SAINT AUGUSTINE — If anyone had a reason not to cross the graduation stage April 29 it would have been Cassandra (Honour) Kelly. The Flagler College Education major has battled a rare form of bone cancer since childhood — one that leaves her with a feeling of arthritis deep in her bones — and was recently diagnosed with epilepsy. But those obstacles have done nothing to slow her tenacious drive.
“I don’t put my life on hold,” she said. “I take every opportunity I’m given. Graduation was not just me walking across a stage today. It signified many years of triumph, perseverance, hard work and uphill and downhill battles.”
Her ambition has translated into taking advantage of student teaching opportunities at several area St. Johns County schools, earning the college’s Departmental Award in Exceptional Student Education and attaining numerous honors throughout her undergraduate career.
The April 29 ceremony marked another milestone. Kelly joined 358 other students in earning their college diplomas at the St. Augustine Amphitheater.
Motivational speaker Doug Dvorak, ’84, served as the spring commencement speaker. During his talk, he spoke to the graduating class about the importance of leaving a lasting legacy. He emphasized the impact of retiring Dr. William T. Abare, Jr., who today handed out diplomas to graduating students for the last time as president of the college.
“Dr. Abare started in 1971, when Flagler College only consisted of the old Ponce de Leon hotel and Markland House,” Dvorak said. “He took a risk on Flagler, on building a college. Class of 2017, what will your legacy be?”
The alumnus encouraged students to be motivated, stay focused and finish something: “Take risks like Dr. Abare did, and dare to swim in the rough waters.”
Dvorak highlighted five legacy lessons for Flagler students: “You will fail often,” he said. “The quality of your life is directly proportional to the commitment of excellence you choose to make in your field of endeavor; keep moving forward; never, never give up; and remember that success is not getting what you want, but wanting what you have.”
At the end of his talk, Flagler College President Dr. William T. Abare, Jr. conferred on Dvorak an honorary Doctor of Laws degree for his distinguished career and accomplishments in sales and marketing.
In addition, Vice President of Academic Affairs Dr. Alan Woolfolk presented the President’s Award for Leadership to student Mary-Jo Lendering and the President’s Award for Service to Christopher Rhodes.
Later in the day, the college’s Public Administration (PAD) program graduated 14 seniors in a second ceremony today in the Flagler College Lewis Auditorium.
The PAD program is designed specifically to meet the educational and career objectives of public sector professionals and includes courses such as management, program evaluation, public budgeting, human resources, administrative ethics, public policy and grant writing.