Campus Life

Fall 2012 Commencement showcases success of University of West Florida graduates

The University of West Florida held its Fall 2012 Commencement ceremony on Saturday, Dec. 15 at 9:30 a.m. at the Pensacola Bay Center. Senator Don Gaetz delivered the Commencement Address. A total of 998 bachelor’s, master’s, specialist and doctorate students received degrees.

Each spring and fall, Commencement highlights UWF graduates whose success can be attributed to the quality academic programs offered by the university.

Lacey Berry is an undergraduate student who jumpstarted her career by starting her own business before she earned her degree. Berry graduated with a bachelor’s degree in Communication Arts on Saturday. In February, Berry combined her graphic design education with her passion for jewelry to launch Lacey.B Designs, a handcrafted jewelry company. Berry attributes much of her success to the education she received at UWF.

“My graphic design degree plays a role in every part of my business,” she said. “The design aspect is crucial when I craft new pieces, and I also utilize my art history education to come up with new ideas. I save a lot of money by not having to hire an advertising or marketing representative, because I learned how to do that in my courses.”

Berry comes from a long line of successful UWF graduates, including Judge Lacey Collier, who received a master’s degree from UWF in 1972 and a bachelor’s in accounting in 1975. Her mother, Lorrie (Collier) Berry graduated in 2006 with a bachelor’s degree in philosophy.  She currently works as an IT recruiter for CED Technical Services. Berry’s brother, Grayson, graduated in 2005 with a degree in interdisciplinary sciences. He serves as project manager at Hail Studio, a Pensacola-based web design and development company.

UWF graduate students also achieve success early in their careers. Valeria Lento, Master of Arts in Strategic Communication and Leadership, was recently nominated as the vice president of planning and research for the Florida Public Relations Association. Lento currently serves as the director of communications for Visit Pensacola, where she is responsible for promoting the Pensacola Bay Area through media relations and integrated marketing communication campaigns.

Dr. Angela F. Godwin, a first-generation student, has dedicated time, energy and effort to accomplish her dream of obtaining high leadership roles within the Department of the United States Air Force, where she currently serves as a supervisory financial manager. In pursuit of that goal, Godwin graduated on Saturday with a Doctorate of Education degree. Godwin said she wants her courage to overcome obstacles in the pursuit of achieving her dreams to be an inspiration for single women and first-generation students.

During the ceremony, President Judy Bense recognized Dr. Carl Backman, General Charles “Chuck” Horner, Ret., and Collier Merrill for their contributions to the university and the Northwest Florida community.

Backman, assistant dean of the College of Business, is the first recipient of the Founder’s Medallion. The Medallion was established in 2006 in honor of the faculty, staff and community visionaries who were leaders in establishing the university. It is awarded to those who exemplify the founding ideals and vision of UWF.

General Horner, chairman of the Board of Trustees, and Merrill, former chairman and current member of the Board, were awarded Presidential Medals of Honor. The award is given to those who have distinguished themselves by their actions and have contributed in some manner to the wellbeing of the university and Northwest Florida, primarily through public service and philanthropy. Both Horner and Merrill will retire from the Board in January, after serving for 12 years.

UWF honorary award recipients are chosen by the Honorary Awards and Recognition Committee (HARC), based on nominations from UWF stakeholders, including faculty, staff, alumni, students and Board of Trustee or advisory group members. For nomination information and award criteria, visit