Florida native Erin Jackson, a U.S. Olympic gold medalist speed skater and UF alum, will give the commencement address at her alma mater on May 5.
“Erin Jackson is a history maker,” UF President Ben Sasse said in a press release. “She is an Olympic champion who excelled as a student on our campus. The UF community is honored to welcome Erin back to Gainesville — to celebrate her successes and to celebrate this year’s graduating class. Melissa and I look forward to meeting her. This will be a great day for Gator Nation.”
Jackson said being a commencement speaker is beyond her dreams.
“Anyone who knows me knows how much I value education,” Jackson said in a press release. “While I’m certainly proud of my athletic accomplishments, I’m particularly honored to be invited to speak to the students, faculty, and families of a place that is so special to me,” Jackson said. “I did indeed dream of becoming an Olympic Gold Medalist, but never did I dream that I would someday be invited back to my alma mater as a commencement speaker.”
Jackson, 30, grew up in Ocala and is a 2015 cum laude graduate of UF in materials science and engineering. She became the first Black woman in history to win an Olympic winter games individual gold medal when she accomplished the feat in Bejing in 2022. She is also the first Black American to win a World Cup Gold Medal.
Jackson began inline skating at age 10 in 2002 and then tried speed skating for the first time in 2017. Her motivation is the desire to keep improving.
The commencement ceremony is set for 7 p.m. on Friday, May 5, in Ben Hill Griffin Stadium. The free is open to everyone, with no tickets needed to attend.
That’s gotta be one of the coolest Olympic stories ever.
Really gives you a great feeling about friendship & teamwork.