Celebrate 50th Anniversary of First Graduating Class with Reunion, Commencement Events

View a commencement video message from USF System President Judy Genshaft.                        

TAMPA, Fla. (Dec. 9, 2013) – Fifty years after the University of South Florida granted degrees to its first class of 325 graduates, alumni from that landmark class will return to the Tampa campus to celebrate with more than 2,400 of the newest USF graduates in ceremonies Saturday, Dec. 14.

To recognize the charter class of the university, the USF Alumni Association has established The Golden Guard Society and each year will recognize each class which has reached their 50-year graduation milestone with induction into the Golden Guard Society.

More than two dozen of the graduates will attend a reunion on the USF Tampa campus on Friday, Dec. 13, and then join in the 1:30 p.m. commencement ceremony on Saturday, Dec. 14.

The first class of 325 students to graduate from the then new University of South Florida were granted their degrees on Dec. 22, 1963. The university, founded in 1956 and opening its doors in 1960, considers these graduates along with those who graduated in April 1964 as USF’s Charter Class.

Ceremonies on that day – just before Christmas and as the national still reeled from the assassination of President John F. Kennedy just weeks earlier – were held in a parking lot on the vast, dusty USF campus which was then populated with just four buildings.

Because USF had opened its doors as a university designed to meet the needs of students who already had taken some college courses or were using benefits under the original GI Bill, several hundred of the initial 2,000 students already had some college credit to their names. About three-fourths of the first graduates were majors in the College of Education.

Notable graduates include Earl Lennard, who went on to become Superintendent of Hillsborough County Public Schools and Hillsborough Elections Supervisor, and David C. Jordan, who later would become assistant director of USF’s Fort Myers campus. Jordan will address new graduates at Saturday’s 1:30 p.m. commencement ceremonies.

USF also honors charter class graduates each commencement ceremony with the granting of the King O’Neal award, which is given each semester by the USF Alumni Association in honor of charter graduates Lucas King and Evelyn O’Neal. The award, which is presented to undergraduates with the highest cumulative grade point average, 4.0 during commencement ceremonies, will be presented to eight USF students on Saturday.

The USF System will confer a total of 4,276 degrees in ceremonies across the three campuses of the USF System, Dec. 14-15. More than 2,400 graduates are expected for ceremonies at the Sun Dome on the Tampa campus Saturday, with additional ceremonies being held Sunday at 2 p.m. for USF Sarasota-Manatee and 6 p.m. for USF St. Petersburg. For additional information on those ceremonies, visit those campuses’ websites.

For the Tampa ceremonies:

· The 9 a.m. ceremony will recognize undergraduates from the Colleges of Arts and Sciences and Behavioral and Community Sciences. More than 1,000 graduates are anticipated to attend.

Marlene Johnson, the executive director and chief executive officer of NAFSA: Association of International Educators, will receive the President’s Global Leadership Award.

· The 1:30 p.m. ceremony will recognize undergraduates from the College of Business, Education, Engineering, Medicine, Nursing, Public Health, The Arts and Undergraduate Studies. More than 800 graduates are anticipated to attend. Charter class member David Jordan will speak.

· The 6 p.m. ceremony will recognize graduate students from all colleges. More than 500 graduates are anticipated to attend. Stanford University Professor Richard Zare, a renowned scientist, educator and civic scholar will receive an Honorary Doctor of Science.

Lianet Vazquez, B.S. in Biology and B.A. in Political Science from the College of Arts and Sciences, will be recognized as the university’s Outstanding Graduate by the USF Alumni Association.

For further information on the Tampa ceremonies and to watch a live stream of the ceremonies visit http://usfweb2.usf.edu/commencement/.

The first graduates of the new University of South Florida received their degrees on Dec. 22, 1963. USF file photo.