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Polytech's fiercest opponent to speak at commencement

When Sen. JD Alexander, R-Lake Wales, pushed to break off the University of South Florida's Lakeland branch to create the state's 12th university, Sen. Paula Dockery, R-Lakeland, was the fiercest critic.

Now Dockery will be guest speaker at the branch's Monday commencement ceremony.

The topic: Integrity in leadership.

"I'm hoping to deliver a message that doing the right thing doesn't always lead to success," she said. "But that doesn't mean doing the right thing is not the path you should take."

She added that many of the 1,400 students graduating from the university are disappointed because the faculty will be fired and the school--in its current form-- will cease to exist under the new plan.

Many of the students feel muffled, she said, because the governor signed the new university into law without listening to them.

The speech writing is still in progress, but she's hoping to convey an upbeat message, she said.

The senator and the subject matter both strike a sharp note of irony given the political drama that unfolded during the university's creation.

Dockery often accused Alexander of using his position as the Senate's budget chairman to create the university too soon, circumventing the wishes of the Board of Governors, which oversees the state's university system.

Interim Regional Chancellor David Touchton, who will also speak at the Lakeland Center event, invited Dockery. USF President Judy Genshaft will confer the degrees.