Longwood University graduates were encouraged to shape history rather than just accept it during commencement ceremonies Saturday.
Noted historian Dr. Edward Ayers cited Barbara Johns, who sparked the civil rights movement by leading the 1951 school walkout in Farmville, as an example of someone who took history into her own hands.
The world is full of possibility, not merely more of what has always been.Dr. Edward Ayers, Undergraduate Commencement Speaker Tweet This
“Barbara Johns walked out of that tarpaper school in 1951 because she didn’t think history was too heavy to move. She moved it. The world is full of possibility, not merely more of what has always been,” said Ayers, referring to the walkout at the segregated R.R. Moton High School to protest unequal and inadequate conditions for African-American students who attended there.
“We always live in unusual times, and we might as well get used to it,” said Ayers, president of the University of Richmond from 2007-15, who was awarded an honorary Doctor of Humane Letters. “The unexpected, good and bad, always happens, but we don’t have to take the bad that happens to us. History can be moved in ways that are better.
“The 21st century has been a surprise, but this town has seen history that dwarfs anything we see in our present day.”
Longwood awarded 960 bachelor’s degrees in the May 20 undergraduate ceremony and 176 master’s degrees the previous evening. (These numbers include graduates who completed their studies in August and December 2016.)
The unexpected, good and bad, always happens, but we don’t have to take the bad that happens to us. History can be moved in ways that are better.Dr. Edward Ayers
In the undergraduate ceremony, Lauren Paige Newton, a communication sciences and disorders major from Nelson, received the Sally Barksdale Hargrett Prize for Academic Excellence, which is awarded to the graduating senior with the highest grade-point average. Newton has been accepted into Longwood’s graduate program in communication sciences and disorders.
Also in the undergraduate commencement, Amanda Nichole Chappell, a psychology major and health education minor from Zuni, received the Dan Daniel Senior Award for Scholarship and Citizenship. Chappell has been accepted into Radford University’s master’s program in experimental psychology.
Dr. Sujan Henkanaththegedara, assistant professor of biology, received the Student-Faculty Recognition Award, which honors a faculty member for professional excellence and devoted service to students.
Within these moments of uncertainty are where your true learning, fortitude, creativity and ability to compartmentalize and balance the various demands in your life will be displayed and will rank among your life’s greatest lessons and teachers.Dr. Gilbert Bland, Graduate Commencement Speaker
In the graduate commencement ceremony Friday evening, Dr. Bennie Waller ’90, professor of finance and real estate, chair of the Department of Accounting, Economics, Finance, Real Estate and ISCS, and director of the Center for Financial Responsibility, received the Faculty Research Award. Dr. Lauren Wynne, assistant professor of counselor education and graduate program coordinator, received the Faculty Teaching and Mentoring Award.
Also in the graduate ceremony, Christopher Alan Barnes (M.S., counselor education/mental health counseling track) received the Longwood Graduate Student Award; Brianne Kathleen McMillan ’15 (MBA, real estate concentration) the Lancer Graduate Student Award; Sally Kathleen Wilson (M.S., communication sciences and disorders) the Graduate Leadership Award; and Kameron Marie Carter, MBA ’12, the Graduate Alumni Award.
In the graduate ceremony, Dr. Gilbert Bland, an entrepreneur who is chairman of the GilJoy Group and a former chairman of the State Council of Higher Education for Virginia, urged graduates to be prepared for “unknown challenges” and “that anonymous teacher called failure.”
“You will face the increasing reach and uncertainty of globalization, life’s circumstances, politics, organizational and budgetary cutbacks or the extensions of the technological revolution. Within these moments of uncertainty are where your true learning, fortitude, creativity and ability to compartmentalize and balance the various demands in your life will be displayed and will rank among your life’s greatest lessons and teachers,” said Bland, who was awarded an honorary Doctor of Public Service.