Instead of having a keynote speaker at the Lakeland Chamber of Commerce meeting on Feb. 2, the members of the Chamber watched as Florida Southern College put on a presentation called “Ashes to Excellence.”

The event marked the first time that the Lakeland Chamber of Commerce showcased an organization, as opposed to an individual speaker.

“Usually at that chamber event, they have a major corporate speaker come…but this year, the President of the Chamber of Commerce Board was a Florida Southern alumnus, so he asked the chamber committee if they would be receptive to featuring an overview of the excellence of Florida Southern,” Dr. Anne Kerr, FSC’s president, said. “So they did that, and he and the executive director of the chamber came and asked me if we were willing to do a program on all of the great attributes of Florida Southern, as their major program for the year.”

A video played, showing photos from FSC’s beginnings, as well as when the college was rebuilt. NFocus was responsible for the technology on Feb. 2, and for filming the performance.

Actors came onto stage dressed as figures from FSC’s past, including President Allan Spivey and Frank Lloyd Wright, and recited dialogues.

Children from Robert’s Academy, an FSC-affiliated school for children with dyslexia, sang.

Members of the FSC wind ensemble and choir performed at the end of the piece, showcasing FSC’s Fine Arts series, as well as the music department. For the finale, the wind ensemble and choir came together to sing “America The Beautiful.”

At the end of the fall semester, members of the music department got together to discuss the upcoming presentation and his or her role in it.

“We had several meetings with the ensemble directors, me, Dr. Gibbs, Ms. Parsché, and then the president, and then NFocus, which was the group that helped put all this together,” Dr. Jo Jossim, associate professor of music and director of bands, said.

Jossim said that having students play, instead of hired performers, was significant.

“The president could have asked anyone to do this. She could have gone and hired professional groups, she could have gone in any other way, but the fact that she thought about the music department and said ‘Wow, I want them to be part of it,’ was a big privilege for us,” Jossim said.

Dr. Mary Gibbs, assistant professor of music and choir director, believes that the experience also served as a lesson to the performers.

“We are teaching them [students], all parts of the field, whether they’re going to be in education, or performance or management or other majors across the campus, we’re teaching them all aspects of what a music performer can do, but also being a community member,” Gibbs said. 

The presentation also emphasized the role that FSC has played in Lakeland’s economy. Before the program began, FSC’s economic impact for the Lakeland area was broken down into the money injected into the local economy through building projects, students, faculty, staff, tourists and more.

“Florida Southern has been a major economic driver of the success of Lakeland and the central region of Florida,” Kerr said. “I was really gratified that it was numerically conveyed last night, and I think that many people were not aware of the economic impact we’ve had here.”

Kerr said that she believed that the night had been a success.

“I was telling our director on staff, our Vice-president [of external relations] Rob Tate, ‘This will never happen again. We can never top that,’” Dr. Kerr said. “And he just said, ‘You wait. Other great things are going to happen.’ It was just that moment in time that was glorious.”


(Screenshot of the film by NFocus courtesy of the President’s Office.)


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