Philanthropist Kate Tiedemann Joins Nearly 500 Graduates to be Celebrated at USF St. Petersburg’s Fall Commencement

(Dec. 3, 2018) – The University of South Florida St. Petersburg celebrated the accomplishments of nearly 500 graduates during its Fall Commencement ceremonies. A highlight was the bestowing of an honorary doctorate to accomplished businesswoman and local philanthropist Kate Tiedemann.

Tiedemann was awarded an honorary doctor of business degree at a 1 p.m. graduation ceremony on Sunday, Dec. 9 at the Mahaffey Theater, where graduates of the Kate Tiedemann College of Business and College of Education received their diplomas. A second ceremony for graduates of the College of Arts and Sciences was held at 4 p.m.

“Kate is an inspiration and a role model to all of us,” said Martin Tadlock, Regional Chancellor of USF St. Petersburg. “Her vision and generosity have touched many lives throughout our community, and we’re honored to be able to present her with this degree.”

Born in a rural village in Germany, Tiedemann immigrated to the U.S. at age 18. Her drive, perseverance and determination led her to create her own company, called Katena (Kate North America Products), which designed and manufactured ophthalmic surgical instruments. These instruments were distributed in 110 countries.

Tiedemann is devoted to helping others in the community. She made generous contributions to a number of local organizations, from the Morton Plant Mease Health Care Foundation to FreeFall Theater in St. Petersburg. In 2014, she gave $10 million to USF St. Petersburg, the largest gift in school history, resulting in the construction of the College of Business that now carries her name.

“Kate displays an uncompromising commitment to quality, integrity, diligence and astuteness for business and empathy for the people she served,” said Sridhar Sundaram, Dean of the Kate Tiedemann College of Business. “These are attributes we would like to see in each of our students at USF St. Petersburg.”

Tiedemann said she was surprised and honored by the University’s decision to present her with a degree.

“As a little kid from the country and an immigrant with just a grammar school education, receiving an honorary doctorate degree is mind-boggling to me,” she said. “I did attend the school of hard knocks for more than 50 years, which helped me create a successful international business and fund the Kate Tiedemann College of Business at USFSP.”

Another local business leader and philanthropist was honored at the 4 p.m. ceremony. Bill Edwards, Chairman of the Edwards Group, was presented with the Chancellor’s Community Leadership Award. Edwards is a respected financier, real estate developer, recording company executive, entertainment promoter and civic leader.

In addition to being a champion for the development of St. Petersburg, Edwards is committed to providing much-needed resources for others through the charitable foundation he created 15 years ago, The Edwards Family Foundation.

This was the 64th Commencement ceremony at USF St. Petersburg.

Other highlights for media consideration

Outstanding graduate

This award, given by the USF Alumni Association, recognizes a graduating senior who embodies leadership, school spirit, community service, character and scholarship. This year’s recipient is:

  • Stephanie Benmergui, who is receiving a Bachelor of Science in Biology with a concentration in Biomedical Sciences and a minor in Chemistry. After graduation, she plans on conducting her own research and then applying to medical school. Benmergui is very active in the community, volunteering for Johns Hopkins All Children’s Hospital, Ronald McDonald House, Elks Lodge, Remote Area Medical and various food drives.

King O’Neal Scholars

Created by the USF Alumni Association in honor of charter graduates Lucas King and Evelyn O’Neal, this award is bestowed on outstanding students who have completed their USF coursework with a 4.0 GPA. This year’s recipients are:

  • Amada Fernandez, who is graduating with a Bachelor of Science in Environmental Science and Policy and a minor in Geospatial Science. In addition to graduating from the Honors Program, Amada was a research assistant for two professors, with whom she conducted research on crowd-sourced data gathering and coastal resilience in the St. Petersburg area.
  • Heather Robinson, who is graduating with a Bachelor of Science in Accounting from the Kate Tiedemann College of Business. During her time at USF St. Petersburg, she was a member of the Honors Program as well as a member of the accounting and finance honor society, Beta Alpha Psi Mu Gamma Chapter.
  • Tatsiana Haverkamp, who is graduating with a Bachelor of Science in Biology from the College of Arts & Sciences. While at USF St. Petersburg, he was an Eboard member of the campus division of Medical and Dental Global Brigades, the largest student-led movement for global health.