The Randolph College community celebrated the success of more than 140 new graduates Sunday in the 2014 Commencement in the Dell. Students, faculty, staff, and the family and friends of the Class of 2014 cheered for the graduates as they accepted their diplomas and looked forward to the future.
The College awarded baccalaureate degrees to 121 students and graduate degrees to 20. The Class of 2014 includes students from 18 states and 13 countries with a total of 25 different majors. The most common majors among the graduating class are art, biology, business, English, history, and psychology. The Class of 2014 also includes the first nine graduates in the sport and exercise studies major.
Carl Girelli, Randolph College’s vice president of academic affairs and dean of the College, presented the Maud Huff Fife Award, which is named in honor of a member of the Class of 1918. The award is given to the student whose quality point ratio is the highest in the senior class.
“Customarily, there is some mathematical rounding in the determination of the award’s recipients,” Girelli said. “Consequently, there is sometimes not one single honoree. This year is remarkable in that there are multiple outstanding students in a virtual dead heat, all of whom richly deserve the award.”
Girelli then announced that the award was being given to Katherine Bickley ’14, Glenna Gray ’14, John Grundy ’14, and Kavya Pradhan ’14.
Edward Ayers, the president of the University of Richmond, delivered the commencement address and asked the students to ponder their time of history, when rapid technological, financial, and political changes have created an uncertain time. He compared this to other times of unpredicted, unprecedented change, including the Civil War, the end of segregation in the south, and the 1970s, when he graduated from college and entered a changing job market.
“Everyone, it turns out, lives in history,” Ayers said. “History is pulling on you right now, whether you know it or not. whether you feel it or not.
“You’re always going to be living in unusual times,” Ayers continued. “Some years are better than others financially or politically. Things are always shifting beneath our feet. ... The only law of history I've discovered is that the unexpected always happens.”
He encouraged the graduates to apply their liberal arts experience by embracing the ambiguity in the world and developing timeless attributes.
“As much as history changes, some traits are always what we need: courage, patience, hard work, compassion, and love are never going out of style,” Ayers said.
Stephanie Barron ’14, the president of the graduating class,also talked about change. She compared the change the graduates facetoday to the changes they have experienced over the past four years, including the transformation of the Randolph College Student Center.
She pointed out that the faculty have been a constant source of support. “Our professors have set a shining example of what it means to be dedicated, passionate and hard workers, and they have helped us realize that true happiness doesn’t always come from doing what you are expected to do but from doing something you love to do,” she said.
Barron encouraged her classmates to approach the next phase of their lives with confidence. “I feel extremely confident that as we leave today and go out into the world we will not only be prepared for whatever changes our lives may throw at us, but that we will eagerly seek any opportunity to learn and become better, stronger individuals while keeping every bit of what makes us stand out as hard-working but also fun-loving people,” she said. “I hope that when we leave here today, we leave with our books, our endless buttons, and our diplomas but also a promise to live a life more abundant.”
Randolph College President Bradley W. Bateman told the Class of 2014 that they will always hold a special place in his heart as the first graduating class of his presidency. He asked the graduates to imagine themselves in a large football stadium with all of the other people graduating from small liberal arts colleges this year. “All of you as graduates of liberal arts colleges cannot fill the stadium,” he said. “There are not very many of you. And yet I say with confidence that you will lead this nation and this world. Why do I say that? Because you have the skills necessary to perform at the highest levels. You communicate well. You think critically and creatively, and you have learned how to work well with others who are not like you.”
Bateman challenged the graduates to accept a responsibility to work for the good of others. “I ask you to think of the responsibility that you have to help provide freedom to others,” he said. “Remember what has been given to you.”