USF To Award More Than 6,000 Degrees

May 5, 2017

Almost 6,500 students from across the University of South Florida System will receive their degrees this weekend during nine ceremonies in the school's 111th commencement convocation. 

More than 5,700 degrees will be awarded at the USF Tampa campus, around 500 at USF St. Petersburg and almost 300 at USF Sarasota-Manatee. 

Graduates come from all 50 states and more than 100 nations. 

Thirty-nine graduates will join the armed forces as commissioned officers, along with more than 200 student veterans graduating as well.

The youngest graduate is 18-year-old Youssef Mohamed, who's receiving a bachelor's degree in Biomedical Sciences at USF Tampa. His brother, Ahmed, was 18 when he graduated from USF last year and became the first USF student ever to enroll in law school and medical school simultaneously. 

The oldest graduate, 78-year-old John Steinmeyer, is receiving a master's in Liberal Arts, also from USF Tampa. 

The USF Alumni Association's Spring 2017 Outstanding Graduates (l-r): Natalie Soyster, USF Tampa; Hunter Paul Drake, USF St. Petersburg; Katerina S. Pluhacek, USF Sarasota-Manatee.
Credit USF Alumni Association

Thirty-four students are graduating as King O'Neal Scholars with a perfect 4.0 GPA.

One of those scholars, Natalie Soyster, has been named the USF Alumni Association's Outstanding Graduate on the Tampa campus. She's receiving two bachelor's degrees: one in cell and molecular biology and another in psychology. She'll be attending medical school in the fall.

Katerina Pluhacek, who moved to the U.S. seven years ago without family and no knowledge of English, is the Outstanding Graduate at USF Sarasota-Manatee. She will receive a bachelor's in general business administration and plans to attend law school.

Hunter Paul Drake, who's receiving a bachelor's in psychology, is the Outstanding Graduate at USF St. Petersburg. Drake struggled for years with an unsatisfying career, illness and homelessness before going back to school at 42. He will continue studying at USFSP, pursuing a master's in psychology.

USF MBA student Sam Bridgman (with check) poses with employees of donor JPMorgan Chase at the 2015 USF Muma College of Business Scholarship Luncheon. Bridgman, who has Friedrich's ataxia will attempt to walk across the stage at Saturday night's commencement at USF Tampa.
Credit USF Muma College of Business

Among other notable graduates is Sam Bridgman, who we profiled on University Beat in 2015. 

Bridgman, who will receive both an MBA and master's in sport and entertainment management at Saturday night's ceremony, plans to, with the help of two friends, stand up and walk across the stage to receive his degree.

Bridgman, 25, was diagnosed a decade ago with Friedrich's ataxia, a progressive, life-shortening disease that causes loss of coordination.

He's been confined to a wheelchair since 18, but received national media attention when he got up from his chair and walked during his 2013 graduation ceremony at the University of Portland. 

Bridgman has been working as a resident with the Tampa Bay Lightning, and will start a full-time job with the organization upon graduation. 

Full Commencement Schedule

USF Tampa (Sun Dome):
- Friday, May 5, 9 a.m. ceremony includes undergraduates from the College of Arts and Sciences.  Dr. Phillip Furman, vice president of biological sciences at Pharmasset, Inc., will receive an honorary doctorate of science.
- Friday, May 5, 1:30 p.m. ceremony includes undergraduates from the College of Arts and Sciences.  Dr. Ibrahim Gambari, who was the first under-secretary-general and special adviser to the secretary-general on Africa, will receive the President’s Global Leadership Award.
- Friday, May 5, 6 p.m. ceremony includes bachelor’s, master’s and doctoral degree recipients from USF Health.  Dr. Julio Frenk, president of the University of Miami, will receive an honorary doctorate of public health.
- Saturday, May 6, 9 a.m. ceremony includes undergraduates from the Muma College of Business and College of Engineering.  
- Saturday, May 6, 1:30 p.m. ceremony includes undergraduates from the College of Behavioral and Community Sciences, College of Education, Undergraduate Studies and the College of the Arts.  Dr. Michael Gessler, professor and chair of the Institute for Technology and Education at the University of Bremen in Germany, will receive an honorary doctorate of education.
- Saturday, May 6, 6 p.m. ceremony includes master’s and doctoral degree recipients.  Dr. France Cordova, director of the National Science Foundation, will receive the President’s Global Leadership Award.

USF St. Petersburg
- Sunday, May 7, 2 p.m. and 6 p.m. ceremonies for at the Mahaffey Theatre.

USF Sarasota-Manatee
- Monday, May 8, 6:30 p.m. ceremony for USF Sarasota-Manatee at the Bradenton Area Convention Center.

You can find more information, including a link to a live webstream of the Tampa ceremonies at usf.edu/commencement. Graduates are invited to share their graduation moments from the weekend by using #‎USFGRAD.