Shenandoah University will celebrate its 2016 Commencement at 10 a.m. on Saturday, May 14. Saturday’s ceremony celebrates 265 August 2015 graduates, 275 December 2015 graduates and 717 May 2016 candidates for degrees.
Shenandoah University President Emeritus James Davis, Ph.D., and founder of The Nyaka AIDS Orphans Project Twesigye Jackson Kaguri will both accept honorary degrees and address the graduates during the May 14 ceremony. Each will receive an honorary Doctor of Humanities degree.
Dr. Davis retired in 2008, after serving as Shenandoah’s president for 26 years. He helped Shenandoah College and Conservatory become Shenandoah University, a singular entity which now has seven schools: College of Arts & Sciences, Harry F. Byrd Jr. School of Business, Shenandoah Conservatory, Eleanor Wade Custer School of Nursing, School of Education & Human Development, School of Health Professions and Bernard J. Dunn School of Pharmacy. His vision and leadership took the institution from 874 students in 1982 to 3,300 in 2008. Under Davis, the endowment grew from $500,000 to more than $50 million.
Kaguri founded The Nyaka AIDS Orphans Project in 2001 in response to the devastating effects of AIDS in his hometown of Nyakagyezi, Uganda. The organization provides free education and other support to children who have lost one or both parents to HIV/AIDS. Throughout the years, he has been involved extensively in international community efforts as a human rights advocate, fundraiser and inspirational speaker. Kaguri has been named a Heifer International Hero, recognized in Time magazine’s ‘Power of One’ Series and spoken to the United Nations about his work. He was named a CNN Hero in 2012.
Davis served as Shenandoah’s president from 1982 to 2008. During his tenure, the institution’s physical plant grew from 14 buildings to almost 40 buildings, and academic programs increased from 11 undergraduate and two graduate programs to more than 80 undergraduate programs, 24 master’s programs and nine doctoral programs.
During his career at Shenandoah, Davis served in executive leadership roles in the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools and chaired more than 20 reaffirmation committees. He served as president of the Council of Independent Colleges in Virginia, president of the National Association of Schools & Colleges of The United Methodist Church, a board member of the National Association of Independent Colleges & Universities and the Council of Independent Colleges, and was a member of the university senate of the United Methodist Church. Davis also chaired the EIIA Insurance consortium for 130 colleges and universities.
Kaguri was born and raised in Uganda in the small village of Nyakagyezi. At a very young age, he demonstrated an unquenchable desire to learn, which led him to study at and graduate from Makerere University in Kampala. During this time, he co-founded the human rights organization Human Rights Concerns to help victims of human rights violations in Uganda and to educate the public about their rights. In the 1990s, he became a visiting scholar at Columbia University where he studied human rights advocacy.
The Nyaka AIDS Orphans Project, founded by Kaguri in 2001, works on behalf of HIV/AIDS orphans in rural Uganda to end systemic deprivation, poverty and hunger through a holistic approach to community development, education and health care. The organization now operates two primary schools free of charge and provides the students textbooks, uniforms, shoes, two meals every school day, medicine and scholastic materials for free. The organization also covers placement, tuition, uniforms and school expenses for all Nyaka students’ secondary and high school education. It operates a library, 10-acre farm and nutrition program, medical clinic, clean-water system, and support program for the grandmothers who care for up to 14 children at a time.
In 2015, Kaguri was awarded the Waislitz Global Citizen Award, which recognizes individual excellence in work to end extreme poverty.
Shenandoah University’s May Commencement Ceremony is scheduled for 10 a.m. on Saturday, May 14, 2016, on the intramural field behind the Brandt Student Center, located on the main campus of Shenandoah University in Winchester, Virginia. The ceremony will stream live, as well. Visit su.edu/commencement for more details on Shenandoah University’s 2016 Commencement exercises.