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Gov. Kaine Challenges Graduates at RU Commencement

RADFORD – Storm clouds brewed outside, but the inside of Dedmon Center was full of light as Virginia Governor Timothy M. Kaine joined Radford University to applaud its new graduates during Saturday’s Spring Commencement of the 96th session.

Thunderstorms forced RU to move its university-wide commencement from Moffett Lawn to separate college ceremonies held inside Dedmon Center and Bondurant Auditorium in Preston Hall to confer the 1,476 undergraduate degrees. Another 310 graduate degrees were awarded Friday.

RU CommencementDespite the weather, the mood of the graduates, their families and Kaine remained bright.

(See Commencement Photo Gallery
and Commencement Video.)

“I really am more optimistic about Virginia and our nation because of my interaction with college students,” Kaine said. College students today are more accepting of diversity, have a passion for public service, and show a resiliency unmatched by their elders, he noted.

Kaine also took the opportunity to promote the importance of higher education to the state’s economy and Radford University’s place within it.

“What a wonderful history you have,” he said. “More importantly, what a wonderful future. We’re expecting an awful lot out of you.”

Following his remarks, Radford University Rector Thomas E. Fraim, Jr., ’87, and President Penelope W. Kyle awarded Kaine an honorary Doctor of Letters degree, noting his “distinguished service, outstanding leadership and impeccable character.”

RU Commencement“Governor Kaine has been an exemplary public servant and advocate of higher education, and we are thrilled that we could honor him in this, the final year of his administration,” Kyle said afterwards. RU's commencement ceremony marked Kaine's fifth visit to campus during Kyle's tenure.

(IN THE PHOTO AT RIGHT: Radford University Student Goverment President Matt Williams welcomes Gov. Timothy Kaine as Rector Thomas Fraim, Jr., (middle) and President Penelope W. Kyle (left) applaud.)

In his remarks, Rector Fraim told the assembly that Radford University has undergone transformative change since its founding in 1910 due in large part to the alumni of the institution.

“With 99 years of history, Radford University has already earned a proud name for itself,” he said. “As we soon embark on our second century of service to the Commonwealth of Virginia, always remember that the luster of this name will only grow brighter.”

Outstanding Faculty and Staff Recognized

During the ceremony, five outstanding faculty and staff members were recognized:

Faculty Staff Honored* Professor of English Jolanta Wawrzycka (top right photo) received the Donald N. Dedmon Distinguished Teaching Professor Award. Wawrzycka was one of the first members of RU’s faculty in the humanities to fully incorporate technology into instruction, using digital portfolio projects to enhance student learning. Wawrzycka annually directs a popular and academically rigorous study abroad program to Ireland and Italy. She has an international reputation as an expert on the writings of James Joyce.

* Mathematics professor Wei-Chi Yang (photo second from top) received the Radford University Foundation Distinguished Creative Scholar Award. Yang, who has been a member of the RU faculty in the Department of Mathematics and Statistics since 1989, initiated the annual Asian Technology Conference in Mathematics in 1995 and also founded the international peer-refereed Electronic Journal of Mathematics and Technology.

* Susan Van Patten (middle photo), associate professor of Recreation, Parks and Tourism, was the recipient of the Distinguished Service Award. Van Patten joined the RU faculty in 1999 and has chaired the General Education Curricular Advisory Committee as RU has conceptualized and prepared for the implementation of a new core curriculum in fall 2009.

* Associate professor of interior design Holly Cline (photo second from bottom), who came to RU in 1997, was the recipient of the Distinguished Faculty Advising Award.

* Patti Williamson (bottom right photo), advising coordinator in the Pre-major Advising Center, received the Distinguished Professional Advising Award. Williamson, who has been part of the RU community since 1988, nurtures students who are undecided about their majors and helps them find career paths that fit their talents and interests.

Kyle also recognized Dennie Templeton, director of distance education and emergency preparedness at Radford University, who earlier this week received the Governor’s Award for Workplace Safety and Health at a special ceremony with Gov. Kaine at the Capitol in Richmond.

The Commencement ceremony also featured reflections by Juliann Abercrombie, president of the senior class; Matt Williams, president of the Student Government Association; and Stephen Owen, president of the Faculty Senate, who told the assembly, “As Radford University’s motto states, ‘We are investing in lifetimes.’ This is only the beginning of your successes, of which there will be many.”

Commencement 2009Radford University is recognized as a Top 20 Public Master's University in the South by the U.S. News & World Report and a 2009 "Best College in the Southeast" by Princeton Review. Located in the heart of scenic Southwest Virginia, RU features a student body of approximately 9,200, nationally recognized faculty-student collaborations and a dynamic curriculum of more than 140 undergraduate and graduate programs. In the last year alone, RU has opened a state-of-the-art visual and performing arts center and welcomed three new graduate programs: doctoral degrees in nursing practice and physical therapy and a master’s degree in occupational therapy. Outside the classroom, RU supports a culturally diverse student population through a wealth of co-curricular activities and events, outstanding NCAA Division I athletics, a commitment to environmental sustainability and a beautiful campus set alongside the New River near the Appalachian Trail and Blue Ridge Parkway.

May 9, 2009
Contact: Michael Hemphill (; 540-831-5803)

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