On Monday Aug. 16, Eckerd College held their traditional Ceremony of Lights. The ceremony was originally planned for Aug. 15 but was postponed due to severe thunderstorms. Despite the change of plans, thunderstorms still interrupted the ceremony on its rain date. 

This Ceremony of Lights was unique because it introduced Eckerd’s largest class ever, welcoming 664 first-year students and 54 transfer students. Like in 2020, this year’s ceremony was held outside as opposed to holding it in MacArthur Gymnasium due to the college’s COVID-19 policies. 

The ceremony began with a “Call to Ceremony” led by bagpipers. Vice President for Enrollment Management John Sullivan then spoke first on the many distances Eckerd students travel to start their college journey. 

“This geographic diversity is a distinctive factor of the Eckerd College experience,” Sullivan said. 

Vice President for Student Life and Dean of Students James Annarelli led the “Reception of the Class,” in which he spoke about the incoming class reaching a milestone. It is in this part of the ceremony when the medallions, given to all new students, are acknowledged.

“This Ceremony of Lights expresses, through symbolic language and action, the transition that is taking place in your lives at this very moment,” Annarelli said. 

Eckerd College President Damián Fernández spoke at his second Ceremony of Lights as President, addressing the class about the liberal arts foundation, personal growth and the necessity of civic vitality. 

“The world needs you,” Fernández said to the class. “The world needs well-educated individuals to thrive.” 

Eckerd College Organization of Students President and sophomore Ava McLeod led the “Affirmation of the Honor Pledge” while the weather worsened overhead. In this section, all new students are required to sign the Eckerd College Honor Pledge and Shared Commitment. 

McLeod also touched on the fact that this starts a new chapter in the lives of all the incoming students. 

“I hope that you will use those moments of immense joy and immeasurable struggle to shape Eckerd into a college that is beneficial, inclusive and enjoyable for all,” McLeod said. 

At 7:47 p.m. Vice President for Academic Affairs and Dean of Faculty Suzan Harrison stepped up to the podium and, after adding her brief welcome, told the audience that the ceremony would be ending due to the weather conditions. This eliminated the part of the ceremony where students would light their candles. Instead, students were advised to either go directly back to their residence halls or to the nearest building. 

Assistant Professor of Environmental Studies Joanna Huxster is in her fifth year at Eckerd College and is teaching her first Autumn Term course this year. This was also Huxster’s first Ceremony of Lights. 

“I’m really glad we got to do part of it,” Huxster said. “I’m pretty disappointed we didn’t get to light the candles, but I understand why we are being essentially evacuated right now.” 

Her course, “Is There a War on Science?” is one of 30 Autumn Term courses being taught.

Several new students also expressed their disappointment with the ceremony being cut short.

“We just wish we were able to light the candles and have that moment,” first-year Avi Kapuler said.


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