To you, each and every member of the Shenandoah University community,
I offer my deepest thanks. You are, quite simply, amazing.
On Saturday, our community gathered, virtually, to celebrate the accomplishments of 1,270 graduates. And, I’m so glad that some of our December and August 2019 graduates joined the ceremony as well so that we could honor their accomplishments. This coming October 18th, we hope to hold our in-person commencement ceremony so that they can all walk across the stage and have “their moment” to shine. On that day, we will congregate knowing that we stand beneath a star named for the Shenandoah University Class of 2020…because on Saturday, we announced that in honor of this graduating class, SU bought the naming rights for this bright star in the constellation Taurus, which is most visible during the late autumn, winter and early spring – seasons that coincide with the majority of our academic year. Just like we say at New Student Convocation, we at Shenandoah are truly “the sons and daughters of the stars”.
For our virtual event, Virginia Governor Ralph Northam; Virginia U.S. Senator Mark Warner; “Shark Tank” star, FUBU co-founder and upcoming business symposium speaker Daymond John; the Harlem Globetrotters; and public radio legend Diane Rehm recognized the SU Class of 2020 with messages of pride in our graduates and hope for their futures, adding to what was already a special event for our university family. Graduation this year was a shining example of what so many people are saying: Shenandoah Rises.
In mid-March, our world experienced a seismic shift. Students didn’t return from Spring Break excited and ready for the final push of the semester. Instead, they, like the majority of the university community, sat at kitchen tables and atop beds, or sometimes in cars parked near stable Wi-Fi connections, opened their laptops, and went to work! Faculty altered classes, turning them online-friendly in an instant, while continuing to provide students with individualized attention. Students reached into wellsprings of creativity that they may not have even previously explored to craft exciting work, both on their own and in groups. And staff members (some of whom remained at university locations to provide a number of essential services) tended to the widely varying needs of our community, including the next generation of Shenandoah students who are set to begin their studies this summer and fall.
You’ve risen to meet the challenges of these terribly difficult times with perseverance, resilience, creativity, determination, compassion, empathy, expertise, skill, thoughtfulness and care. It wasn’t easy, and surely, it wasn’t without bumps along the way, but you’ve done it.
You have operated within a changed world with grace and kindness, a supportive spirit and open minds. Although we haven’t been together, physically, at any of our university locations, we’ve been fully present for one another every step of the way, Zooming with classmates, faculty, staff members, coworkers and friends; sharing our triumphs and tribulations; taking fitness classes and even enjoying new versions of old favorite games. Through our actions, we’ve also helped those in need, by doing everything from conducting fundraisers and crafting homemade masks to delivering food, providing shelter to the homeless, and making donations to health care providers.
My admiration for who you are and what you have done is limitless. Whenever it is possible, I look forward to seeing you, in person.
And always remember that wherever you are, Shenandoah Rises!
President Tracy Fitzsimmons, Ph.D.