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USF To Graduate Youngest Student In School History

May 2, 2019

Spring is in the air--and so are graduation caps.

The Spring 2019 graduates from the University of South Florida will make their mark as the largest graduating class in school history. An estimated 7,500 degrees will be handed out during the May commencement ceremonies, but one stands out among the rest.

Drew Falkowitz, 16, will walk across the stage to receive his Bachelor of Science in Cell and Molecular Biology. According to university records, he will be the youngest person to ever graduate from USF.

Falkowitz started reading at 20 months. He says his academic story started in a Montessori school where he advanced rapidly from grade to grade.

“I was moved up to the upper classroom after first grade,” Falkowtiz said. “I was in 4th, 5th, 6th when I would have been in the second grade.”

Then, at the age of nine, he started taking high school classes while in middle school.

“I started doing Florida Virtual School online...while I was in that upper classroom. By the time I was in middle school, I ended up doing their middle school curriculum and then I had to go home and do high school,” said Falkowitz. 

At just 14 years old, he started dual enrollment classes at USF. Then, at 15, he became an official student at the university.

This summer, Falkowitz has a research assistantship at Yale University. He will be back in the fall at USF for his Master’s in Biology. He plans to eventually aim for a doctoral program at another university such as Yale or Johns Hopkins University.

He advises students on similar paths to make an impact with their work.

"You are not your intellect. You’re what you do with it. It doesn't matter how smart you are. It doesn't matter what you know unless you are doing something with it," said Falkowitz.

The ceremonies, which start on Thursday afternoon in Tampa and continue through USF St. Petersburg and USF Sarasota-Manatee before ending next week with USF Health's MD commencement ceremony, are special for another reason--they're the last that System President Judy Genshaft will preside over.

USF President Judy Genshaft, left, seen at a 2015 USF Health commencement ceremony, will preside over her last graduation ceremonies starting Thursday.
Credit Eric Younghans / USF Health Communications

"It's going to be very exciting, it's going to be emotional, it's one that I'll remember forever," she said.

Genshaft, who retires July 1, has seen about 210,000 students graduate during her 18 years leading USF. That's almost 60 percent of the total graduates in the school's more than 60 year history.

"It's thrilling to see this grow and grow because it talks about the student success," she added. "And the fact that people want to walk in the ceremony is phenomenally great, it's teriffic."

This semester's class features graduates from all 50 states and 109 nations. Of those graduating, there are 57 students with a cumulative 4.0 GPA.

Full schedule (all ceremonies at the Yuengling Center at USF Tampa unless otherwise noted)

  • Thursday, May 2, 1:30 p.m. ceremony includes bachelor’s degree recipients from the College of Arts and Sciences. Lynn Pasquerella will receive an honorary doctorate in humanities. Will Weatherford will receive the President’s Fellow Medallion. Chennupati Jagadish will receive the President’s Global Leadership Award.
  • Thursday, May 2, 6 p.m. ceremony includes bachelor’s, master’s and doctoral degree recipients from the USF Health’s Morsani College of Medicine, College of Nursing, College of Pharmacy and College of Public Health. Audrey Heimler will receive an honorary doctorate in public health. David Eddy will receive the President’s Fellow Medallion.
  • Friday, May 3, 9 a.m. ceremony includes bachelor’s degree recipients from the College of Arts and Sciences. Jerry and Ruth Bell will receive the President’s Distinguished Citizen Award.
  • Friday, May 3, 1:30 p.m. ceremony includes bachelor’s degree recipients from the College of Arts and Sciences. Joe Lopano will receive the President’s Global Leadership Award.
  • Friday, May 3, 6 p.m. ceremony includes master’s and doctoral degree recipients from the College of Arts and Sciences, College of Behavioral and Community Sciences and Muma College of Business. Pamela Muma will receive an honorary doctorate in business administration. Richard Gonzmart will receive the President’s Distinguished Citizen Award.
  • Saturday, May 4, 9 a.m. ceremony includes bachelor’s degree recipients from the College of Behavioral and Community Sciences and Muma College of Business. Jeff Vinik will receive the President’s Fellow Medallion. Jose Valiente will receive the President’s Distinguished Citizen Award.
  • Saturday, May 4, 1:30 p.m. ceremony includes bachelor’s degree recipients from the College of Education, College of Engineering, College of The Arts and Undergraduate Studies. Doretha Edgecomb will receive the President’s Distinguished Citizen Award.
  • Saturday, May 4, 6 p.m. ceremony includes master’s and doctoral degree recipients from the College of Education, College of Engineering, Graduate Studies, Patel College of Global Sustainability, College of Marine Science and College of The Arts. Lyle Schwartz will receive the President’s Fellow Medallion. David Mearns will receive the President’s Global Leadership Award.
  • Sunday, May 5, 1 p.m. ceremony includes graduates from the USF St. Petersburg Kate Tiedemann College of Business and College of Education. The ceremony will be held at the Mahaffey Theater in St. Petersburg.
  • Sunday, May 5, 5 p.m. ceremony includes graduates from the USF St. Petersburg College of Arts and Sciences. The ceremony will be held at the Mahaffey Theater.
  • Monday, May 6, 6:30 p.m. ceremony includes all graduates from USF Sarasota-Manatee. The ceremony will be held at the Bradenton Convention Center.
  • Friday, May 10, 2:30 p.m. The USF Health Morsani College of Medicine will also hold an MD commencement ceremony in the Mahaffey Theater. Harlan Krumholtz will receive an honorary doctorate in medicine.