UCF has announced its speakers for this summer’s two commencement ceremonies, which will be held Aug. 4 at the CFE Arena. UCF President Dale Whittaker will confer more than 3,700 degrees during his first graduation exercises as the university’s chief executive.

President Whittaker will grant the first degree of his presidency to Eliana Benevento, an event management major, LEAD Scholar and an Order of Pegasus recipient, which is the highest honor UCF bestows to students. Benevento spent the past year studying abroad in Bournemouth, England. Following commencement, she plans to relocate to Ireland to pursue a career in the live-events industry.

UCF takes pride in the diversity of its student body. Nearly half of the university’s Summer 2018 graduates are from traditionally underrepresented communities with Hispanics and Latinos comprising close to 25 percent of the graduating class. More than 40 percent of the 16,000 degrees annually conferred at UCF are earned by members of underrepresented populations.

In 2017, UCF ranked second out of 100 institutions across the nation for top producers of minority bachelor degrees. The rating considered all disciplines and ethnic groups through the 2015–16 academic year. During this time, UCF awarded 5,296 undergraduate degrees to minorities, a 7 percent increase from the previous academic year.

Watch the commencement livestream.

Sydney “Syd” Kitson

Chairman and CEO of the real estate firm Kitson & Partners

Aug. 4 at 9 a.m. – Commencement ceremony for the College Arts and Humanities, College of Business, College of Education and Human Performance, College of Graduate Studies, College of Nursing, College of Undergraduate Studies and Rosen College of Hospitality Management

Kitson serves as the vice chair for the Florida Board of Governors, the governing body that oversees all of the state’s public universities. Additionally, Kitson had a notable career in the National Football League, playing offensive guard for the Green Bay Packers and Dallas Cowboys in the 1980s.

Nelson J. Marchioli ’72

Former President and CEO of Denny’s Restaurants

Aug. 4 at 2:30 p.m. – Commencement ceremony for the College of Engineering and Computer Science, College of Health and Public Affairs, College of Medicine, College of Optics and Photonics, and College of Sciences

A restaurant industry executive for nearly 40 years, Marchioli is the chair for the UCF Foundation Board of Directors and is a member of the Dean’s Advisory Board for the Rosen College of Hospitality Management. Marchioli is also a 2011 recipient of the university’s Distinguished Alumnus Award, the highest annual award given by UCF Alumni.


Tickets are required for ceremony admission. Guests are encouraged to leave backpacks, large purses, and other sizeable bags behind to accommodate security measures. View the full commencement schedule.