Sunny Skies for Graduates During Radford University’s 2011 Spring Commencement

Radford University celebrated its 2011 Spring Commencement on Saturday, May 7, with President Penelope W. Kyle conferring degrees upon 1,651 undergraduate and 321 graduate students who wore “eco-friendly” gowns for the first time in school history.

“What a glorious day it is,” said Kyle, addressing thousands of sun-soaked graduates and their family and friends gathered on Moffett Lawn. “We are so very proud of you. We have loved having you here with us, but we look forward to welcoming you to the ranks of Radford University alumni.”

Carilion Clinic Chief Operating Officer/Executive Vice President Nancy Howell Agee, a Roanoke Valley leader who has come to know Radford University well as a member of the Board of Visitors since 2003, delivered inspiring remarks as the invited commencement speaker.


Nancy Agee, a member of the Radford University Board of Visitors, served as the commencement speaker. Agee will become president and CEO of Carilion Clinic on July 1.

“Radford University is a special place, dedicated not just to educating you, but growing and developing a whole person,” said Agee. “Know these values have been purposefully taught and I hope instilled and inspired within you.”

Agee was recently named president and chief executive officer (CEO) of Carilion Clinic, a $1.5 billion healthcare organization serving western Virginia.  Agee will assume those responsibilities on July 1.

“You will make this a different world,” Agee told the graduates. “You’ll make a difference for all of us. You will make a difference because you can, because you want to, because you must. You will forge your own path. You will find your own answers. You will heal others. You will bring light, joy and happiness to those around you and yourself. Don’t blow it—we’re counting on you.”

Radford University Student Government Association President Randi-Lyn Randall wished her fellow graduates good fortune in life and thanked them for their support throughout her tenure in student government.


Elizabeth Stephenson and Marquie Hairston were among the 1,972 members of the Class of 2011.

“All of you are about to enter one of the most exciting phases of your career—real life,” said Randall. “There’s an unlimited amount of opportunity that lies ahead for each and every one of you, and doors will continue to open time after time, and many paths will begin to emerge.”

Guests also heard congratulatory remarks from Board of Visitors Rector Stephen A. Musselwhite, Faculty Senate President Kay Jordan, and Senior Class President Steven Teresi.

During the ceremony, Kyle recognized six faculty award winners, including Associate Professor of Biology Christine Small, who was named this year’s recipient of the Donald N. Dedmon Distinguished Teaching Professor Award.

In addition to Small, five faculty members were recognized for their outstanding service and accomplishments: James Werth, professor of psychology and director of the Doctorate of Psychology program, received the Distinguished Creative Scholar Award. Chemistry Professor Christine Hermann was the recipient of the Distinguished Service Award. The Anna Lee Stewart Award for Contributions to Faculty Development was given to Candice Benjes-Small, an associate professor and McConnell Library coordinator of information literacy and outreach. Melissa Grim, assistant professor of exercise, sport and health education, received the Distinguished Faculty Advising Award. The Award for Administrative and Professional Excellence was given to Director of New Student Programs Michael Dunn.

2011 Outstanding Student Award recipients were also recognized during the ceremony.  These included seniors Kellie Snooks, of Alsip, Ill.; Olivia Viza, of Berryville; Cameron Lephew, of Draper; Kelsey Lewis, of Frankfort, Ky.; Rebecca Mayfield, of Chesapeake; Brandon Newmyer, of Midlothian; Amanda Rucka, of Virginia Beach; and juniors Matt Allen of Caroline County; Olivia Hilton, of Front Royal; Chelsea Myers, of Blacksburg; sophomore Jessica Frazelle of Lexington, N.C.; and freshmen Randall Carter, of Abingdon; and Trang Nguyen, of Vietnam.

Decorated hat

The caps and gowns worn by the Class of 2011 were eco-friendly and were collected for recycling after the event.

For the first time in school history, Radford University’s graduates wore new eco-friendly, black caps and gowns, made from 100 percent, post-consumer recycled plastic bottles. Called the “GreenWeaver,” and manufactured by Salem, Va., based Oak Hall Cap & Gown, each graduate’s commencement attire was made of fabric spun from molten plastic pellets derived from about 23 plastic bottles.
During another “first,” prior to commencement services, Radford University engaged social media users, asking Twitter followers to tweet their congratulations to the Class of 2011. The university also asked social media users to check in at “Radford University Commencement Ceremonies” on Foursquare and to post photos from the ceremonies on the official RU Facebook page.

Six individual college ceremonies were held at sites across campus following the main ceremony.

Other commencement activity highlights included:

·    On Friday, Radford University’s ROTC commissioned 20 cadets as officers, the largest class in the program’s 32-year history. After initial training this summer, the newly commissioned graduating officers will move on to duty assignments which include infantry, military police, field artillery, nursing and the Corps of Engineers, among others.  

·    Ninety-three graduates from the School of Nursing (SON) were pinned during the annual pinning ceremony Friday in Bondurant Auditorium. Of those, 25 were from the RN to BSN track. According to SON Director and Professor Kim Carter, the students have dedicated a total of 49,500 hours of clinical learning and patient care throughout the service region. “The graduates from the RN to BSN track have maintained their clinical practice as RNs while expanding their scope and understanding of nursing,” she said. “Not only did the students in this class provide service, but they did it in an exceptional manner.”

·    The College of Education and Human Development recognized 47 graduate and undergraduate students during an awards ceremony Friday in Hurlburt Center Auditorium. Thirty-three of the students received Outstanding Student Awards and others were recognized for significant milestones in their studies and the impressive impact they’ve made in schools and local communities.

·    The Radford University Center for Diversity and Inclusion held the 23rd Donning of the Kente and Graduado Ceremony on Friday evening in the Hurlburt Center Auditorium. Created in 1998, the donning ceremony stands as a symbol of achievement, celebrating and honoring the accomplishments of 21 of the university’s graduating seniors of African-American and Latino heritage.

·    On Friday evening, the College of Graduate and Professional Studies held their hooding and commencement ceremony in the Dedmon Center. During this event, faculty mentors present students receiving master’s degrees with their academic hoods.  The hood represents the transition from a student to becoming a member of the academic community.

For more on Radford University's 2011 Spring Commencement, visit the commencement website.

May 6, 2011
Jeffrey S. Douglas