MCLA Announces 2023 Commencement Speaker, Dr. Patricia Okker, Recent Past President of New College of Florida

March 6, 2023

Massachusetts College of Liberal Arts (MCLA) is pleased to announce the speaker for its 124th Commencement Exercises will be Dr. Patricia Okker, recent past president of New College of Florida and former dean of the College of Arts and Science at the University of Missouri. This year’s Commencement will be held Saturday, May 13, 2023, at 11 a.m., in the Amsler Campus Center Gymnasium.  

New College of Florida (NCF), a small public liberal arts college located in Sarasota, Florida, made headlines in January when seven new trustees (out of 13) were appointed with a mandate to transform the college into a conservative school similar to Hillsdale College, a private conservative Christian college in Michigan. At its first meeting, the newly constituted Board of Trustees terminated its president, Dr. Patricia Okker, who had been in the office nineteen months. At its second meeting, the Board of Trustees abolished NCF’s Office of Outreach and Inclusive Excellence, which handles the college’s diversity, equity, and inclusion programs. 

“I am extremely honored that Dr. Okker has agreed to join us as this year’s Commencement speaker,” said MCLA President James F. Birge. “I had long seen New College of Florida as an important ally in the ongoing debates regarding the value of the liberal arts and the importance of public colleges. With the recent attacks on public education across the country, it is imperative that all of us stand up for the inclusive and democratic values that ground public liberal arts education. Dr. Okker’s strong advocacy for the power of public liberal arts, both at New College and the University of Missouri, provides an important context for the accomplishments of our own students.” 

MCLA is excited to celebrate our deserving, resilient, and incredibly impressive Class of 2023. 

For more information about MCLA’s Commencement ceremony, visit

About MCLA
At MCLA, we’re here for all — and focused on each — of our students. Classes are taught by educators who care deeply about teaching, and about seeing their students thrive on every level of their lives. In nearly every way possible, the experience at MCLA is designed to elevate our students as individuals, leaders, and communicators, fully empowered to make their impressions on the world. In addition to our 128-year commitment to public education, we have fortified our commitment to equitable academic excellence. For 10 of the last 12 years, MCLA has been named a Top Ten College by U.S. News and World Report. MCLA also appears on the organization’s list of top National Public Liberal Arts Colleges. Since the list was created, MCLA has risen to #33 as a Top Performer on Social Mobility and ranks first among all Massachusetts liberal arts schools, which measures how well schools graduate students who receive Federal Pell Grants. Learn more at