FGCU Graduates 836 at 18th Commencement April 28;
Two Ceremonies Planned
FORT MYERS, FL - Florida Gulf Coast University expects to graduate 836 students in two ceremonies during spring commencement exercises, 9 a.m. and 2 p.m. Saturday, April 28 at Alico Arena.
Award-winning writer, composer and saxophonist James McBride addresses graduates during both ceremonies. Interim President Richard Pegnetter confers degrees.
During FGCU's first Freshman Convocation four years ago, McBride addressed 900 freshmen with a lecture and performance by his jazz band. FGCU gave freshman a copy of McBride's The Color of Water, an American classic read in colleges and high schools across America, during Eagle View Orientation as a summer reading project.
"In the year that we initiated the reading project and brought McBride as the speaker at our required First Year Convocation, we had 80 percent retention of first year students, our highest ever. Bringing McBride back four years later makes a statement to the students that we are invested in their education-we want them to stick with us and to graduate in four years time," associate dean and professor Jim Wohlpart said.
Widely recognized as a Renaissance man, McBride's speeches are punctuated by a colorful, multi-racial jazz band, which highlight his amusing stories of redemption, forgiveness and identity with wonderful musical accompaniment. His rare blend of lecturing with music was captured in a nationally televised 2003 Comcast documentary, "Riffin' and Pontificatin'."
His second book, Miracle at St. Anna, was dubbed a "searingly, soaringly beautiful novel" by The Baltimore Sun. In addition, his latest efforts include a new jazz CD, a cover story on Hip Hop for National Geographic Magazine, and an upcoming novel to be published this year.
He is also a recipient of numerous awards for his work including the 1997 Anisfield Wolf Book Award as well as several awards for his work as a composer in musical theater.
McBride is a former staff writer for The Boston Globe, People Magazine, and The Washington Post. His work has appeared in numerous publications, including The New York Times and Rolling Stone.
He holds a master's degree in journalism from Columbia University and several honorary doctorates. He studied composition at The Oberlin Conservatory of Music in Ohio and is currently a Distinguished Writer in Residence at New York University.
FGCU awards the title Professor Emeritus to William F. Hammond in recognition of his exemplary support of nature study, environmental and experiential education focusing on best practices of managing environmental resources. At FGCU, he is especially noted for his strong record of exceptional teaching, scholarship and community service.
The morning ceremony graduates students in the College of Arts and Sciences and the College of Professional Studies. The afternoon ceremony graduates students in the Colleges of Business, Education and Health Professions.
Doors open at 8 a.m. and 1 p.m. for seating. Each ceremony lasts approximately two hours. All guest seating is general on a first come basis. No tickets are required for admission. A reception for graduates and their guests follows each ceremony. The collective ceremonies are FGCU's 18th commencement and includes students completing degree requirements during the spring term. FGCU has conferred over 6,000 degrees since fall 1997.
For more information, call associate vice president for Community Relations Audrea Anderson at (239) 590-1083.
A high-resolution photograph of James McBride is available for download