Florida State University awards more than 7,800 degrees at spring commencement  

President Richard McCullough congratulates a graduate during FSU's commencement ceremony at 7 p.m. Friday, May 3, 2024, at the Donald L. Tucker Civic Center. (FSU Photography Services)
President Richard McCullough congratulates a graduate during FSU's commencement ceremony at 7 p.m. Friday, May 3, 2024, at the Donald L. Tucker Civic Center. (FSU Photography Services)



Florida State University’s newest graduates were encouraged to take risks and embrace challenges as opportunities for growth and advancement during spring commencement Friday and Saturday, May 3 and 4, at the Donald L. Tucker Civic Center.

President Richard McCullough presided over five ceremonies Friday and Saturday in addition to a doctoral hooding ceremony for Ph.D. graduates.

Over the two days, Florida State awarded degrees to 7,813 graduates, including 5,739 bachelor’s degrees, 1,379 master’s/specialist degrees and 273 doctoral degrees. About 6,560 students participated in the six events.


At the doctoral hooding ceremony Friday morning, McCullough recognized a student who should have crossed the stage with his fellow graduates. Zachary Tolchin, 26, died in March after a motorcycle accident in Tallahassee. The university posthumously awarded his Ph.D. in chemistry.

At Friday afternoon’s ceremony, which celebrated College of Business graduates, speaker James Seneff conveyed a message of resilience, perseverance and the belief that challenges present opportunities for growth.


FSU spring 2024 graduate spotlights


Seneff is the founder of CNL Financial Group, a private investment management firm based in Orlando. His transformative gift to FSU’s College of Business established the James M. Seneff Scholars Program, an elite honors program for high-achieving students that provides unique educational opportunities, meetings with business leaders and personalized mentorship programs.

“People with character advance in adversity,” said Seneff, who earned his bachelor’s in business from FSU more than 50 years ago. “There is no opportunity without adversity. History teaches us that nations and individuals advance through adversity, not in spite of it.”


He encouraged the graduates to develop three lifelong keys for success: a plan, learning and relationships. 

“Lifelong relationships help remind you of who you are. They keep you grounded and provide balance,” he told the graduates. “The quality of your leadership will be built on the quality of your relationships.” 

Seneff shared that at age 25, he wrote a 50-year life and business plan. 

“Now that you have a degree, it’s time to get a life. In order to get a life, you must get a plan,” he said. “A 50-year written plan will fire up your imagination and pull you into the future. It is magical. It is a superpower.” 

At the evening ceremony, U.S. Rep. Neal Dunn from Florida’s 2nd Congressional District, which consists of 16 counties in North Florida, spoke to the graduates from the College of Arts and Sciences. 


Dunn was a surgeon in Panama City for more than 25 years and for 15 years in the U.S. Army before that. He serves on the House Energy and Commerce Committee, which has responsibility for energy policy, interstate and foreign commerce, telecommunications, consumer protection, food and drug safety, health care policy and research, and environmental quality. He also serves on the House Parliamentary Assembly of NATO, the Select Committee on China, and the Artificial Intelligence Task Force.  

In comments that drew laughter from the audience, Dunn urged the graduates not to make the world worse. 

“Everyone will tell you to aspire to do great things, but don’t use your prodigious talents to mess things up. There are too many smart people doing that already,” he said. “I see that in Congress on a regular basis.” 

He encouraged the Class of 2024 to read widely and think critically. 

Students celebrate during commencement Friday, May 3, 2024, at the Donald L. Tucker Civic Center. (FSU Photography Services)
Students celebrate during commencement Friday, May 3, 2024, at the Donald L. Tucker Civic Center. (FSU Photography)

“This is going to become much more important as you are presented with more and more products of artificial intelligence. Think for yourself and think critically,” Dunn said. 

He told the graduates that they are inheriting a world of risk, but not to lose heart.  

“You are not graduating in peaceful times or safe times. You are inheriting a world full of risks, levels of risk seldom seen in history: economic risks, health risks, risks of terrible wars all over the world,” he said. “But you’re skilled, you’re resourceful. And … having met you, I like your chances. 

“Now go make a difference in the world.”

Student body president Jack Hitchcock led the pledge of allegiance and offered words of encouragement for both Friday and Saturday ceremonies. He and his twin sister Kate Hitchcock celebrated their graduation on May 4, along with thousands of other Florida State University students.

“Today might be the end of a chapter, but it’s not the end of our story,” he said.


Christopher Iansiti, who earned both his bachelor’s in finance and master’s in instructional systems from FSU, delivered the commencement address to the graduates of the colleges of Applied Studies, Medicine, Motion Picture Arts, Social Sciences and Public Policy, as well as the Dedman College of Hospitality and Jim Moran College of Entrepreneurship on Saturday morning.

Iansiti founded and recently sold IANSITI Performance Group Inc., an organizational performance consulting firm, which boasts a client roster of well-known national and global corporations. He is an FSU College of Business Hall of Fame inductee and previously served as chairman of the FSU College of Business Board of Governors. In 2011, the College of Education honored him as a Distinguished Alumnus for his achievements. Iansiti currently chairs the FSU Foundation Board of Trustees.

Iansiti shared his insights on how to start a new beginning and navigate the next transition in life. He highlighted three key factors: people, performance and potential.

“It’s the people relationships you foster, the performance you develop and the potential you realize,” he said. “This is your formula for success.”

He also encouraged the graduates to develop their leadership skills and find role models. “As you define your potential, look around and see who is the leader you admire,” he said.

He concluded his speech with a playful reference to the date. “May the 4th be with you all for graduations.”


On Saturday afternoon, graduates of the FAMU-FSU College of Engineering and the colleges of Nursing, Health and Human Sciences, and Education heard from FSU Coach Odell Haggins, a member of the Florida State Seminoles football coaching staff since 1994.

Haggins, the longest-tenured assistant football coach in the country, served as associate head coach and has twice been named interim head coach, leading the Seminoles to bowl berths both times. He played for Florida State from 1985 to 1989 under Coach Bobby Bowden and was an All-American defensive lineman. He was drafted by the San Francisco 49ers and went on to play for the Buffalo Bills during their 1991 Super Bowl season. After his NFL career, he returned to Florida State, completed his degree, and joined Bowden’s staff. He has been inducted into the Florida State Athletics Hall of Fame, the Polk County Sports Hall of Fame and the FSU Circle of Gold.

Haggins emphasized the power of resilience in overcoming obstacles.

“Having lived in Florida most of my life, you find out that during tropical storms and hurricanes the oak trees tend to be the ones that split and snap, but the palm trees bend, sway and stay rooted. Be that palm tree. That’s a reminder that resilience isn’t just about stubborn resistance, it’s also about adapting to conditions,” he told the graduates.

Haggins told the graduates that injuries forced him off the football field, but resilience kept him in the game.

“As coaches, we face defeats, recruiting losses and tough seasons,” he said.” But I try to remember that each setback is a setup for a comeback.”

He continued: “You are the graduates that endured a 100-year event: a global pandemic. You’ve already built up some armor and armor like that fuels comebacks. When life tackles you, you’ve got to roll with it, absorb the impact and rise.”


Jacksonville Mayor Donna Deegan spoke to the graduates of the colleges of Fine Arts, Communication and Information, Criminology and Criminal Justice, Social Work and Music during Saturday’s evening’s ceremony and urged them to “be unconquered.” 

“To be unconquered means to ultimately embrace what we get,” she said. “To allow it to transform us into something higher, into something better.”

Deegan graduated from FSU with a bachelor’s degree in communications and began a career in broadcast journalism that spanned 25 years. She became Jacksonville’s first female mayor in 2023. After three personal battles with breast cancer, she channeled her experiences into action by founding the DONNA Foundation to support cancer patients, survivors, and health care providers. 

“When you walk out of here tonight, carry love with you,” Deegan said. “Fear is a liar meant to keep you down. And no matter what may come your way, instead of judging it, I’m asking you to just stay curious. The unconquered spirit, if you allow it, will light your path.”


Other ceremonies

FSU’s College of Law will confer 312 degrees on May 5, and the College of Medicine will confer 110 on May 18.   

Florida State University Panama City will hold its commencement ceremony at 6:30 p.m. CT May 5, at Tommy Oliver Stadium in Panama City.   

Jorge Gonzalez, president and CEO of The St. Joe Co., will deliver the keynote address. Gonzalez, a two-time FSU alumnus, is also a member of the FSU Board of Trustees. FSU Panama City will confer 99 bachelor’s and 55 master’s degrees and will award 29 students with the doctor of nurse anesthesia practice degree for the first time ever. 

For more information on FSU’s spring commencement, visit commencement.fsu.edu.