Text Size Default Text SizeDefault Text Size Large Text SizeLarge Text Size Largest Text SizeLargest Text Size Print Print this Page

2011 News Releases

Longwood seniors urged at Convocation to make good choices, enjoy the Longwood experience and serve their country

September 9, 2011

Faculty members Dr. Brian Bates, Dr. Naomi Johnson (center) and Dr. Larissa Smith Fergeson received awards at Convocation for superior teaching.
Faculty members Dr. Brian Bates, Dr. Naomi Johnson (center) and Dr. Larissa Smith Fergeson received awards at Convocation for superior teaching.

Longwood University seniors were urged at Convocation on Sept. 8 to make good choices, to enjoy the "priceless gift" of their Longwood experience, and to serve what is "still the most incredible country on earth."

"I hate to sound like your father, but your future will mean making choices," said Brig. Gen Joseph L. Bass, a 1983 Longwood graduate who is commanding general of the U.S. Army's Expeditionary Contracting Command. and is believed to be the first Longwood graduate to attain the rank of general.

"Everyone goes through a decision making process whether you know it or not," Bass said. "If something demands you to react, you will. Even if you choose to do nothing, you still have made a choice to do nothing. Just as often, doors will open that are not so kind, and you might have to react to adversity. The collective experiences of your life, culminating with this incredible education that Longwood has provided, and probably a few key people, will help you answer the call when those doors open even when you least expect them."

Bass earned a B.S. in business administration at Longwood, where he was an ROTC cadet and a member of the wrestling team and Delta Sigma Pi fraternity. He has served in Iraq and Kuwait in contracting assignments and has two master's degrees. In March 2011 he received Longwood's first William Henry Ruffner Alumni Award, the most prestigious award given by the Alumni Association.

Three Longwood faculty members received awards at Convocation for superior teaching. Dr. Larissa Smith Fergeson, associate professor of history, received the Maria Bristow Starke Award for Faculty Excellence; Dr. Brian Bates, associate professor of anthropology and chair of the Department of Sociology, Anthropology and Criminal Justice Studies, the Maude Glenn Raiford Award for Excellence in Teaching; and Dr. Naomi Johnson, assistant professor of communication studies; the Junior Faculty Award. Bates received his bachelor's degree at Longwood in 1992.

Brig. Gen Joseph L. Bass,

Speaker for the 2011 convocation ceremony was Brig. Gen Joseph L. Bass, a 1983 Longwood graduate believed to be the first Longwood graduate to attain the rank of general

"The Longwood experience also provides something that is a priceless asset - friends and affiliation that will last a lifetime," said Bass, whose command is headquartered at Fort Belvoir. "About 17 years ago, when I was assigned to Korea and was hanging out at the local base club, I met this guy who asks me where I went to college. I said you've never of it, he said 'That's OK, what's the name of it,' and I said it's a small school Virginia; trust me, you never heard of it. He said "OK, well what's the name?' I said it's Longwood in Farmville, Virginia. He laughed and said that's where he went to college. I couldn't believe it - here I am 7,000 miles from home, across the world, and I run into another Longwood graduate, in the Army. Though we were several years apart here at Longwood, we had that common bond and affiliation with Longwood that quickly developed into a lifelong friendship and eventually led to him being my deputy brigade commander when we were deployed together in southwest Asia in 2007.

"If you don't believe me, his name is Tim Hale ('89) and he's right there (in the audience in Jarman) and we're playing golf tomorrow! I could go on and on about my many Longwood friends and Delta fraternity brothers who became teachers, coaches, worked in the business world and in the military, in careers across all walks of life. Now they are professors, principals, athletic directors and CEOs. My point is this is the priceless gift that you get from your experience here at Longwood."

Bass also urged the seniors to engage in "service to this great country of ours, and I'm not talking about the military. There are many different ways you can serve...What makes this country great is the people. It's the diversity, the selfless service, our multiculturalism - it is you! Therefore, it's only fair that you give a little back, a little humility to stop and help those less fortunate, or serve in some capacity."

Bass joked about the fact that he didn't attend his own Convocation and, by his own admission, wasn't an exemplary student. After thanking Longwood President Patrick Finnegan for the introduction for for inviting him to speak, he joked "I'm guessing my academic and disciplinary records are either lost or you haven't had time to look at them, and that's why you invited me speak today."

After Bass spoke, Finnegan jokingly told him that he would "permanently seal your academic and disciplinary records."

The convocation ceremony, which marks the official beginning of the academic year, ended with the long-standing Longwood custom known as "capping," in which seniors are presented outrageously decorated mortarboards by their little sisters/little brothers. In keeping with the tradition, the first person to be capped was the senior class president, Nancy McDonald, who was capped by the interim vice president for academic affairs, Dr. Ken Perkins, and her little sister, Lauren Mioduszewski.