Radford University Carilion celebrates inaugural Winter Commencement ceremony

Highlanders enter the Berglund Center at the inaugural Winter Commencement ceremony for Radford University Carilion.
Highlanders enter the Berglund Center at the inaugural Winter Commencement ceremony for Radford University Carilion.

An icy morning in the Roanoke Valley could not chill the high spirits and Highlander pride that filled the Berglund Center on December 13, 2019 as the inaugural Winter Commencement ceremony was held for Radford University Carilion (RUC).

While waiting for the ceremony to begin, Raymond Landrum, an occupational therapy major from Fredericksburg, Virginia, reflected on what made his graduate-level RUC education so special.

“I like how small the program was,” Landrum said, “You really got to know your professors and fellow students so well. I’ve formed some really close relationships here. There were 20 students in our program, and we were all brothers and sisters for life by the end of the program.”

Nearby, Cassandra Shelton, a Danville, Virginia native accepting her Doctor of Health Sciences, spoke about how RUC gave her room to grow as the program itself was evolving.

“The greatest thing that happened for me at RUC is my own growth and the growth of the program,” Shelton said. “My final project was very large, but it was more rewarding to me than anything else in my academic career. It was focused on Alzheimer’s disease. My grandmother had Alzheimer’s for 16 years and stayed at home with me. I have a real personal connection to my research and how it can help people like my grandmother in the future.”

Sarah Leigh, a health sciences major from Roanoke, agreed that the personal connections she developed, while working with people, are what make a healthcare education and career so special.

“Over the summer,” Leigh recalled, “I was in a service learning class where I did my service hours at the Christian Free Clinic in Botetourt County. That was the most amazing experience ever. Being with those people and the volunteers there helped me know this was exactly what I was meant to do with my career.”

Members of the inaugural RUC class enjoy Winter Commencement.

Members of the inaugural RUC class enjoy Winter Commencement.

Emergency services major Nathan Shields, from Roanoke, Virginia, said he reached a major milestone with the Commencement ceremony. He proudly said, “Since high school, this is what I’ve wanted to do. I came to RUC specifically for the Emergency Services program. I am so excited about today. It’s a new beginning in my life and a step toward my future. I can’t wait.”

The Commencement ceremony began at noon when the Radford University Highlanders Pipes and Drums led a procession of administrators, faculty and students to the floor of the arena. In total, 130 students were slated to graduate from 10 academic programs, on the bachelor’s, master’s and doctoral levels.

Interim Provost and Vice President for Academic Affairs Kenna M. Colley, Ed.D. welcomed the audience and introduced the presentation of the colors by the Radford University ROTC Color Guard. Upon the presentation, Radford Department of Music student Farrah Boothe ’22 performed the National Anthem.

Board of Visitors Rector Robert A. Archer provided congratulatory greetings followed by Faculty Senate President and Professor of Anthropological Sciences Jake R. Fox, Ph.D., who said, “I am so honored to be here to congratulate the first class to graduate from Radford University Carilion. This is a unique opportunity to congratulate you and also to say welcome to the Radford University family.”

Ethan Sweeny ’21, RUC senator with the Student Government Association, then stepped to the podium to say, “You’re not the same person you were when you came to campus. You’ve made new friendships, gained knowledge and made powerful connections that will be with you forever. As you prepare to walk across the stage, take a moment to reflect on your journey. Think about your time as a Blue Healer and now a Highlander. When you leave, be ready to be the positive change you’d like to see. Don’t let this graduation be the end of your growth. Leave here as a Highlander and use these values and experiences to inspire and encourage others. Before you move on, please know that your Highlander family will always be with you and have your back.”

An alumna cherishes her proud moment at the RUC Winter Commencement.

An alumna cherishes her proud moment at the RUC Winter Commencement.

Colley then returned to the podium and presented the recommendation of the candidates for graduation to Radford University President Brian O. Hemphill, Ph.D. The President recognized the students as a group, conferred their degrees and then asked the undergraduates students to move their tassels from the right to the left side of their caps.

Each graduate then was recognized individually, crossing the stage to greet President Hemphill and have their photos taken.

President Hemphill provided closing remarks and said, “Because of the special status that each of you will hold as an educated person, others will look to you for leadership. I am confident that they will find in you what they find in so many Highlander graduates, and that is a heartfelt commitment to public service and social justice.”

President Hemphill acknowledged the healthcare professions many of the graduates will pursue by saying that whether their degrees take them to hospital rooms, operating rooms, doctor’s offices or laboratories, he hopes that they will take their Highlander values with them. He said those values include service to others above all else and a commitment to justice for all members of our society.

“Finally, I urge you to make learning a lifelong pursuit,” President Hemphill concluded. “You will need to update your knowledge base to stay current in today’s fast-paced society. But, beyond that, you will contribute more meaningfully in your roles as parents, partners and community leaders if you put a premium on continuing your own intellectual growth.”

President Hemphill added that, like everyone at the Commencement ceremony, he was immensely proud of each graduate and looked forward to seeing where their journeys would take them in life.

The ceremony ended with a recession from the arena, where RUC faculty lined up in a gauntlet, congratulating the new graduates as they passed, now proud alumni of RUC.

Dec 17, 2019
Mark Lambert