All 462 of Gulf Coast High School’s graduating seniors went to Florida Gulf Coast University – to get their diplomas, that is.
The ceremony, held at Alico Arena on FGCU’s campus to accommodate everyone comfortably, also served as a memorial for Frank Tudryn, the beloved football coach who died last month. Tudryn lost his battle with esophageal and liver cancer May 19.
The graduation program still had his name under the list of faculty; its back cover stated the ceremony was in his memory.
Tudryn’s successor, Andrew Miranti, knew that the Sharks’ popular coach was on a lot of people’s minds during the ceremony.
“It’s a different feeling without him on the sidelines, and I’m sure it’s a similar feeling now that he’s not here this afternoon,” Miranti said.
Miranti, 33, worked with Tudryn as assistant coach. Miranti remembers that Tudryn’s strength encouraged others.
“The one thing he instilled in all of us is never quit,” he said.
Like many of the parents there, Diana Toska, 45, was proud of her youngest daughter Anxhela, 18, for graduating. Diana, who finished high school in her native Albania, worked on a government-owned farm during the day and going to class at night to earn her diploma. After all of Diana's hard work there was no ceremonial graduation.
“Albania was very old fashioned,” she said.
Seeing Anxhela in her cap and gown made Diana happy, and a little sad.
“She grew up so fast. For me, she’s always a little girl,” Diana said.
Toska and her husband, Gezin, 52, came to Southwest Florida from Albania to give their two children a better life. The family has owned Tropical Palm Café in Naples for four years.
The graduation ceremony was a significant milestone in their lives in America. Soon, Anxhela will be off to college, something that would probably not have been possible in Albania.
“They have a future in this country; they can do something with their lives,” Diana said.
In her speech, Christie Green, senior class president, encouraged her classmates to do just that. Green congratulated her classmates for finally making it and encouraged them to venture out.
“Truly … (we are an) independent, talented and spirited group of individuals who know how to have fun and stand up for what we believe,” she said.
And Miranti believes the best way to honor Tudryn’s memory is to continue with life.
But he said Tudryn will always be with them.
“Everything he did for us, there’s no way it will ever be forgotten — and I’m not going to let that happen,” he said.
E-mail Maryann Batlle at email@example.com
- Lorenzo Walker's first graduating class
- Project Graduation at the YMCA
- Gulf Coast High School's 2010 graduating class
- Commencement for Ave Maria law grads
- Project Graduation at the YMCA
- Barron Collier High School
- Community School of Naples
- Donahue Academy
- Eden Autism Services
- Estero High School
- Everglades City School
- First Baptist Academy
- Golden Gate High School
- Gulf Coast High School
- Immokalee High School
- Lely High School
- Lorenzo Walker Technical High School
- Naples High School
- Palmetto Ridge High School
- Seacrest County Day School
- South Fort Myers High School
- St. John Neumann High School
- Ave Maria School of Law
- Florida Gulf Coast University
- Hodges University
GRADUATES OF DISTINCTION:
- Barron Collier High School: John White
- Community School of Naples: Connor Timmins
- Donahue Academy: Michelle Williams
- Estero High School: Daniel Rosman
- Everglades City School: Kimberly Brown
- First Baptist Academy High School: Dorothea Bischof
- Golden Gate High School: Cindy Rivas
- Gulf Coast High School: Kaitlyn Weber Lang
- Immokalee High School: Joeseph Brueggen
- Lely High School: Sander Langerbeeke
- Lorenzo Walker High School: Lina Rivera
- Naples High School: Austin Gore
- Palmetto Ridge High School: Ory Bell
- Seacrest Country Day School: Brunes Charles
- South Fort Myers High School: Alexandra "Ali" Sanfilippo
- Fun and games: Collier high school outgoing seniors celebrate at Project Graduation
- 15-year-old Barron Collier grad heading to Purdue University
- Saying goodbye not easy for 56 graduates at Community School
- Eden Autism Services celebrates graduation of accomplished student
- Small Everglades class marked by rousing spirit
- 11 receive diplomas at First Baptist Academy's second graduation
- Fallen football coach Tudryn remembered at Gulf Coast High ceremony
- Lorenzo Walker Tech graduates first high school class
- St. John Neumann grads dedicate ceremony to Tony Grasso, former teacher, basketball coach
- Jeb Bush addresses Ave Maria's first law school graduates in Naples
- Despite downturn, FGCU commencement excites graduates, families
- Hodges University graduates 625 during ceremony Sunday
- SUBMIT YOUR GRADUATION PHOTOS: Got photos from graduation? Click here to upload your graduation photos and videos
- SPECIAL SECTION: Find videos, photos and stories about area high school and college commencement ceremonies.