Messages of hope and thunderous applause resounded throughout the West Virginia University Coliseum and Canady Creative Arts Center as nearly 4,500 May 2022 graduates received their diplomas during 16 in-person commencement ceremonies filled with traditional pomp and circumstance May 13-15.
“College is never easy, but over the past two years, students everywhere have endured a unique journey unrelated to the usual hurdles of algebra equations and nerve-wracking exams,” WVU President Gordon Gee said. “Your resilience is awe-inspiring.”
“In seemingly hopeless times, resilience arms us against despair and builds the courage to overcome obstacles. And the hope you have honed to survive and thrive over the past two years will serve you well throughout your lives.”
“Hopefulness strengthens our resolve to fight for our principles and freedoms, as the brave people of Ukraine are doing today,” Gee added.
Apropos of that, Stavros Lambrinidis, the European Union Ambassador to the United States who has praised Ukrainian resilience and dubbed President Volodymyr Zelensky as the face of hope, was awarded a Presidential honorary degree during the undergraduate Eberly College of Arts and Sciences commencement ceremony.
“Your generation is inheriting a world with some pretty weighty problems – a pandemic that is abating but not over, a climate crisis that has been building for years and needs to be stopped now, rising authoritarianism, nuclear proliferation, and a new war that threatens global peace. This must seem pretty overwhelming,” Lambrinidis said. “But let me offer some perspective. Every generation has its own challenges, and it is often because of those challenges that we progress.”
That resonated with first-generation college students Savannah Hays, a native of Mineral Wells from the Benjamin M. Statler College of Engineering and Mineral Resources, and Caylie Simmons, a native of Franklin from the School of Dentistry, who found a renewed sense of hope after tragedy to achieve this important milestone.
Hays, who lost her father to COVID-19 in November, was recently awarded the Order of Augusta, WVU’s most prestigious student award; and Simmons, who lost her brother in a car accident her sophomore year, placed a photo of “her biggest supporter” inside her cap so he could “be with her” on this special day. Both graduates noted that the strong relationships built at WVU emboldened them with the courage to move forward.
Provost and Vice President for Academic Affairs Maryanne Reed also reassured graduates that WVU has equipped them with the grit and degree needed to succeed.
“Your experience these past two years has made you resilient and adaptive, and strengthened your resolve,” Reed said. “You already have the grit, but now, you also have your degree and your WVU education will open doors for you and serve as the foundation for your future.”
Killian Cardinale, a native of Bristow, Virginia, from the WVU School of Medicine, has shown grit in the face of adversity. Not only did he secure a second chance to compete as a student-athlete after Old Dominion dropped its wrestling program, but he also won the 2022 Big 12 Wrestling Championship after missing half the season due to a shoulder injury.
Jack Marucci, WVU alumnus and director of performance innovation at Louisiana State University, was presented with an honorary degree during the during the College of Physical Activity and Sport Sciences’ commencement ceremony – the last for students as the College merges with the College of Education and Human Services this summer to form the new College of Applied Human Sciences.
Marucci, who is also the No.1 bat manufacturer in Major League Baseball, underscored relationships as the key driver for success.
“Graduating from WVU will lead you to lasting relationships that will create future opportunities that you currently don’t realize at this moment in time,” Marucci told graduates. “Your relationships will create opportunities and possibilities that are endless.”
A chance encounter set non-traditional student Jonathan Dower of Morgantown on a new path. Dower, who had no intention of finishing his degree until he met a WVU professor in the Collegiate Recovery Program, maintained a 4.0 grade point average while earning his master’s degree in Clinical Rehabilitation and Mental Health.
And the relationships Eleanor Kearney of Harpers Ferry established while earning dual degrees in aerospace and mechanical engineering opened the door to three internships, landing her a full-time job at NASA Kennedy Space Center.
Other notable moments:
· Speaker Denise Giardina, a West Virginia native and an award-winning author of six novels, was awarded an honorary degree during the Eberly College ceremony for graduate students.
· Abigail Panza, from Honesdale, Pennsylvania, who earned a bachelor’s degree in criminology, is the first female U.S. Army Infantry Lieutenant in University history.
· Allison Bennett, of Hannibal, Ohio, from the John Chambers College of Business and Economics, graduated on her 20th birthday, after only two years at WVU.
Recordings of the Morgantown ceremonies will be available in the commencement webcast archive.
MEDIA CONTACT: University Relations/Communications
Call 1-855-WVU-NEWS for the latest West Virginia University news and information from WVUToday.
Follow @WVUToday on Twitter.