Anticipation mixes with accomplishment as Radford celebrates Winter Commencement 

With family, friends and faculty looking on, the Radford University Winter Class of 2016 tossed tassels and donned pins, lieutenant’s bars and graduate hoods this weekend to mark graduation.

For the more than 500 graduate and undergraduate students upon whom he conferred degrees, Radford University President Brian O. Hemphill characterized the value of the process that the students had successfully completed.

"Your Radford education has developed your ability to listen with a critical ear and think with an open mind. You are prepared for a life of service, not only to yourself and your family, but to those in need," President Hemphill said as he presided over his first commencement ceremonies as the University’s seventh president. 

2016 Winter Commencement Hooding ceremony action

Associate Professor of Teacher Education and Leadership Sharon Gilbert (right) hoods Ashton Cox (center), one of almost 60 advanced degree candidates who were recognized during Friday's Graduate Hooding ceremony, part of Radford University’s 2016 Winter Commencement ceremonies. President Brian O. Hemphill (left) looks on.

In congratulating the class of 2016 on behalf of the Radford faculty, Carter Turner, president of the faculty senate and professor of religion and philosophy, shared metrics of their accomplishment. He told them they had taken and passed as many as 40 classes, spent approximately 1,700 hours in class, and written and passed as many as 200 papers and tests.

"College ultimately tests your commitment, your tenacity and your ability to stay on course even through tough times and challenges," Turner said. "It wasn't easy. You did it."

2016 Winter Commencement graduation
James Cardenas (right) of Lorton took the oath commissioning him as a second lieutenant from Colonel Kevin Milton (left) at Friday's U.S. Army R.O.T.C. Commissioning Ceremony.

The U.S. Army R.O.T.C. Commissioning ceremony in which James Cardenas of Lorton was awarded bars as a second lieutenant was the first of five ceremonies that made up the weekend.

"I am eager to get on with my life and complete my training to transition from cadet to officer," said Cardenas, who will join the U.S. Army Chemical Corps shortly after graduation.

Cardenas, a chemistry major, multitasked at a peak level. He researched magnetic nanocarbons with Chemistry Professor Francis Webster and disease vectors with Biology Professor Justin Anderson, was a member of both a social and honor fraternity and played club rugby for four years.

"I learned time management and there were long nights studying and preparing," Cardenas said. "Communication was so important as I had to keep everybody on the same page. The faculty from the chemistry department and the ROTC were helpful, encouraging and inspiring."

Cardenas celebrated his commissioning and the graduation ceremonies with family from Northern Virginia and California, including his father and grandfather – both military veterans.

"The professors here took James under their wings," said Cardenas' proud mother, Esther. "They guided him and listened to him and went out of their ways to spend their time with him."

Several of the more than 500 graduate and undergraduate students who gathered with family, friends and faculty on Saturday to celebrate the University’s 2016 Winter Commencement ceremonies look expectantly to the stage from which Radford President Brian O. Hemphill conferred their degrees.

High fives, hugs and good-natured teasing were showered on criminal justice graduate Michael Cook of Christiansburg after the commencement ceremony by his two grandmothers, his parents and his sister.

“This is my team," Cook said exultantly. “They kept me focused and helped make this day happen. Especially my sister, who for months now has motivated me with daily text messages telling me I was almost there.”

Another family who celebrated on Saturday was the Cobys from Manassas and New York City. Carmelle Coby, an interdisciplinary studies major from Manassas, was the center of exuberant attention from a 10-person party of grandmother, uncles, parents and siblings. 

Frantz Coby, Carmelle’s father, reflected on his daughter’s accomplishments and aspirations.

"I look forward to seeing what she does from here," Coby said. "In our family we believe in education. Education helped me and we try hard to inspire her. We are very happy."

Jimi Gonce, a nursing graduate from Botetourt, received her Bachelor of Science nursing pin at Friday’s School of Nursing Pinning Ceremony from her 10-year-old son and homework partner for the last few years, Dylan.

"My dream has been to be a nurse and make a difference in others’ lives,” Gonce said. “It has taken some time and a lot of work, but another of my dreams has come true."

President Hemphill echoed the pride felt by both family and graduates.

"As is everyone here, I am immensely proud of you and know that you are ready for the challenges ahead," he said.

The ceremonies marked graduation by Radford students from 35 undergraduate programs and 11 graduate programs. Radford’s communication, computer science and technology and psychology programs celebrated the graduations of their largest cohorts ever. The nursing, criminal justice and interdisciplinary studies-liberal arts programs were also well represented.

At the graduate level, the occupational therapy, special education and education were among the top graduate programs.

Dec 19, 2016
Don Bowman
(540) 831-5182