(Photos:Anthony Dellamura | Marlin Chronicle)
It was a great day to be a Marlin. More than 300 graduates walked the stage in the campus convocation center as part of Virginia Wesleyan College’s 47th graduating class, ready to walk into their futures.
Before the ceremony, college staff members were busy answering attendees’ questions and helping them find seats. The eagerness of the graduates’ family and friends for the moment they would see their own loved one graduate was almost palpable.
As soon as graduates began filing into the Convocation Center to take seats in their reserved section, family and friends began to wave and call to them.
One mother, Irena Dominica D’Arcee was there to watch her daughter Danielle graduate cum laude (with honors). Danielle majored in international studies, the latter “very close,” her mother noted, to her own doctoral degree major of international relations.
Some graduates looked serious and some seemed tense and hurried, while others were full of smiles. Many, swathed as they were in cap and gown, fanned themselves with their programs.
Keynote speaker and director of the Peace Corps Carrie Hessler-Radelet urged the graduates to remember their power to choose: to choose love instead of fear, to choose to find “common ground” with people they might think were extremely different from themselves, to choose optimism even in the face of bleak circumstances.
Hessler-Radelet shared stories of people in Western Samoa and Sudan but also reminded graduates, “You don’t have to go halfway around the world to make a difference in someone’s life.”
George Birdsong, like Hessler-Radelet the recipient of an honorary doctoral degree from VWC at commencement, could have been used as an illustration of her point. Head of Birdsong Peanuts in nearby Suffolk, he and his wife have “made a difference” at VWC with contributions that included funds for a recently-installed turf field.
After the ceremony, family and friends streamed out of the Convocation Center with programs in hand and jackets draped over arms, many clutching bouquets of flowers for their grads. Some wiped away proud tears as they waited to rendezvous in the Grille, near the Hub, out on the Batten Lawn, or in front of the library. Once their grad joined them, many snapped photos outdoors, while others headed for the complimentary refreshments in the dining hall.
By 2 p.m., the dining hall was nearly deserted. Many graduates headed for their dorms to pack last-minute items, for the last time as an undergraduate.
But as both President Scott Miller and Chaplain Greg West told graduates in their speeches earlier that day, they would always be welcome to come back for a visit.