Radford University celebrates 2016 Spring Commencement

President Penelope Kyle and U.S. Senator Mark Warner

Radford University conferred degrees on 2,011 undergraduate and graduate students at its spring commencement ceremonies Friday and Saturday that culminated with the undergraduate ceremony Saturday morning on Moffett Lawn.

One of those was Mikala Reedy, a social science major from Saltville, who said her graduation day felt "surreal."

"I can't believe it. I've loved Radford because it's beautiful, and I've had a lot of fun here, especially with these guys," she said, pointing to friends before the ceremony began. "I'm going to miss them the most. We've spent a lot of time together. We've learned together, and today we'll graduate together."

During the main ceremony, President Penelope W. Kyle and others from the university community offered congratulatory remarks and words of encouragement.

"On behalf of everyone at Radford University, I offer my deepest congratulations," Kyle said. "To be seated here today, to receive your degrees, all of us are so proud. This is quite an accomplishment."

U.S. Sen. Mark Warner delivered the keynote address saying, "Congratulations. You made it," and offered three pieces of advice to the graduates. The senator implored the graduates to not fear failure – "In this country you can always pick up and try again," he said – to participate in democracy, and to "never ever, ever forget to call your mother."

Later in the ceremony, President Kyle announced faculty and student award winners for the 2015-16 academic year.

  • Faculty award winners were:
  • Jason Davis, The Donald N. Dedmon Distinguished Teaching Professor Award
  • Tod Burke, The Distinguished Creative Scholar Award
  • Jerry Kopf, The Distinguished Service Award
  • Tara Phelps-Durr, The Distinguished Faculty Advising Award
  • Olga Pogorelsky, The Anna Lee Stewart Award for Contributions to Faculty Development
  • John Leonard, The Award for Administrative and Professional Excellence

 Student award winners included:

  • Holly Thomas, graduate student
  • Chris Wilson, graduate student
  • Helen Currant, senior
  • Hannah Gullickson, senior
  • Joya Garris, junior
  • Chloe Hughes, junior
  • Devin Jones, sophomore
  • Benjamin Marshall, sophomore
  • Jonathan Charnock, freshman
  • Madeline Murchie-Beyma, freshman
COBE graduates

Following the main ceremony, each of Radford University's colleges held individual ceremonies across campus, continuing celebrations throughout the day.

Student Government Association President Colby Bender reflected on his time at the university, saying "it was a privilege to be a student at Radford University, and I never took a single moment for granted."

Bender, a political science major from Chambersburg, Pennsylvania, said "it's hard to believe this journey is finally coming to an end, but with an end comes a new beginning."

Graduating from Radford "feels a little scary, but really uplifting and exciting," said Deanna Meckel, a theater major from Chantilly. "I'm going to miss the big family we had as theater majors. It was nice to have people support you, both faculty and friends."

Trevor Baker echoed those thoughts.

"I am looking forward to making the transition from student to teacher. The education department has always been there for me, and I'm excited about the future," the interdisciplinary studies major from Harrisonburg said as he joined family members for an impromptu photo before the main ceremony.

Baker's grandmother, Brenda Pickens, chimed in, "He has made our day. Seeing him graduate is such a thrill."

On Friday, the university held its 29th annual Graduation and Hooding Ceremony for students of the College of Graduate and Professional Studies.

"I'm overwhelmed. It's exciting," said Kathleen Degnon, who earned a master's degree in corporate and professional communication. "I feel like a totally different person than two years ago. I look at the work I've done, and I've definitely gained a lot. I also got a lot of opportunities and real-world experience."

Other commencement ceremonies Friday included the ROTC commissioning of 14 ROTC cadets into the United States Army and one student into the U.S. Navy Nurse Corps. The School of Nursing and Doctor of Physical Therapy program held afternoon pinning ceremonies for graduates, and a Multicultural Congratulatory Ceremony was held that night in the Bondurant Auditorium.

The majority of this year's graduates, 94 percent, were Virginia residents. Graduates came to Radford from 112 Virginia localities, which accounted for 84 percent of the Commonwealth.

The remaining graduates came to Radford from 26 other states.

Graduates represented 26 countries, including Bolivia, Canada, China, Ethiopia, Haiti, India, Iran, Netherlands, Russia, United Kingdom and Vietnam.

There were 516 undergraduates who received degrees in science, technology, engineering, mathematics and health (STEM-H) disciplines. The most popular major was interdisciplinary studies with 168 graduates. Criminal justice was the second most popular with 141.

The number of first-generation graduates totaled 609.

Graduates ages ranged from 20 to 60, and four graduates were celebrating birthdays on commencement day. In addition, four sets of twins graduated Saturday.

Spring Commencement 2016

May 9, 2016
Chad Osborne