Allan Keen, Rollins’ alumnus and member of the Board of Trustees and president of Keewin Real Property Company, and Leonard L. Abess, Chief Executive Officer of City National Bank of Florida. In addition, Professor of Graduate Studies in Counseling Marie Shafe, Professor of History Edward Harrell, Associate Professor of Athletics Peggy Jarnigan, and Associate Professor of Economics Robert Steen were recognized and elevated to “Emeritus” status. Provost and Vice President for Academic Affairs Roger Casey was also recognized for his more than 10 years of service to the College and with the Rollins Decoration of Honor. Casey will begin his presidency at McDaniel College in Westminster, Maryland, in June 2010.
“Your vision and imagination have helped to guide and strengthen Rollins’ programs in community engagement, internationalization, and professional development for faculty,” said President Duncan. “You have never shied away from a challenge, always seeking—and frequently finding—a new way to ‘think outside the Fox.’”
Established by the Board of Trustees, the Rollins Decoration of Honor is given only in recognition of distinguished and eminent service to Rollins College and to be awarded only to alumni, trustees, members of the faculty or administrative staff, or friends of the College whose services have been of real and significant contribution to the progress of Rollins.
Class of 2010 Valedictorian, Cameron Dawson, an economics major who minored in dance and graduated with a perfect 4.0 GPA, offered her fellow graduates three of the life lessons that Rollins taught her:
- Never take no for an answer.
- Be a lifelong learner.
- Make every day the best day of your life.
“The rules of the game have changed and now more than ever we need a sharp mind,” she said. “Our liberal arts education has prepared us to embrace these complications and shape our world for the future.”
Dawson also shared the lines from her grandmother’s favorite poem:“For yesterday is but a dream
“May your days be filled with happiness and hope,” said Dawson.
Leonard L. Abess, Chief Executive Officer of City National Bank of Florida also addressed the crowd. Abess was recognized by President Barack Obama during the President’s address to the Joint Session of Congress in February 2009. He was later selected as “Person of the Week” by the ABC television network and was named to Time Magazine’s list of “100 Most Influential People in the World.” In June 2009, the Florida Bankers Association named Abess “Banker of the Year.” He was also named “Boss of the Year” in Reader's Digest's Best of America issue. Abess is currently serving a three-year term as Miami branch director of the Federal Reserve. In addition, he is vice chairman of the University of Miami Board of Trustees, and a member of the trustee service committee and the visiting committee for the University’s Rosenstiel School of Marine and Atmospheric Science.
A devoted environmentalist, he is a member of the World Wildlife Fund’s National Advisory Council, and a fellow of the Palm Society and the Audubon Society. He graduated from the Wharton School at the University of Business of Pennsylvania, and was inducted into the South Florida Business Hall of Fame in 2002.
Abess recalled his own college graduation in 1970 from the University of Pennsylvania when the commencement speaker told the graduates they were privileged and should “go forth and make the world a better place.”
“We were ready for that message,” he said. “Our college years were the end of the ’60s. We were the generation of love, peace and happiness. We had just celebrated the first Earth Day, conceived in part as a reaction to a massive oil spill on the California coast. Philadelphia was at the center of it all and we turned it into Earth Week. We exercised our right to free speech, assembly and civil disobedience at the 1968 Democratic Convention. We put on the mother of all festivals in the summer of ’69, Woodstock. We marched in Selma, Washington, and Kent State. We understood when Eldridge Cleaver told us ‘If you are not part of the solution, then you are part of the problem.’ We were inspired by Bobby Kennedy and Martin Luther King. We too had dreams.”
After graduation, Abess embarked on a variety of business ventures—from candles to affordable housing to publishing—none of which were his “calling.” He then went to work in banking for his father, who, he said, “fired me twice.” Along the way, Abess started growing his own food, took his car apart and put it back together and renovated his home.
“I wanted to know that I could take care of myself and survive any failure,” he said. “And in the walking and working, I discovered who I am, what I believe in and how I choose to live my life.”
He returned to save his family’s bank from bankruptcy in 1985 and was recognized for his success, which he refers to as “success in human terms.”
“We shared a value system and worked with mutual respect,” he said. “We knew to be successful, we had to help each other succeed as well as our customers and our community. We put others first, checked our egos at the door and focused on excellence. We valued everyone. We were a family.”
Under his management, the bank grew seven-fold, but the number of employees never increased and many of those employees had been with the bank since the beginning. When Abess sold the bank in November 2008, he discreetly shared $60 million of the profit with his employees, even retirees. The word got out and he was invited to the White House as a special guest of President Obama’s Joint Congressional Address in February 2009.
“It was a magic moment, but I want you to know that I would not trade it for the moment when my youngest son was 8 and we stood together at 90 degrees north,” recalled Abess, who turned down dozens of media requests because he was “holding out for Oprah.”
“Finally, Oprah’s producer called … she wanted America’s best boss on her show,” he said, “but I was at our farm [in Vermont] with my wife and daughter harvesting our last crop. The vegetables would not wait … not even for Oprah.”
He explained that he wouldn’t trade time with his family because “fame is fleeting … it fills your ego, but not your heart.” He recalled other memorable moments like when he slept in hammocks deep in the Amazon forest and visited with Shamans with his 16-year-old daughter and stood at the western wall in Jerusalem with his older son when he was 13.
“I believe life is filled with choices and the choices we make define who we are,” he said. “Choose your moments well.”
In closing, Abess recognized that the message really hadn’t changed much in 40 years. “Be part of the solution, not the problem,” he said. “Lead a good life and in doing so make the world a better place. Class of 2010, be strong, have courage, do good in the world, and have a good time.”
Rollins faculty received the following awards:
The Bornstein Award for Faculty Scholarship was awarded to Professor of English Ed Cohen. Established by the Board of Trustees of Rollins College in 2003, the Bornstein Award recognizes a faculty member whose outstanding scholarly achievement or creative accomplishment has helped bring national prominence to the College. Named in honor of Rollins' 13th president, the award honors President Bornstein's leadership and contribution to the academic vitality of the College. Cohen will hold the title “Bornstein Faculty Scholar” for the 2010-11 academic year and will receive a cash stipend.
Three awards were established by the Board of Trustees of Rollins College in 2004 in honor of Rollins' beloved alumnus and longtime trustee George Cornell, whose generous recent bequest made the awards possible. Each recipient will receive a stipend. The awards recognize faculty members for outstanding teaching, research and/or service.
Arthur Vining Davis Awards were presented to Assistant Professor of Philosphy & Religion Creston Davis, Assistant Professor of Biology Fiona Harper and Professor of Archives & Special Collections Wenxian Zhang.
Arts & Sciences Student Awards
Algernon Sydney Sullivan Citizen Medallion — Established in 1927, the highest non-academic award the College bestows is presented to an Arts & Sciences student(s) who demonstrates quality of service and care. Three recipients were: Tocarra Mallard, Rob Moore and Kaley Sinclair.
Charles McCormick Reeve Awards for Scholarship — Presented to Arts & Sciences graduates who have maintained the highest scholastic record during their last three years at Rollins College:
The Rollins College Hamilton Holt School Commencement ceremony was held on Saturday, May 8. Associate’s, bachelor’s, or master’s degrees were awarded to 278 graduates, ages 22 to 70. Roger Casey, Rollins College Vice President for Academic Affairs and Provost, gave the keynote address. Psychology major Jenny Ackerman and economics major Norah Perez, who were chosen as this year’s Outstanding Graduating Seniors, also addressed the graduates.
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
Read the Orlando Sentinel feature about graduating sisters Norah and Andrea "Andi" Pérez.
The Crummer Graduate School of Business honored 152 students with MBA degrees on Saturday, May 1.
This year’s commencement address was given by John D. Race. He is principal and portfolio manager of DePrince, Race & Zollo Inc., an investment advisory firm with approximately $5.5 billion of assets under management. Prior to forming DePrince, Race & Zollo Inc., Race was the president of SunBank Capital Management. He received his undergraduate degree from Rollins College and an MBA from the Rollins MBA. During his speech, Race advised graduates to pursue a career that they feel passionate about.
Crummer Student Awards
View the Crummer Graduate School commencement video.