JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – The clouds and cool temperatures didn’t chill the enthusiasm or dampen the cheer of the friends and family of the nearly 300 students who received their degrees at the annual fall commencement ceremony today at Jacksonville University. Keynote speaker Carolyn Munro Wilson’69, ’77, ’89, president of the George M. Cohen Foundation and a member of the JU Board of Trustees, encouraged graduates to branch out into new interests and explore the world.
Munro Wilson started her address by asking if the graduates remembered their first time seeing JU’s campus, recalling that she was 10 years old the first time she visited.
“This campus was absolutely gorgeous with large old oak trees everywhere. We came to pick up my older brother,” she explained. “I could see grown-ups and professors in the classrooms. It was my first time seeing real grown-ups in school. The impact on me was huge!”
That early impression is apparent in the way Munro Wilson has made education her life’s work. She also highlighted how this graduating class had witnessed a number of changes to the campus.
“We have a new entrance and fence, a new football field and track, a new Marine Science Research Institute, new pianos and the list of wonderful improvements goes on,” she said.
Acknowledging the tough economic climate of the world today, she reminded students to stay strong as they pursued their goals going forward.
“You will need all the hope, courage and strength you can muster. Do not become discouraged. Do not let yourself be flooded by fear, anxiety, or fog. Small steps and little improvements will help you become successful.”
She also counseled graduates to explore new territory and experience as much of life as it has to offer.
“As you grow and mature, try to branch out into new interests,” she advised. “Explore the world. Experience music, athletics, theater, festivals, art galleries and all the different venues you can find.”
An Honorary Doctor of Humane Letters was conferred on Munro Wilson. Fellow JU trustee Fred Pruitt ’69 ’85 introduced her and explained how her presence is felt. “No matter what we are working on, she always keeps our focus where it needs to be – on the students,” Pruitt said.
An arts enthusiast, Munro Wilson earned a Bachelor of Arts in elementary education and two master’s degrees. Through the George M. Cohen Foundation, she has worked to fund scholarships and academic and athletic programs at JU, and to provide resources for teachers in public and private schools.
Munro Wilson was instrumental in the completion of the renovated Davis Student Commons and is the namesake of the third-floor conference room, as well as Wilson Hall at the Campus Village Apartments. Wilson also created the "Fine Arts vs. Athletics" challenge. The goal was to increase attendance and support in both athletic and fine arts events, and to give the student-athletes a broader view of the University's fine arts offerings.
In 1996, she received JU’s Distinguished Alumna Award for her leadership in philanthropy and her work in advancing JU and higher education in general. The University honored her again in 2009 with the Community Woman of the Year Award.
One graduate, Hazel Elizabeth Nader, was honored with the prestigious Fred B. Noble Medal for Scholarship for achieving a 4.0 grade point average.
The University's Navy ROTC Program commissioned one officer. JU's NROTC program also serves students at the University of North Florida and Florida Community College at Jacksonville.