By Kevin Hogencamp/Jacksonville University
Know who you are, who you want to become, and act accordingly.
Former Jacksonville University President Kerry Romesburg offered that sage advice as commencement speaker and received an honorary degree Saturday, May 4, as JU awarded 838 degrees at its 2013 spring commencement ceremony at First Baptist Church Jacksonville.
“This is what I ask you to do: Imagine what you want in life, decide who you wish to be, determine your values, and then live with those ends in mind …” said Romesburg, who retired Feb. 1 after a successful 8½-year tenure at JU’s helm.
Former astronaut David Scott, one of only 12 people who have walked on the moon, also received an honorary degree at the JU commencement ceremony. The event was held at First Baptist, rather than JU’s traditional outdoor commencement setting on campus, because of the likelihood of inclement weather. Of JU’s spring 2013 graduates, 294 received bachelor of nursing degrees; 70 received master of business administration degrees; and 130 graduated with Latin honors, which are earned by students with a minimum GPA of 3.50 with 60 graded credits at JU.
President Tim Cost bestowed the degrees and presented three student awards at the ceremony: the Fred B. Noble Medal to graduating students Luka Vukadinovic, of Montenegro in Eastern Europe, and Ann-Marie Connolly, of Jacksonville, for having the highest grade point averages in JU’s 2013 class; the President’s Award for Outstanding Leadership to Eric J. Smith, of Tallahassee; and the University Award for Outstanding Service and Co-curricular Involvement to Katherine Thomas, of Bartow, Fla.
JU’s college and school students of the year are Vukadinovic, College of Arts & Sciences; John Quartucio and Vitaliy Chernyshov, Davis College of Business; Nick Boucher, College of Fine Arts; Heather Cole, School of Education; and Alexandra Baker, School of Nursing.
Also Saturday, a master’s degree was awarded to Stephanie Sowa, the first graduate of the JU marine science graduate program; and biology professor Dr. Karen Jackson was recognized as being JU’s professor the year.
Romesburg arrived at JU in 2004 during one of the most turbulent fiscal periods in the university’s history and capped his four-decade career in higher education by putting JU on track for long-term financial stability and growth. He said Saturday that receiving an honorary degree from JU and being selected at its commencement speaker were especially gratifying because, “I know personally how one’s life can be changed by higher education.”
“I pay tribute to each of you for what you have accomplished … You have made my career meaningful,” he told the graduates.
Romesburg was awarded an honorary doctor in education degree while Scott, husband of JU Trustee Margaret “Mag” Black-Scott, was bestowed the University’s first honorary doctor of science and technology degree.
Scott, commander of the Apollo 15 mission to the moon in the summer of 1971, spoke briefly during the ceremony, encouraging the JU graduates to do what he and other scientists aspire to do – unite cultures throughout the world.
“Cultures are like musical instruments,” he said. “We all play different instruments, but if we playthe tunes the same, if we come together, it’s a beautiful harmony.”
Scott told the students that by graduating from a prestigious university, they’ve reached a summit -- and that to sufficiently continue their journey, they should travel.
“See the world, sail the seas, plunge the oceans, walk the deserts and look at the stars …” he said, encouraging them to send postcards and letters to their professors after their expeditions.
“Say in your letters, ‘This is what I did today and this is what I am going to do tomorrow. Thank you for yesterday, because it helped me get where I am because I’m on a summit,” Scott said.
Scott was the seventh person to walk on the moon and the first person to drive a lunar roving vehicle on the moon’s surface. For the Apollo 15 mission, he received NASA’s highest award “for leading the most complex and carefully planned scientific expedition in the history of exploration.”
Scott worked in NASA management for six years and continues to pursue opportunities in the commercial space sector. He has 15 patents in the U.S., Europe and Japan covering inventions in spaceflight operations and robotic planetary exploration.
Jacksonville Mayor Alvin Brown, a two-time Jacksonville University alumnus, also spoke during the ceremony, which nearly filled First Baptist’s 7,000-seat auditorium.
The spring 2013 JU graduates hail from throughout the United States and from 21 other countries. Students from all 50 states and 92 countries have studied at JU over the University’s 79-year history.
JU has more than 20,000 alumni.
Click on this Wave Weely article to view a photo gallery from the Spring 2013 commencement ceremony.