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2024 commencement highlights | Video by: Torie Doll

USF graduates, families embrace long-awaited commencement traditions

By: Cassidy Delamarter, University Communications and Marketing

Antonio smiling on stage

Antonio Molina walking across the stage | Photo by: Torie Doll 

After a journey marked by pandemic disruptions and challenges, many students in the class of 2024 finally had their moment. Friends and families filled USF’s Yuengling Center to proudly watch as graduates shook hands with USF President Rhea Law and turn their tassels – fulfilling a long-awaited dream for many after the pandemic canceled their high school graduation ceremonies.

“My family and friends flew in from all over the country to help me celebrate,” said Audrey Filling, a USF Green & Gold Scholar who majored in environmental science and policy. Like many of her peers, Filling missed traditional high school experiences, including prom, and never had the chance to walk across the stage to graduate high school and celebrate her successes. So this ceremony, as she said, was extra special.

Hausman Family

Hausman family | Photo by: Cassidy Delamarter

Antonio Molina was the first in his family to graduate from college. The finance major said he waited eight years to celebrate his education. “My high school sent us home for spring break, and then two weeks at home, turned into the rest of the year. So, how I got my diploma, was I drove through the student drop-off area of the school, and then they just handed me my diploma. That was my final goodbye from high school.”

The Hausman family said they were incredibly thankful for the opportunity to finally see their daughter and granddaughter, Grace Hausman, cross the stage and receive her bachelor’s degree in.

“As her father, it was difficult to watch as she lost so many special events at the end of her senior year of high school, including her graduation, in 2020,” Blake Hausman said. “She began college at USF under unusual conditions, but Grace always made the best of it with a smile of her face. She deserves this day and so much more, and we are so happy to share it with her.”

  • Judy Genshaft greeting her son, Bryan Greenbaum, on stage as he received his diploma | Photo by: Casey Brooke Lawson

  • “It’s incredible finally getting to the finish line and being able to celebrate this time,” said Nelson Martinez Chiang, who graduated with a degree in environmental science and policy. His high school graduation in 2020 was canceled. | Photo by: Cassidy Delamarter

  • Grace Hausman, integrated public relations and advertising 

     

  • Aidan Cawley, a USF St. Petersburg Rocky mascot, wearing his Rocky uniform at graduation to reveal his identity. Read more about his experience at USF and how he became a Rocky mascot . | Photo by: Casey Brooke Lawson

  • Audrey Filling, a USF Green & Gold Scholar who majored in environmental science and policy | Photo by: Cassidy Delamarter

Among the 7,063 degrees conferred, 168 were awarded to veterans, such as Kendrick Williams Jr., who served in the U.S. Army before enrolling at USF.

“I’ve faced many challenges, along with a very tough transition from the military and throughout life being raised by a single mother,” he said. “My family has played an instrumental role in assisting my mother and helping to raise and support me. For them, it was a blessing to see me graduate.”

That’s why 32 of his relatives flew in from the Bahamas, Turks & Caicos and Canada to see him graduate – the first in his family to do so – including his grandma who recently suffered a stroke. 

Looking ahead, Williams and the graduates are excited for what the future holds.

“I am forever grateful for my USF family, go Bulls,” Filling said.

Learn more about some of our other recent graduates here.

Kendrick's family

Kendrick Williams Jr. graduated with his master of science in management surrounded by 32 family members, who flew in from all over the globe to support him. | Photo by: Corey Lepak

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