Students being capped at Convocation in the Joan Perry Brock Center

As President W. Taylor Reveley IV welcomed the Class of 2024, faculty and distinguished guests at the inaugural Convocation ceremony in the brand new Joan Perry Brock Center on Thursday he couldn’t help but acknowledge the magnificent venue and its capacity for noise.

“Let’s turn up the raucousness dial!” exclaimed Reveley.

The colorful sea of carefully crafted Convocation caps seemed to especially sparkle under the lights of the new arena, affectionately known as JPB, as the members of the senior class assembled with their cappers, family and friends to officially kick off the 2023-2024 academic year.

Convocation’s hallmark is the traditional “capping” ceremony, where mortarboards are uniquely decorated with meaningful mementos of seniors’ time at Longwood. The caps feature photographs, flowers and trinkets celebrating the memories made on campus and the future careers to come after graduation in May, just eight short months from now.

Celebrating alongside the senior class was Farmville Mayor Brian Vincent, who was tapped as this year’s Convocation speaker in his first year in office.

Farmville Mayor Brian Vincent, gave the keynote speech at Convocation 2023
Farmville Mayor Brian Vincent, gave the keynote speech at Convocation 2023

Longwood aspires to help foster the next generation of citizen leaders and from my experience visiting classrooms and witnessing the participation in our town, they are succeeding resoundingly.

Farmville Mayor Brian Vincent Tweet This

In his remarks, Vincent referenced student activists who spoke at the Farmville Town Council meeting the evening before, praising them for their courage, persistence, and constructive approach to the issues of the day.

“Democracy demands participation, and the most effective participation that I’ve seen is not the divisive, denigrating style that we see on the national stage,” he said. “It’s the style that was exhibited last night by those students. Continue to engage, please.”

Vincent shared stories that shaped his life: a near-death experience that prompted him to return to college, his father’s death that caused him to lose sight of his principles, and entering public life 10 years after moving to Farmville. He said no matter the situation, a decision to stay positive has never failed him.

“Looking at things through a negative lens often leads to negative outcomes,” he said. “The feedback loop of negative outcomes is hard to break. Stay positive. Flip that switch often, make it a habit. It will become your default operating system and serve you well, and serve your community well, and serve this country well.”

Vincent, who operates Appomattox River Company, a paddlesports company in Farmville, is a champion of considering different perspectives and bringing people together. He said that was the animating principle of his campaign for mayor in 2022.

“Walk tall in the power of decency and virtue,” he said. “Recognize that respect begets respect, and that strong relationships are not contingent upon absolute agreement. This is as good a spot as I’ve seen to forge those characteristics and habits. Longwood aspires to help foster the next generation of citizen leaders and from my experience visiting classrooms and witnessing the participation in our town, they are succeeding resoundingly.”

Vincent left the students with his favorite mantra: Relentless clarity of purpose.

“There will be obstacles and setbacks in life. Embrace them. Learn and grow from them. Always advance the pursuit of ideals and goals with your principles in tact. Every day on this Earth you have the opportunity to change your perspective, to change the community, to change the world. Every step of every day is a chance to shape your legacy. Participate, participate, participate!”

Rector Katharine Bond ‘98, asked students to pause and enjoy the rest of their time at Longwood because it will end quicker than they think.

“Seniors, repeat after me,” said Bond. “No matter what is on my path, tomorrow we will still be friends.”

This class arrived at Longwood in the Fall of 2020—when classes were a hybrid mix of in-person and online as the campus and the rest of the world was still in the early stages of navigating the Covid-19 pandemic. This class is the first to have dealt with Covid-19 for the entirety of their college years.

Senior Class Vice President Zoe Dickson ‘24, offered reflection about the Class of 2024 in the form of an original poem, “Our Second Home,” which read in part:

“In Longwood’s halls, the laughter sings
As we seniors take in the final things
With our minds enlightened and hearts aglow
We savor the moments before we must go.”

Following tradition, Senior Class President Bri Sehlhorst ‘24 was capped on stage by her chosen capper and Dr. Larissa Smith, vice president for academic affairs and provost.

Six faculty awards are given annually at Convocation. This year’s recipients were:

  • Maria Bristow Starke Faculty Excellence Award:
    Dr. William Holliday, associate professor of Latin American history
  • Maude Glenn Raiford Award for Excellence in Teaching:
    Dr. Jake Milne, associate professor of sociology
  • Maude Glenn Raiford Assistant Professor Award for Excellence in Teaching:
    Dr. Adrienne Sudbury, assistant professor of economics
  • Provost’s Scholarship Award:
    Dr. Kenneth Pestka, associate professor of physics
  • William David Stuart Leadership and Service Award:
    Ian Danielsen, assistant professor of social work
  • Assistant Professor Award of Excellence:
    Dr. Allison King, assistant professor of communication sciences and disorders

Kerri Cushman, professor of book arts in the theatre, art, and graphic and animation design department, was announced as Longwood’s Murray and Cora Simpson Distinguished professor. The award, established in 2015, recognizes a tenured faculty member who has demonstrated a sustained commitment to pursuing outstanding scholarship resulting in publications, presentations, or creative work in the visual or performing arts.

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