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July 30, 2015

Former Senator Recalls Being in Graduates' Shoes

May 7, 2011

Speaking to the more than 400 graduates at Palm Beach Atlantic University’s spring commencement ceremony on Saturday, former U.S. Sen. George LeMieux reflected on the speech he gave to his own classmates as an undergraduate at Emory University nearly 20 years ago.

“I said on that day that commencement is a beginning, and it is for you,” Sen. LeMieux told the graduates at the Palm Beach County Convention Center. “The best years of your life are yet to come.

“For we know, and the Lord tells us, to whom much is given, much is expected. Will you only be a traveler on the road, or will you work to form a community and make your destination a better place?”

Florida’s 34th U.S. senator went on to challenge the class of 2011 to “make your mark on a larger campus.”

“Become a stakeholder in the place where you live,” Sen. LeMieux said. “Invest in the community where you will work and raise your family. Help others and solve problems.”

Former U.S. Sen. George LeMieux addressed graduates during Commencement May 7.
Sen. LeMieux, who served in the U.S. Senate for 16 months, now serves as chairman of the board at the Gunster law firm. He also advised the graduates to embrace technology, but not allow it to isolate them.

“You must harness technology to expand your community, not to shrink it,” he said. “No great thing can be done alone. You will be measured against those who made this country great, who carried forth the American creed of leaving to each generations an equal or better opportunity than the one that they inherited.”

Sen. LeMieux told the audience that he feels “a special relationship” with PBA, the institution of higher learning that he chose to receive his senatorial papers after he left office at the end of 2010. The papers are housed in PBA’s Warren Library.

Prior to Sen. LeMieux’s remarks, two students were chosen to offer graduate reflections: Katherine Konynenbelt, the outstanding graduate of the School of Arts and Sciences, and Daniel Schwab, the outstanding graduate of the School of Communication and Media.

Other highlights of the ceremony included the recognition of two graduates, Nathaniel Herndon and Joseph Puccio, as the first students to complete PBA’s new ROTC program. Both cadets were permitted to wear their military dress uniforms instead of the traditional caps and gowns.

After commencement, Herndon was commissioned as a second lieutenant in the U.S. Army during a ceremony on the PBA campus. Puccio will be commissioned in a few weeks.

Saturday’s commencement ceremony also included the first graduate of PBA’s computer science program. Julie Aramouni double-majored in both computer science and mathematics.

Graduate Joshua Sharpe and his aunt, Mary Pendarvis.
Graduate Joshua Sharpe and his aunt, Mary Pendarvis.

In another first for the University, all graduates were given the opportunity to wear a white “stole of gratitude” during the ceremony.

Afterward, they presented the stole, which bears the University seal, to a family member, friend, mentor or other individual who has provided extraordinary help or support.

School of Ministry graduate and Sailfish men’s soccer player Joshua Sharpe of Lakeland chose to present two stoles of gratitude – one to his aunt, Mary Pendarvis of Longboat Key, and the other to a family friend, Ron Sumner of Valrico.

“Growing up was really hard. My aunt was like a mother to me,” Sharpe said.

Upon presenting the stole to Sumner, Sharpe told him, “I’m just so thankful for everything you have done.”

Sumner, whose son played soccer with Sharpe, was moved to tears. “He’s a wonderful young man,” he said.

Brenda Johnson, who earned a master’s degree in counseling psychology, said she planned to give her stole to her husband “because he supported me the whole time.”

05/2011General News


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