On May 6, Florida Tech conferred more than 1,400 degrees on undergraduate and graduate students. I had the honor of leading the ceremonies and seeing the results of the hard work and unflagging commitment these students put forth to achieve their goals.
I was reminded of those qualities on another occasion on that special Saturday, too, and it also also involved degrees. Though these recipients were not there in person, the results of their hard work, intelligence and passion are spread across our campus, and our community, to the benefit of us all.
Five years after he arrived from his native Norway with his family in 1984, Bjornar Hermansen joined our Board of Trustees. By then he had already helped start a cruise line that would go on to reshape Port Canaveral and the cruise industry itself.
As you might expect, his impact on our board, on which he served until his passing in December 2015, was deep and long-lasting. He was a steadfast advocate for Florida Tech’s commitment to global education, and that critical area of our programming grew during his tenure, nurtured in part by his attention and counsel.
He and his lovely wife Bjorg, who passed away last October, also funded two scholarship programs here, in addition to supporting our Foosaner Art Museum.
And in January, Mary Helen and I were honored to establish the Bjornar K. Hermansen Ocean Engineering Professorship. On May 6, Florida Tech took another step toward highlighting Bjornar’s significance to our university by conferring on him an honorary doctorate.
Like Mr. Hermansen, the second recipient we honored made contributions that were wide ranging and substantial, both on campus and beyond.
Nathan M. Bisk was a visionary man and an innovator. Already an accomplished accountant, he was attending law school at the University of Florida in 1971 when he took, and passed, his Certified Public Accountant exam. But he found that access to good test preparation materials was lacking.
So what did he do? Create Bisk Education to offer seminars for folks preparing for the CPA exam. Today, Bisk is the leading online program management company in the country. With over 800 employees, Bisk has facilitated more than one million enrollments for university partners including Florida Tech.
Mr. Bisk’s connection to Florida Tech, however, ran far deeper than the contract to develop and support the university’s online learning programs. He served for nearly eight years as a member of our Board of Trustees before stepping down in January. And in 2009 and again in 2014, he provided substantial gifts to support what we now know as the Nathan Bisk College of Business.
Mr. Bisk passed away at his Tampa home on March 6, but his legacy at Florida Tech, across cyberspace, and throughout the education spectrum, is secure.