Again this year, one of the highlights of Commencement Weekend was the Excellence in Leadership panel discussion on Friday, May 4, with Lincoln College’s two honorary doctoral degree recipients, Alex D. “Sandy” MacKinnon and Richie Gajate Garcia.

Although their backgrounds are quite different, their stories of overcoming challenges and pursuit of excellence shared common values and lessons.

Lincoln College wass proud to award the Honorary Doctorate of Humane Letters to Successful Businessman, Recognized Community Member, and Distinguished Philanthropist Alex D. “Sandy” MacKinnon in recognition off his distinguished career and numerous contributions to his profession and community.

MacKinnon grew up in Gross Ile, Michigan and in many ways, his story personifies the century and a half-long history and mission of Lincoln College.

In high school, he was so popular that his classmates elected him class president. But his academic record was weak and he was told by his counselor that he might become the first class president who would never be able to graduate from high school.

It was the unwavering support of his mother that convinced MacKinnon that he could succeed in college. She told him not to pay attention to the critics and confidently predicted that he would succeed.

At Lincoln College Sandy says he discovered how to study and learn. The environment at Lincoln College enabled him to graduate in 1960 and go on to finish his four-year degree.

After College, MacKinnon went to work for Yale, the premier manufacturer of fork lifts and other lift trucks. He eventually realized his dream to own and operate his own dealership. Using a customer-focused approach and following the highest ethical standards, Sandy transformed a failing dealership into a highly successful firm with five locations in Florida and Georgia.

MacKinnon’s ethical business leadership led to his induction in the Tampa Bay Business Hall of Fame and recognition through numerous awards and honors, including the H.L. Culbreath, Jr., profile in leadership award and the Tampa Bay Ethics Award, presented by the University of Tampa Center for Ethics.

MacKinnon has been a strong supporter of Lincoln College, making a surprise gift in 2007 to support the Lincoln Center and then recently making a multi-year commitment that will allow Lincoln College to provide a perpetual scholarship assistance fund for students.

 Lincoln College was proud to award the Honorary Doctorate of Fine Arts to percussionist, drummer, educator, author and mentor Richie Gajate Garcia.

Gajate Garcia is one of the world’s most in-demand percussionists and educators.  He is the author of four instructional music books and is a faculty instructor at the Musician’s Institute in Hollywood.

Richie has recorded and/or performed with Phil Collins, Sting, Frankie Valli, Don Henley, Stevie Wonder, and Ritchie Sambora. He has worked on award-winning film scores and toured with Diana Ross, Patti LaBelle, John Denver and Hiroshima.

Gajate Garcia’s career has taken him around the world, performing at such venues as Madison Square Garden, the Royal Albert Hall, The Hollywood Bowl and the Mt. Fuji Jazz Festival stage in Japan.

His ability to play multiple percussion instruments simultaneously has earned him the nickname, “El Pulpo” – Spanish for “The Octopus.”

He is the inventor of the popular Gajate Bracket and collaborated on the Richie Gajate Garcia Signature Series Congas, Bongos and Djembe.

He is also the proud father of gifted musicians Roland, Tristan, Devin and Lisette Gajate Garcia. Richie and Roland have performed together internationally, as well as having been guest speakers and performers at the Percussive Arts Society International Convention.

Recognized by his peers for his outstanding talents, Mr. Gajate Garcia has been voted both one of the top Latin percussionists and one of the top Rock percussionists.

Richie grew up in Puerto Rico, where friends of his father included Tito Puente and Armando Peraza. His upbringing gave him an appreciation for salsa and a love for Latin percussion. He was greatly influenced by his stepfather Doel Garcia, who was a percussionist with The Xavier Cugat Orchestra, and the Director of tourism for the island of Puerto Rico

Gajate Garcia is a graduate of the American Conservatory of Music in Chicago, where he earned his degree as well as his teaching credentials. It was while attending the Conservatory that he was recruited by Franki Valli and the Four Seasons.