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Graduates Encouraged to Keep Spinning Forward

Published: December 21, 2009
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Amidst cheers from families who came to the ceremony with bouquets of flowers and congratulatory balloons, 388 bachelor’s and master’s degree candidates crossed the stage in the Bob Martinez Sports Center on Dec. 19 for the University of Tampa’s 127th commencement ceremony.

“We hope to have ignited in you a constant hunger for education,” said UT President Ronald L. Vaughn. “So live to learn.”

Dr. Gary Luter, professor of speech and theatre, gave the commencement address as the recipient of the Louise Loy Hunter Award, which is given for excellence in teaching and cumulative contributions in service and scholarship.

“You should be pleased with yourself, but not too pleased,” Luter said to the degree candidates Saturday. “Now the great work begins.”

Luter challenged the graduates to question tradition and work for change when tradition no longer has meaning. He said that an inquisitive nature is progressive and places humankind on an enlightened path.

“Doubt the old, discover the new, adjust your beliefs constantly and keep spinning forward,” he said.

Luter, director of the Honors Program at UT since 2008, started teaching at the University more than 30 years ago. He helped grow the theatre program to include two degree programs in theatre, a selection of majors and minors, a fully equipped stage, scene and costume shops and seven full-time faculty members.

Luter supports the Equality Project of the Gay, Lesbian, Straight Education Network, an organization that promotes a safe environment for gays and lesbians in secondary schools, and he has chaired the education committee for the Human Rights Task Force of Florida. He is on the board of the Florida Collegiate Honors Council and is an honorary board member of Stageworks Theatre Company.

Eugene McNichols, chairman of the Board of Trustees, congratulated the graduates on the choices that led them to pursue a college degree, that led them to the University of Tampa and that led them to that moment on Saturday, having successfully completed their degree requirements.

“You now have a few critical choices ahead of you,” McNichols said, including choosing membership in UT’s alumni association and giving thanks to family and friends for helping them through this interval of their lives. “Make choices based on integrity, love for others and kindness towards all.”

The University hosts two commencement ceremonies a year in the spring and in the winter. May Commencement will be held May 8, 2010, at the St. Pete Times Forum, 401 Channelside Drive, in Tampa.