Under the bright lights of the Stephen C. O’Connell Center, nearly 270 Doctor of Pharmacy students donning caps and gowns walked across the stage and boldly entered the pharmacy profession as graduates of the University of Florida College of Pharmacy on May 14.
The college’s annual commencement ceremony marked the completion of a rigorous four years of training in the Pharm.D. program. During the two-hour ceremony, several commencement speakers offered their words of wisdom to the class of 2022, while each graduate was individually hooded and recognized on the stage.
As names were called, cheers would erupt from family and friends who filled the lower section of the arena. The celebratory ending offered a fitting tribute to the class of 2022, who endured more than two years of a global pandemic during their pharmacy school training.
“There were times when it seemed like there was no light at the end of the tunnel, but from where I’m standing now, that light is pretty bright,” said Paige Dorvé-Lewis, Pharm.D., the senior class representative chosen to speak at the ceremony. “No matter where you end up, we are tied together by the common thread that is the University of Florida, and there is no better way to be tied together.”
During the ceremony, Dawn Bell, Pharm.D., ’92, was presented the college’s Outstanding Alumnus Award. As the vice president and global development head of strategic partnerships at Novartis, she leads business development and portfolio strategy for white space opportunities and has enjoyed a highly successful career in the pharmaceutical industry. Bell has served as a biopharmaceutical executive, a board director, a general manager and a start-up CEO at some of the world’s top pharmaceutical companies. In addition, she is a drug development and commercialization expert, having developed and launched more than 12 innovative medicines across eight therapeutic areas.
In her commencement address, Bell told the class of 2022 that joy, courage and faith are the compasses that direct her journey every day. She encouraged them to find a place in life where their deep gladness fits the greatest need.
“You have the tools to craft the most amazing map of life your imagination can come up with — the most amazing career you can desire,” Bell said. “You are graduating today from one of the best colleges of pharmacy in the country, if not in the world, and your degree will take you wherever your life is telling you where to go.”
The commencement ceremony marked the last as dean for Julie Johnson, Pharm.D., who is stepping down from the position on Aug 1. Johnson shared that commencement was one of the activities she will miss most when she leaves the dean’s office, and she encouraged the graduates to embrace their bright futures in pharmacy.
“I challenge each of our graduates to use the darkness we have experienced in the last few years to help define your life’s light — to let it shape your commitment to a life and career of impact,” Johnson said. “I believe the challenges of the recent years have helped mold you in ways that will serve you well as you enter the launching point of your career.”
Also recognized as members of the UF College of Pharmacy’s class of 2022 were 10 Ph.D. and 98 Master of Science in Pharmacy graduates. Their degrees were conferred at university-wide ceremonies on April 28 and 29.