Holly Conklin FitzGerald to Deliver Commencement Address


Lake Erie College will celebrate its spring commencement on Sunday, May 11, 2019 at 11:00 a.m. at the Jerome T. Osborne Family Athletic & Wellness Center.  Graduates and their families will be addressed by Holly Conklin FitzGerald, M.A., a 1967 alumnus, family therapist, teacher and author of Ruthless River: Love and Survival by Raft on the Amazon's Relentless Madre de Dios.

Students and guests alike are sure to be mesmerized by FitzGerald’s commencement speech, as she shares the insights and personal motivation she gleaned during her honeymoon travels around the world with her reporter husband, Fitz. Not your typical romantic get-away, the couple’s travels sound more like an adventure out of an Indiana Jones film, including a plane crash, a piranha-infested river, and a fight for survival. Ms. Fitzgerald will share of the harrowing close brush with death in the Bolivian jungle and how it changed her life forever.

Born in Seattle, WA on Victory over Japan Day 1945, Holly Conklin’s family members claimed that her birth actually ended World War II, but that is unverified. She was raised near New Haven, CT, graduating from Day Prospect Hill School before matriculating at Lake Erie College as an English major in 1967. FitzGerald received her M.Ed. in Counseling from Suffolk University, Boston, MA, and worked as a family therapist for many years thereafter. Later in her career, Ms. FitzGerald also taught and counseled students at Bristol Community College, New Bedford, MA.

It was an experience in her mid-twenties that changed Holly Conklin FitzGerald’s life forever. Married to Gerald FitzGerald (Fitz), a budding reporter, the couple worked multiple jobs each to save enough money for a delayed one year honeymoon, traveling around the world. As the couple traveled, Holly photographed their adventures while Fitz wrote newspaper articles. The journey turned out to be an eye-opening two years, when the couple found themselves in a harrowing situation trapped in the Bolivian jungle, where they almost lost their lives. Ms. FitzGerald shares that although terrifying the experience offered her “insights and motivation for her future life.”

Decades later Holly Conklin FitzGerald, who kept a journal as they traveled, wrote their story. Ruthless River: Love and Survival by Raft on the Amazon's Relentless Madre de Dios was published by Random House in 2017 and then optioned for a movie by the Englishman, Matt Charman, an Academy Award nominee for writing the Tom Hanks movie Bridge of Spies.

Prior to commencement on Friday, May 10 at 1 p.m., students achieving Latin honors and class awards will be celebrated at the Honors Convocation in the Helen Rockwell Morley Memorial Music Building. This year’s featured speaker is Lake Erie College Associate Professor of Biology, Deborah Schulman, Ph.D., who currently serves as the director of the college’s Honors Program.

Tickets are required to attend the Lake Erie College Commencement ceremony. A free reception honoring the graduates will follow in the Arthur S. Holden Center. For more information, contact Michelle Rowley, Executive Director of Marketing and Public Relations at pr@lec.edu.

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