RADFORD – During Dec. 11’s ceremonies at the Dedmon Center, supporters looked on as degrees were conferred upon 461 undergraduates and graduates.
Nearly 600 students received degrees during Radford University’s winter 2021 Commencement exercises last week.
Between the 461 graduate and undergraduate degrees awarded on the main campus on Saturday, Dec. 11, and the 133 presented at Radford University Carilion events in Roanoke, some 594 Highlanders celebrated considerable milestones in their academic careers and lives.
Ranging in age from 20 to 60, two-thirds of the graduates are female. They arrived in the New River Valley from all regions of Virginia, as well as states and countries including New York, North Carolina, Ethiopia, El Salvador, Jamaica, Mexico, and Peru.
All told, 193 of those students – about 32% of the total – are first-generation graduates.
Collectively, they represent the penultimate class of Highlanders to graduate before the school welcomes its eighth president, Bret S. Danilowicz, who will assume the role starting July 1. The Board of Visitors announced Danilowicz’s selection on Dec. 9.
During the Saturday, Dec. 11 undergraduate ceremony at the Dedmon Center, hundreds of supporters looked on as degrees were conferred from the Artis College of Science and Technology, the College of Education and Human Development, the College of Humanities and Behavioral Sciences, the College of Visual and Performing Arts, the Davis College of Business and Economics, the School of Nursing, and the Waldron College of Health and Human Services.
The keynote address came courtesy of Brian Robinson ’93, Goldman Sachs’s head of prime brokerage sales for the Americas.
Robinson’s words encouraged the class to always be striving, to brace for adversity and to develop and rely upon such resources as family, friends, and their alma mater.
“Remember there’s more value in progress than perfection. Forward movement is our goal,” Robinson said. Earlier he was elected to the board of trustees of the Solomon R. Guggenheim Foundation.
“Look, we’ve all invested in Radford, and in return, Radford’s given us the tools, given us the swag, and given us the confidence,” he said, pausing briefly to brush off his shoulders in a gesture of facetious vanity.
“As you embark on your journey, know there are going to be potholes, peaks, valleys, ups, downs, whatever. But put some soul into it. Put your soul into it.
“I promise you today, if you rise and grind, a magic carpet ride awaits you. Greatness is upon you,” Robinson said
Two members of Radford’s Board of Visitors delivered remarks as well: Rector Robert A. Archer and faculty representative Katie Hilden.
“This is one accomplishment that no one can ever take away, and I predict that the degree you have earned here at Radford will serve you well throughout the rest of your life,” Archer said.
Hilden addressed the fact that the graduates’ terms had been complicated by the emergence of COVID-19 nearly two years ago and acknowledged “it has not always been easy, as we learned to navigate Zoom, masks and plexiglass shields together.
“We have appreciated your flexibility and adaptability during the pandemic. We know these two characteristics will serve you well in your future,” Hilden told the crowd.
At the ceremony’s close, interim President Carolyn Ringer Lepre sent the new alums forward with praise and optimism.
“This is a life-changing moment for all of our graduates and a day of justly deserved celebration,” she said. “I am amazed by the drive, dedication, motivation, and inspiration of our students, especially those of you who have overcome obstacles and barriers along your educational journey and your life’s path. Graduates, I hope that today you can look back on your education and know the meaning of resilience.”
By Neil Harvey, with contributions by Chad Osborne and Pam McCallister