Last week I had a cool customer experience. I was close to wrapping up a transaction with a Sprouts customer when I mentioned I graduated from USF (University of South Florida). She said, “Oh, wow, I went to USF, too.” “Oh, when did you graduate?” She had to think. I sometimes have to remind myself too. “1990.” “Spring?” “Yeah.” “So, you remember Ray Charles getting an honorary doctorate?” “YEAH, Yes, I do. People were yelling for him to sing.” “Yep, I was there, with the worst hangover I’ve ever had in my entire life.” She laughed and I said, “Yeah, because of family issues I was on the eleven year plan, so I started celebrating the night before.” She laughed and said, “I don’t blame you. You got it done.”
She was an education major, so we might have had some coursework overlap in the psych department. It just shows how small the world can be, even if we are still in the same state.
I neglected to mention that part of my eleven year plan included majoring in electives for about two years. Hey, I was spending my waitressing tips; I didn’t get loans right from the start.
The coolest part of my graduation ceremony, besides that it ended and I didn’t kill myself in spike heels, was Ray Charles. What a voice. What an interesting life. Part of his life was spent attending the Florida School for the Deaf and the Blind, in St. Augustine. After graduating from that school he moved to Jacksonville. In 1947 he moved to Tampa, hence the USF connection. So, we can kind of claim him as a native son. I absolutely love his rendition of, “Georgia on My Mind.”
I forget how many graduates were crammed into USF’s Sun Done, which had the claim to fame of being one of a few stadiums built with a Teflon roof that, I believe, was inflated. I recall several events concerning students climbing up onto it to use it as a bounce house. I think UF, in Gainesville, had the same issue with a Teflon roofed stadium also.
I’m sure there were multiple thousands of students earning bachelor’s, master’s and doctoral degrees that day. I can’t recall if the medical students graduated with us or had their own ceremony. I do know that at the time, USF was the second largest public university in the Southeast, with a student body of around 30,000. That number sounds downright quaint compared to today.
In 1990 University of Central Florida, right here in Orlando, lagged behind USF in student body size by a lot. Now, UCF is the largest public university in the US, with, at least, 60,000 students. That is a small city.
I’m proud of my years at USF. Those were fun, great, mind and soul expanding years. My dad used to say, “You can get a good education anywhere, you just have to be motivated.” During the early years, USF was nicknamed, “Coppertone U,” a derision we serious students rolled our eyes at. The inventor of that nickname, apparently, was ignorant of the fact that the school sat a good 50-60 miles from the Gulf beaches. I bet he (and I bet it WAS a he) thought that was close enough.
That nickname didn’t stick and USF has become a leading research school in the country. Good for everyone associated with USF.