New College Celebrates 43rd Commencement with 158 Graduates and Guest Speaker Alumna Sharon Matola

(May 22, 2009) – New College of Florida celebrated its 43rd annual commencement this evening under sunny skies and a spectacular sunset, despite rains throughout the week leading up to the event, with 158 graduates accepting their diplomas on the great lawn behind College Hall. This year’s graduating class of outstanding scholars included six Fulbright Fellows and four recipients of French Government Teaching Assistantships, as well as a host of other award winners.

Kicking off the ceremony, New College president Gordon E. “Mike” Michalson spoke about the pride he felt for such an exceptional group of students.

“The very idea of the residential liberal arts college focuses our attention on the power of multiple aptitudes in combination – including intelligence, problem-solving skills, and persistence.  You have not only succeeded here academically, but you have also managed your time, made lasting life decisions and dealt with personal and social complications of all sorts, all the while remaining linked to your families during a period of unnerving economic upheaval,” said Michalson.

Michalson introduced guest speaker Sharon Matola, a New College alumna and Belize Zoo founder whom ABC’s Nightline has called the “Jane Goodall of Belize.” Matola spoke about the drive, initiative and commitment that were fostered through her New College experience.

“I can say without reservation that if I had not attended New College I would not be here speaking with you now,” Matola said as she addressed the graduates. “You are all wonderfully talented and gifted. The world needs you guys more than you realize. It’s time for you to do your dance, and when you do, dance like nobody’s watching.”

More than 1,500 family members, alums and guests celebrated this year’s graduates.

Click here for a complete listing of this year’s graduating class.

Click here for photos from this year’s commencement week activities, including Commencement 2009.

Click here to read New College President Mike Michalson’s message to the Class of 2009.

For more information on New College’s 43rd Annual Commencement, visit the New College commencement home page or contact Aimee Chouinard, media relations coordinator, at (941) 487-4152 or


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