April 10, 2012—New College of Florida has announced that President Gordon E. “Mike” Michalson, Jr. will give the keynote address at New College’s 46th Commencement on Friday, May 25, 2012. This year, approximately 190 students are expected to receive Bachelor of Arts degrees from the state’s honors college for the liberal arts and sciences. The ceremony begins at 7 p.m. on the New College bay front behind College Hall.
Last year’s speaker was prominent Holocaust educator Dr. Helen N. Fagin. The choice of commencement speaker is made by the graduating students.
“With fond remembrances of Dr. Michalson’s eloquence, from the first orientation speech to commencements past to personal conversations, students will appreciate his speech during the capstone of their time at New College, which will also mark the culmination of his presidency,” said Dana Ziegler, vice president of public affairs for the New College Student Alliance (NCSA).
Michalson has served as president of New College since July of 2001 when the College gained independence as the honors college of the State of Florida. Upon his retirement as president, effective July 1, 2012, Michalson will have served as chief administrative officer of New College for 16 of the past 20 years, including five years as dean and warden (1992–1997), while the College was still part of the University of South Florida. Michalson is the longest-serving president in the history of New College. Dr. Donal O’Shea will succeed him as president, effective July 1, 2012.
Ziegler said that Michalson’s speech will be, in his own words, the “swan song” to his leadership as chief administrator prior to New College’s independence and decade of service as president of New College.
“Dr. Michalson has seen the graduating class through an abundance of construction and renovation projects to accommodate the expansion of the student body—including the Black Box Theater, Palm Court, the new Academic Center and pending seawall reconstruction—the 50th anniversary celebration and continued academic excellence and accolades under his stewardship in the face of economic hardships faced by the institution,” noted Ziegler.
Recognized as a foremost scholar on Immanuel Kant and the philosophy of religion, Michalson is the author of four books and currently has a contract pending with Cambridge University Press for a new scholarly book, at the request of the publisher. He served as American consulting editor of The Blackwell Encyclopedia of Modern Christian Thought and is the recipient of five National Endowment for the Humanities research grants. He is a magna cum laude graduate of Yale University, holds a master’s degree from the Claremont School of Theology and earned his doctorate “with distinction” from Princeton University.
Prior to his arrival at New College, Michalson taught at Davidson College from 1975–77 before beginning a 15-year stint at Oberlin College, where he chaired the religion department and directed the Danenberg Oberlin-in-London program. He was also an NEH “Distinguished Scholar” at Bucknell University and a visiting professor in the Department of Religious Studies at Brown University in 2001. He has held visiting posts at Yale, Princeton and Linacre College, Oxford.
As an administrator, Michalson has been a leader in regional higher education, having served as president of the Florida Association of Colleges and Universities and of the Southern University Conference, both associations of college and university presidents. He is currently a trustee of the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges. His other board affiliations include the Leroy Collins Institute, The Greater Sarasota Chamber of Commerce and Humanity Working to End Genocide. Michalson is also a member of the Honorary Advisory Board for the Children’s Guardian Fund.
Michalson lives in Sarasota with his wife, Susannah, and their son, Elliott.