My oldest, Zack, graduated cum laude from The University of Central Florida this morning, May 2, 2013. The kid is a smart grabber – he must have got all those genes from Mr. Duck. Zack also graduated “with honors” – meaning from the Burnett Honors College – and “with honors in the major.” The latter means he’s truly nuts and also completed a mini-thesis guided by engineering guru Dr. Ali P. Gordon of the Dpt of Mechanical & Aerospace Engineering.

We got a chance to meet Dr. Gordon at the Honor’s convocation last night, 5/1.  He was clearly brilliant – a gifted professional – and yet he spoke so highly of Zack’s work.  Zack would be the first to say how much he was guided and influenced by Dr. Gordon.  Zack said one of his big motivations was not wanting to disappoint Dr. Gordon.  That speaks volumes about how gifted the good Dr. Gordon is as an education professional.  His guidance on Zack’s thesis attests to Dr. Gordon’s gifts as an engineer.

At the graduation his morning 7,800 graduated from the Arts and Humanities Colleges and the College of Engineering and Computer Science.  They got the ceremony completed in 2 hours – an amazing feat – and they did it without “shortchanging” anything.  This afternoon, 5/2/13, is another graduation of different colleges.  (Bill Clinton will speak at this one).  Our speaker this morning was Dr. Peter Delfeyett of UCF’s College of Optics and Photonics.  Dr. Delfeyett spoke in stories.  I understood the motivational parts of the tales and found them very inspiring.  I was very impressed by Dr. Delfeyett’s current work with DARPA (the group that invented the internet).  Dr. Delfeyett is working on a project using lasers and their color spectrum to make the internet faster.  Cutting edge stuff, right?

Zack’s entire experience at UCF has been first class and cutting edge.  He was a National Merit Scholar and UCF offers a full ride – full, no holds barred scholarship – to National Merit Scholars who put UCF down as their first choice on the selection form.  You know how most things that look too good to be true turn out to be a lot less than advertised?  Right after Zack accepted UCF’s offer, I scanned a copy of his scholarship to my desktops at home and at work because – I expected trouble.  You know what?  I NEVER GOT IT.  UCF said what it meant and it meant what it said and that’s a life lesson that all of our kids (and their parents) could use.

The ceremony was wonderful – bagpipes and all.  I cried.  Of course, I did.  But they were happy tears for my son’s grand achievement.  I’m very, very, proud of him.  They were also tears of gratitude to the University of Central Florida.  My son’s dream has always been to become an engineer.  Today, he graduated with a BS in Mechanical Engineering and in the fall he will take the FE exam in South Carolina.  UCF isn’t at Disney and I didn’t see Cinderella’s coach anywhere, but the school surely must have absorbed a touch of all that magic.  Certainly, in many ways, UCF has been a “fairy godparent” to my son.  Wave a scholarship and poof – some hard work, a first rate faculty, staff and facilities and 4 years later —  my son’s dream is coming true.

If you’re looking for a University that can give you the keys to your dreams, I invite you to take a look at UCF.  AND IF YOU’RE A NATIONAL MERIT SCHOLAR OR THE PARENT OF ONE — you’re losing the opportunity of a lifetime if you don’t visit UCF and give it serious consideration as that “first choice” selection.  Yes, this is an emotional tribute to my eldest son who is one of my heroes, but it is also a real-life tribute to UCF from the mother of a National Merit Scholar.

UCF fosters and encourages an environment where children, fresh from high school, enter to explore, give, grow and learn – guided by a vast array of professionals who are the best in their fields.  Those high school children leave  as young men and women who have learned lessons that pave the path to their dreams.  My son is on his way to realizing his dreams. I hope that many of your sons and daughters find their “fairy godparent” at the University of Central Florida.

Thank you Dr. Gordon and Thank you UCF!!  We need many more places like UCF – where magic meets hard work and where a promise made is a promise kept.

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