Commencement Celebrations

Two events Thursday highlight USF commencement celebrations being held at multiple locations this year.



By Barbara Melendez

USF News


TAMPA, Fla. (May 5, 2011) – Between graduates and guests numbering in the thousands and space limitations, commencement exercises for USF in Tampa always have to be spread out – but this May they cover three days and four different venues.


With the USF Sun Dome closed for renovations, family members and friends flocked to downtown Tampa and St. Petersburg.  While the locations for the University of South Florida’s graduation ceremonies may have been different, the jubilation in the air was happily familiar as graduates headed instead to the St. Pete Times Forum, the Tampa Convention Center, the Mahaffey Theatre and even Traditions Hall for their special moment to shine. 


The traditional parts of the festivities stayed the same: from the graduates’ perspective – line up in the right section beaming with pride; from the audience’s perspective –  listen for loved ones’ names to be called out by USF Honors College Dean Stuart Silverman and see them stride across the stage for a photo with USF President Judy Genshaft. 


Many stories could be found among the graduating class including the oldest student at 65, Glenda Pinkston, who received a Bachelor of Social Work and the youngest student at 19, Crystal Tenn, who received a Bachelor of Science Degree in Chemistry. The very diverse group of students came from 45 states and 97 nations.  The university congratulated 43 outstanding graduates who joined hundreds of other USF men and women who serve their country as commissioned officers in the armed forces.


Among the students at the St. Pete Times Forum undergraduate ceremonies today was Ramzy Lotfi who led the USF American Red Cross Club to become the largest USF organization not only on the USF campus, but one of the largest in the country. The biology major, who was mentioned in President Genshaft’s opening remarks, has exciting and challenging plans ahead. He will be leading a public health and literacy service trip to San Ignacio, Belize through USF’s Bulls Service Break Program.  While there he and his team will be teaching Belizean first- through eighth-graders about diabetes, nutrition and hygiene.  He is also going to take the Dental Admission Test in his pursuit of a career in dentistry.


“USF has exposed me to so many different experiences and opportunities,” he said. “I was able to get a top notch education, join plenty of student organizations that kept me involved in the community, and I met a diverse group of people and made lifelong friends.”


Lotfi added, “The years just flew by faster than I ever imagined, but looking back I really feel like I accomplished something. I came in as this shy kind of kid that kept to himself and I am leaving as a mature, outspoken young man that works hard to better himself and others.”


The first of Thursday’s ceremonies was for the USF College of Medicine at 10 a.m. at the Mahaffey Theatre in St. Petersburg with 112 medical (M.D.) degrees being awarded. 


The first ceremony recognizing undergraduates from the College of Arts & Sciences was held at 1 p.m. today; the second at 6 p.m. is for undergraduates from the Colleges of Business, Education, Engineering, Medicine, Nursing, The Arts and Undergraduate Studies.  Each had approximately 1,300 graduates in attendance. 


The graduate ceremony will be held Friday, May 6 at 6 p.m. at the Tampa Convention Center with more than 600 advanced degree recipients expected to attend.


The Honors College also held special ceremonies Wednesday, May 4 in Traditions Hall on the Tampa campus at 9 a.m., 11:30 a.m. and 2 p.m. with a total of 100 students.


A total of 5,705 diplomas were awarded to students throughout the USF System. USF Tampa’s share was 4,903 degrees including 3,644 bachelors, 1,075 masters, and 184 doctoral and specialists degrees.


Other USF System commencement ceremonies include USF Sarasota/Manatee, Sunday, May 8 at 2 p.m at the Manatee Convention Center; USF St. Petersburg, Sunday, May 8 at 6 p.m. at the Mahaffey Theatre; and USF Polytechnic, Monday, May 9 at 7 p.m. at Youkey Theatre.


To get more facts on the ceremony, or to watch commencement, go to or see additional details at the official  Facebook event page for Spring Commencement.  For more commencement stories, or to cover commencement, contact Lara Wade directly at (813) 974-9060 on her cell at (813) 833-1498.