Hundreds of Florida State University students stepped across the stage Friday, Aug. 3, and Saturday, Aug. 4, to accept hard-earned degrees during two jubilant summer commencement ceremonies that paved the way to new adventures for each graduate.
President John Thrasher presided over both ceremonies — the first time in school history FSU has held two summer ceremonies.
Margaret Howard, a graduate of the School of Communication Science and Disorders from West Palm Beach, was among the 1,639 students to earn bachelor’s degrees this summer. Another 815 were scheduled to accept master’s degrees and doctorates.
Howard, savoring the exhilaration of landing a job as an audiologist just three days earlier, looked at her journey ahead with a mix of emotions.
“I’m excited and a little nervous but, overall, it’s sweet,” Howard said. “I’m very proud of myself. It took a lot of hard work to get here.”
Rachel Hollingsworth, sitting beside Howard at Friday evening’s commencement at the Donald L. Tucker Civic Center, appreciated that effort. Hollingsworth went through the same program in the College of Communication and Information and suddenly, it seemed, saw success opening up ahead.
“It doesn’t feel real, honestly,” said Hollingsworth, a native of Jacksonville. “I looked at myself in the mirror wearing the cap and gown and thought, ‘I’m about to graduate. This is not real.’ But you think about all that hard work really paying off now.”
Hollingsworth and Howard’s transformative college experience taught them a valuable lesson that Florida State alumnus Jorge Gonzalez, an FSU trustee and president and CEO of The St. Joe Company, highlighted as he addressed graduates at both ceremonies.
Gonzalez offered what he described as four practical observations to “help find success nearby.” He said his No. 1 tip — working harder than anyone else — would work at every stage of a career.
“Over the long haul, there are no shortcuts, gimmicks or easy buttons to success,” said Gonzalez, who earned degrees in political science and urban and regional planning. “There are many things you will not be able to control in your career, but the one thing you will always be able to control is how hard you work. Always be known as the hardest worker anywhere you are, and you will find success nearby.”
Gonzalez also urged graduates to value the power of relationships forged by trust and respect; take responsibility for failures and learn from them; and don’t let someone else define what you can accomplish.
“The only true limits you have are the ones you set for yourself,” Gonzalez said. “Don’t let others set your limits, and you will find success nearby.”
Stacey Pierre, FSU student body president, praised graduates for the energy and effort required leading up to commencement.
“You did it,” Pierre said. “Every midterm, every all-nighter, every last-minute visit to your teacher’s office to bump up your grade was all worth it. Here you stand ready to take on the world.”
As they fan out across the world, Gonzalez urged this newest class of Florida State alumni to remember they are forever bound by one reassuring truth.
“You are family,” Gonzalez said. “Florida State University is your home, and family is always welcome home. We will always leave a light on for you, or better said, we will always leave the torch on for you.”