Dear members of our Shenandoah University community,
During our 2019 University Commencement on Saturday, May 18, we saw how perseverance, resilience, and family define the Shenandoah experience.
At the James R. Wilkins, Jr. Athletics & Events Center, we celebrated the accomplishments of 1,274 students. Every student we honored – 198 August 2018 graduates, 336 December 2018 graduates and 740 candidates for May 2019 degree conferrals – has persevered to reach their goals.
They, like U.S. Paralympics skier, economist, inspirational author and leadership consultant Bonnie St. John, who received an honorary Doctor of Humane Letters at commencement, have proved resilient, as they’ve overcome challenges and outlasted fears to earn their degrees.
St. John told our graduating students that while she fell in a 1984 Paralympic race, she got up and finished her race, even though she was hugely disappointed by the fall. She ended up medaling in the competition, because she got up and moved forward. She encouraged our graduates to continue to think deeply, plan carefully and act courageously without being afraid to fail, and, when disappointments occur, to try again.
U.S. Army Sgt. 1st Class Quadedra Corey also persevered to be at Saturday’s ceremony. She didn’t let her sixth deployment prevent her from seeing her daughter, Twanessa Archie, graduate. Corey, a 17-year-veteran of the army, who said, “I would walk miles to see a smile on my children’s faces,” flew 6,000 miles to be with Twanessa. I can’t imagine that there was a dry eye at the Wilkins Athletics & Events Center when the two hugged on stage, epitomizing the compassionate spirit ever-present here at Shenandoah.
That spirit also embraced the family of John Carlo III, a senior who passed away suddenly this past year. His family joined us for graduation, accepting his degree posthumously on his behalf. And, that spirit extended into Monday, when we celebrated with a special commencement ceremony for 12 graduating seniors on our baseball team, which, on Saturday, was in the process of winning a regional championship.
This year’s ceremony confirmed what we all know about Shenandoah. It’s an amazing place, where individuals are valued, and graduates carry the compassion, determination, empathy and creativity they’ve honed and further developed here out into the world.
We are proud and honored to serve such students, and I can’t wait to see what happens as they continue to persevere and succeed.
President Tracy Fitzsimmons