RU celebrates new graduates at Spring Commencement

The harder the rain fell on Radford University, the louder the cheers rang from soon-to-be graduates as they walked onto Moffett Lawn, where the university observed its 2014 Spring Commencement on Saturday.

In a ceremony abbreviated because of inclement weather, RU Board of Visitors Rector Linda K. Whitley-Taylor '86, stepping in for RU President Penelope W. Kyle, conferred degrees on 1,596 undergraduate students. "On behalf of everyone at the university, I give our deepest congratulations to you," Whitley-Taylor said to open the ceremony. Kyle was attending her daughter's college graduation.

Anne Holton, Secretary of Education for the Commonwealth of Virginia, served as the keynote speaker. Holton has served as Virginia’s Secretary of Education in the Cabinet of Governor Terry McAuliffe since January 2014. She is a former First Lady of Virginia and a lifelong advocate for children and families. Holton is the wife of U.S. Senator Tim Kaine and daughter of former Virginia Governor Linwood Holton.

Photo of Secretary Anne Holton

Secretary of Education for the Commonwealth of Virginia Anne Holton delivered the 2014 Spring Commencement remarks at RU.

Addressing the rain-soaked crowd, most of whom were sitting under a sea of umbrellas, Holton enthusiastically said, "My, you all look magnificent. You really do… a little damp but plenty colorful and it's just a treat to be here with you today."

Reminding the audience that Mother's Day was on Sunday, Holton instructed the graduates to be sure to thank mothers, fathers, siblings, friends and everyone who played a part in their academic success.

"Perhaps the most important message I have for you today is: take this opportunity – please take this opportunity today – to say thank you to somebody who helped you get to where you are today," Holton said. "You did not get here today by yourself. You were supported by a lot of people. And I hope you will find the chance to really let go when you say that thank you today."

"Today is not the time to be shy or quiet or reserved. It’s not a day for handshakes. It's a day for bear hugs and I love yous and those schmaltzy things that you don't always take the time to say. Let loose. Let go when you get with your family today."

Holton told the graduates that this day was one for celebrating completion and achievement. "But I have news for you," she said. "Today is really the beginning of your lifetime of learning.

Through their rigorous academic studies at RU, Saturday's graduates have accomplished the "most important thing," Holton began to explain. "You have learned a lot about yourself. You've learned about the value of hard work. You've learned about persistence. You've learned about flexibility. Hanging around under umbrellas today you're learning a flexibility lesson."

Holton closed the ceremony by sharing a quote from her father, who used to say to his children, "this is opportunity time."

"Every day is an opportunity and you all are at a very special moment on this day to be given your next set of opportunities," Holton said in closing. "I wish you all happy opportunity time."

Following the main ceremony, RU's colleges staged individual ceremonies around campus to recognize graduates. 

Photo of Linda K. Whitley-Taylor

Linda K. Whitley-Taylor '86, rector of the Board of Visitors, conferred degrees on nearly 2000 students at the Saturday ceremony.

As she scampered in soaked shoes from Moffett to the COBE Building for the College of Business and Economics ceremony, graduate Jankia Hill was relieved. 

"It was really exciting," said the Martinsville native who majored in accounting and management. "I was nervous, but it's a big relief from stress."

Michael Primeau, an English major from Manassas, also was happy to have the weight of his studies lifted. "It feels great to be done – what a relief!"

Will Bynum, also an English major, had mixed feelings about graduating and leaving RU.

"I feel like it hasn’t really hit me yet, but I'm sure when it will, it will be bittersweet," said Bynum of Richmond. "I've enjoyed meeting the people here the most. That was the best part."

This year's spring graduates represented 28 states and 13 different countries, including the United Kingdom, Saudi Arabia and Brazil.

Individuals in the fields of science, technology, engineering, mathematics and health (STEM-H) made up 14.5 percent of those receiving undergraduate degrees.  

RU's fall 2013 enrollment of 9,928 students is the largest class in the history of the university, which has grown by 921 students over the past four years.

On Friday, May 9, the university held the 27th Annual Graduation and Hooding Ceremony for students in the College of Graduate and Professional Studies.

Graduate degrees awarded included 233 Masters of Science, 42 Masters of Social Work, 14 Masters of Arts, 11 Doctors of Physical Therapy, 10 Masters of Business Administration, nine Educational Specialists in School Psychology, three Doctors of Nursing Practice, three Doctors of Psychology, one Master of Fine Arts and one Master of Occupational Therapy.

Dennis Grady, dean of the college of graduate and professional studies, offered remarks on the monumental achievement of earning a graduate degree. "You have accomplished something that less than one percent of the world's population has accomplished. Let me be the first to welcome you to your new community."

Other commencement activities on Friday included the ROTC commissioning of cadets as U.S. Army officers, the School of Nursing pinning ceremony for graduates and the Multicultural Congratulatory Ceremony in Hurlburt Student Center auditorium.

Also on Friday, the College of Education and Human Development hosted a ceremony to honor its outstanding students.

To view photo galleries of the 2014 Spring Commencement ceremonies, visit the Radford University Facebook page.

May 10, 2014