From the fourth-floor balcony of the Cedric Rucker University Center to the Lee Hall Terrace and around the rim of Ball Circle, proud family and friends cheered their hearts out Saturday morning for the University of Mary Washington’s 2023 graduates.
More than 1,000 students from UMW’s Colleges of Arts and Sciences, Business, and Education received bachelor’s and master’s degrees at the University’s 112th commencement ceremony on Saturday, May 6. Bright sunshine sifted through patches of clouds and temperatures hovered near 70 degrees as the celebration, which began at 9 a.m., unfolded all morning long.
The culminating moment of years’ worth of work was bittersweet, said Sara Roberts, a first-generation student who received a bachelor’s degree in psychology.
Megan Sullivan, who earned a master’s degree in elementary education, said she felt similarly. “I’m overwhelmed and overjoyed, and a little bit saddened that I have to leave all my amazing professors behind.”
Business administration major Joseph Lewis said his four years of college went by way too fast. “If I could start back on day one, I would do it,” he said, “just to experience it all over again.”
The University awarded 456 Bachelor of Science degrees, 338 Bachelor of Arts degrees, 34 Bachelor of Liberal Studies degrees, 39 Bachelor of Science in Nursing degrees and 18 Bachelor of Science in Education degrees. It also awarded six Master of Geospatial Analysis degrees, 34 Master of Business Administration degrees, 57 Master of Education degrees and 36 Master of Science in Elementary Education degrees.
Five students completed both their undergraduate degree and graduate degree in education in the same academic year.
Members of the Class of 2023 also celebrated a unique four years, as the last class to arrive at UMW before the pandemic, and the ones to persevere through it.
“To earn your degree amid a public health crisis is nothing short of amazing,” UMW President Troy D. Paino told the degree candidates. “And you, Class of 2023, did so while preserving what makes this place so special: It’s a caring community based on the strength of relationships formed inside and outside the classroom.”
Class President Shauna Kaplan, a communication and digital studies major, commended her classmates, “As a class, we have continually stepped up among our peers to lead by example and push through the tough experiences we faced,” she said. “I look out at each of you and see leaders.”
UMW alum Jennifer Clift ’00, senior scientific technical manager and chief technology officer for the Naval Surface Warfare Center, Dahlgren Division, delivered the keynote address, telling the soon-to-be grads to continue working hard when life presents challenges. She urged them to step out of their comfort zone, embrace opportunities and create positive change and noted a “relentless determination to succeed.”
“One of the qualities that makes this university so special is its commitment to service,” Clift said. “There is no better feeling than giving back and knowing that you have made a difference, whether big or small. Take the lessons you have learned here and continue to pay it forward.”
The three-hour ceremony was filled with plenty of pomp and circumstance, with the grand marshal carrying the official academic mace, the bagpipes of the Eagle Pipe Band and the singing of the alma mater. But old also gave way to new, with graduates wearing blue gowns, along with colorful collars and cords denoting academic merits, and mortarboards personalized to what matters to them.
Board of Visitors Rector Devon W. Cushman ’93, one of the UMW grads who make up this year’s first-ever all-alumni board, noted that each one had sat where this year’s graduates were today.
“We offer our sincere congratulations for all that you have accomplished during your time at Mary Washington,” she said. “We are confident that you are prepared for your life’s journey, and we wish you the very best.”
The Colgate W. Darden Jr. Award for students, and the Mary W. Pinschmidt Award and William M. Anderson Distinguished Professorship for faculty, were announced during Saturday’s ceremony, as were the names of the faculty who received emeritus status.