In a speech heavy on positivity and spunk, former astronaut Mae Jemison told Florida Southern College students that as a youngster, she knew she was going to go into space even though no woman or person of color had become an astronaut yet.
As speaker at the college’s Founders Day Convocation, Jemison urged students to look upward and feel a connection with people all over the same Earth looking up toward space and seeing the same sky.
And she urged them to pursue their dreams. During her own college years, Jemison pursued divergent interests in science and art, majoring in chemical engineering at Standord but also considering a career in dance. Science won out, and she became a medical doctor before serving as a NASA astronaut for six years.
Since then, she has founded two technology firms, a foundation promoting STEM education and in 2017 spearheaded LookUp, designed to connect people to space, Earth and each other.
Jemison was robed today as Florida Southern’s 85th honorary chancellor in a ceremony at Branscomb Auditory heavy on academic pomp but also full of mercifully short thank-you speeches from award winners.
Distinguished Alumni Achievement Awards went to:
- Barney Barnett of Lakeland, class of 1965, soon to retire as board vice-chairman at Publix Super Markets.
- William A. Chope of Grosse Pointe Farms, Mich., class of 1971, co-founder and president of Crest Automotive Group.
- Albert V. Misan of Miami and Lakeland, class of 1972, who retired as Citibank’s managing director of international accounts.
Religion professor Sara Fletcher Harding won the Ben and Janice Wade Outstanding Teaching Award.
Student awards went to:
- Alec Bigness of Englewood, a graduating senior, who won the 2019 President’s Scholar Medal. The chemistry major is top in his class and plans to start medical school this fall.
- Natalie Barton of Rockledge, a nursing major, was selected for the Honor Walk.
- Jordan Carr of Sarasota, a biology major, was also selected for the Honor Walk. It’s only the second time two graduated seniors won the distinction.
Today’s convocation marked the start of Florida Southern’s Homecoming Weekend.