Costumed New College grads love local judge

rdymond@bradenton.comMay 25, 2013 

SARASOTA -- The Hon. Charles E. Williams of the 12th Judicial Circuit Court of Florida began his graduation address at New College of Florida by apologizing for not wearing his cap.

"I did not wear it because of the heat," Judge Williams said. "But seeing you students, I feel a lot better."

Williams was referring to the plethora of New College graduates who, every year, snub the entire traditional cap and gown in favor of themed costumes.

As Williams gazed across the 197 graduates, the largest New College class in history, he saw Sarah McKnight of Tampa wearing jade earrings and a jade green dress from the 1950s complete with her hair in "victory curls." Bryce Bresnan of Lakeland wearing a tailor-made "Star Trek" officer's uniform, Veronica Dunkelberger of Tallahassee as a startling Marilyn Monroe, Gregory Washko of Maine as a proper English gentleman with top hat and Ben King of Orlando dressed as bounty hunter Boba Fett, an outfit he made himself with inspiration from "Star Wars."

The graduation was held in a massive white tent at sunset Friday on the great lawn along the college's bayfront.

Williams told the students, "You are the finest institution of learning in the United States."

Williams got applause during his introduction by President Donal O'Shea

when O'Shea remarked that the judge once threw out a case against a Sarasota homeless man who was caught charging his cell phone in a public place.

The judge also got a huge ovation when he said to the graduates: "Of those who much has been given, much is required. A degree should not make you exclusive from those who are not as fortunate to be in your position today."

Although she wasn't nearly as obsessive as Bresnan who ordered an authentic "Star Trek" uniform from Chinese tailors, McKnight would win the unofficial award for planning and execution of a theme.

The Tampa student, who received her psychology degree, began shopping two months ago for a retro dress from the 1950s.

"I wanted something vintage," McKnight said.

Richard Dymond, Herald writer, can be reached at 745-7080, ext. 6686.

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