In typical fashion, the New College of Florida graduation was anything but typical.
Bare feet, bare legs and in a few cases, a bare torso, 170 New College students earned their degrees Friday night. New College students don’t don traditional caps and gowns, instead showcasing their individuality wearing whatever they please. And students take that literally. Leopard print, wings and glitter are among the norm.
For the college’s history, the 50th graduating class was special. But the Class of 2016 is extra special to President Don O’Shea, too. O’Shea came to New College just one month before the Class of 2016 started as freshmen.
“No one will miss you more than me,” he said. “And that wasn’t a joke.”
O’Shea and graduation speaker Charlayne Hunter-Gault, a journalist and civil rights activist, lauded the students on their plans for the future. O’Shea cited a survey of the graduating seniors. The majority said their goals are to “make change” and “help people.”
“It’s simple and it’s deeply admirable,” he said.
Hunter-Gault called the students pioneers. Their time at New College has prepared them for what comes next, she said.
“I know you have focused on life beyond this campus,” she said.
New College of Florida
Milestone: 50th graduating class
Speaker: Civil rights activist and journalist Charlayne Hunter-Gault
Shining moment: More than once, Hunter-Gault stopped her speech until the sound of overhead planes coming from Sarasota-Bradenton International Airport died down. “This is too important,” she said.
Interesting fact: Students at New College come from 66 towns in Florida and 17 states in the country, according to officials.
Best quote: “From where I’m standing, you all look spectacular,” Provost Stephen Miles said to the assembled grads.