ESTERO, Fla. - It was a memorable and historic night for hundreds of students at Edison State College. They became the last class ever to graduate from the school by that name before it transitions to the new name, Florida SouthWestern State College.
More than a thousand of the 3,000 graduating students marched through Germain Arena Friday night. "Edison" is a name synonymous with Southwest Florida and its history. But, with a new name comes a new start and a new outlook for the future.
"It's really a pinnacle moment in history," graduate Tiffany Jone said. "Edison State College has been around since my husband attended grade school."
Edison State College has grown and evolved in its 52 years. Though, the more recent years have come with some tough times: a course-swapping scandal, firings and suspensions of academic officials and a change in leadership. Now comes a brand new era.
"Beginning on July 1st, we will become Florida SouthWestern State College," President Dr. Jeffery Albritten said. "While the name is new, the very heart and soul of what we do remains the same."
For this class, the final group to call themselves Edison grads, they're proud have been a part of history.
Some started a little later in life. "Never give up," graduate and veteran Brian Tull said. "I took a leap of faith at 50 years old, went back to school and enjoyed the whole ride."
For others, it was a family affair. "I'm proud to graduate with my daughter," Robin Opsahl said.
"My first college class ever was with her and my last college class ever was together," Shelby Opsahl said about her mom.
And, for Tiffany Jones, who spent years in the Air Force, it was a dream realized. "The birth of my daughter really inspired me to become a teacher," Jones said.
"I feel like its going to be a whole new open door, whole new start for everyone. A fresh start," graduate Kiersten Sliwinsky said.