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To find success, WVU graduates encouraged to keep asking themselves ‘What was I made for?’

Two graduates wearing navy blue caps and gowns smile with their arms around each other while singing 'Country Roads' to celebrate their graduations.

Thousands of WVU graduates celebrated their accomplishments with family and friends during nine Commencement ceremonies this weekend (May 10-12) at the Coliseum. (WVU Photo/Jennifer Shephard)

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Instilled with Mountaineer Values and encouraged to continue pursuing their purpose while paving the way for positive change in the world, more than 3,000 West Virginia University graduates walked across the stage during nine Commencement ceremonies this weekend (May 10-12) at the Coliseum.

For many, this graduation celebration marked the first opportunity to commemorate their academic achievements in person.

“Many of you started this journey under uniquely challenging circumstances and I am thrilled to give you the celebration that you deserve,” WVU President Gordon Gee told the graduates.

“Our world is looking for new ideas and creative solutions. As a West Virginia University graduate, put your Mountaineer Values to work solving problems and changing lives, and make service to others not just an obligation but your passion.”

An example of a graduate doing just that is Robin Pradilla of Wood County who said she felt lost and disconnected after being medically discharged from the U.S. Army following 12 years of service. Through perseverance, Pradilla discovered her purpose — helping other veterans navigate the challenges of transitioning to civilian life. Graduating with a master’s degree in clinical rehabilitation and mental health counseling from the College of Applied Human Sciences, she will embark on a new career at the Martinsburg VA Medical Center.

Among the lineup of esteemed Commencement speakers following their own paths of purpose, U.S. Sen. Shelley Moore Capito (R-W.Va.) was awarded an honorary doctoral degree during the School of Medicine ceremony as it celebrated its first class to graduate from the Occupational Therapy Doctoral program.

“The education, research and medical services being done here at WVU Medicine is nothing short of life-changing,” Capito said. “There is no doubt that the work being done is making possible what used to seem impossible, and each and every one of you receiving a diploma has become part of that.”

U.S. Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) spoke at the Eberly College of Arts and Sciences ceremony on Mother’s Day.

Thank you for your guidance,” Manchin told mothers and other family members and friends in attendance. “You have sacrificed so much to get today’s graduates to this moment. You have loved and supported them — their success is your success too.”

Graduate Krista Crabtree of Clarksburg will bridge her compassion for children with her bachelor’s degree in social work to advocate for the improvement of the child welfare system in West Virginia. An aspiring family lawyer, she wants to ensure every child’s best interests are at the forefront.

“Your experiences have strengthened your resolve, but I hope that you’ve also gained empathy — realizing how important it is to be kind to yourself and others who may also be struggling,” Provost and Vice President for Academic Affairs Maryanne Reed told the graduates. “Life can be hard, but it can also be an absolute joy, especially when you make connections, open your heart to others, and find purpose and meaning in your work.”

Leading with heart, honorary degree recipient Cynthia Bissett Germanotta co-founded Born This Way Foundation along with her daughter, Lady Gaga, to inspire millions of young people to build a kinder world that fosters mental wellness.

“As I look into this sea of hopeful faces, I am reminded of how inspired I am by this generation’s resilience. We are all grateful for your unwavering commitment to making a difference in the world in service to others,” Germanotta told the School of DentistrySchool of PharmacySchool of Nursing and School of Public Health graduates.

One student poised to make a difference is Hunter Wright of Bolt who earned his doctorate in dental surgery. Inspired by his alumnus brother and shadowing experiences, he said he is excited to return to his hometown to serve his rural community and advocate for accessible oral health to not only transform smiles, but also lives.

Fusing his interest in the tech world and passion for the outdoors as the vice president of global marketing and communications for GoPro, alumnus Rick Loughery reiterated the importance of finding purpose as he shared his career journey with the last graduates of the Reed College of Media and College of Creative Arts. The two colleges will merge July 1 to become the College of Creative Arts and Media.

Acclaimed pianist Barbara Nissman and Los Angeles-based screenwriter Dawn DeNoon were awarded honorary degrees during that ceremony as well.

“Like ‘Barbie,’ you may sometimes wonder ‘What was I made for?’ Keep looking for the answer,” Gee advised. “And above all, remember to commit to your purpose and work to fulfill it.”

Other notable moments:

     • The remaining attendees receiving honorary degrees were Maggie Hardy, owner and CEO of 84 Lumber and Nemacolin, and Karen S. Evans, managing director of the Cyber Readiness Institute, awarded during the John Chambers College of Business and Economics ceremony; Benjamin Ashby Hardesty, owner and CEO of Alta Energy LLC, awarded during the Benjamin M. Statler College of Engineering and Mineral Resources ceremony; and Thomas Heywood, chair of business development for Bowles Rice, awarded during the College of Law ceremony.  

     • Chancellor and Executive Dean for Health Sciences Dr. Clay Marsh addressed professional and undergraduate students graduating in medical fields.

     • The final graduating class from the Davis College of Agriculture, Natural Resources and Design was celebrated, as future graduations will be under the Davis College of Agriculture and Natural Resources name, part of the University’s Division for Land-Grant Engagement.

     • Pharmacy education marked its 110th year.

     • Molly McGhin, a member of the WVU Rifle team from Griffin, Georgia, who graduated with bachelor’s degree in psychology, has enlisted as a fire support specialist in the U.S. Army Marksmanship Unit.

     • Continuing five generations of family connections to WVU Law, including her father and grandfather, Mary Kathryn Kay from Charleston graduated with a JD degree. 

Meet other May 2024 graduates.

Watch recordings of the Morgantown Campus ceremonies.

View an updated and downloadable WVU Commencement photo gallery.

Commencement ceremonies were held Saturday, May 4, at WVU Institute of Technology and WVU Potomac State College.



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