Congratulations to the Class of 2020! Last weekend on what would have been Commencement Saturday, we made it official and welcomed our graduates to the rank of alumni. A virtual Commencement celebration video was emailed to all students on May 16 at 11 a.m. (the original time of the actual ceremony) and posted to our University social media. It was a privilege to congratulate these graduates, share a special message, and confer their degrees. View the video here and the full list of graduates here.
The Virginia Wesleyan University Class of 2020 will always be special to us and will be remembered fondly, serving as an inspiration for so many Marlins to come. They have made their mark on VWU history and in our hearts. We look forward to hosting a fitting tribute to these graduates on campus in December.
Additionally, I am pleased to share that a Virginia-specific commencement celebration is being developed by Governor Ralph Northam and First Lady Pamela Northam in partnership with Virginia Public Media. "Virginia Graduates Together" will premiere on May 29 at 5 p.m. on Virginia PBS stations and Facebook LIVE. During this 30-minute program broadcast, accomplishments and experiences of Virginia's remarkable class will be featured. The Governor has asked you to include the hashtag #GraduateTogetherVA in your social posts and with their permission they could be in the broadcast.
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The COVID-19 crisis didn't prevent us from recognizing outstanding achievements of our students. With a good bit of creativity by Student Activities and Athletics, their annual awards celebrations moved to a virtual format.
"The Bobbies" Student Leadership Awards were hosted virtually by the Office of Student Activities. It was such a pleasure to take part and recognize Taylor "Tip" Major as the recipient of the annual President's Award and Dazjae Johnson with the Wesleyan Spirit Award. The President's Award recognizes a senior who has demonstrated exceptional character, scholarship, service and leadership during his or her time at VWU. The Wesleyan Spirit Award celebrates a student who lives by the tenets of the Wesleyan Creed and is a positive reflection on the University community. Congratulations again to Tip, Dazjae, and each Marlin who was recognized for their impressive achievements and significant contributions to Virginia Wesleyan University. Watch "The Bobbies" here.
"The Bobs" are Virginia Wesleyan University's student-athlete awards and were held virtually and shared incrementally this year. I had the honor of virtually presenting this year's Norfolk Sports Club Outstanding Senior Student-Athlete Award to Hanna Hull of Virginia Wesleyan Softball. In my 30 years as a college president, I have never seen a student-athlete as dominant in any sport, on any level, at any school. A full list of all award recipients can be found here. Congratulations to all!
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A virtual Commissioning Ceremony for the Army Reserve Officers' Training Corps (ROTC) program was held last Saturday morning. Congratulations to the two Virginia Wesleyan University cadets who were commissioned as second lieutenants in the United States Army: Matthew R. Improta (Corps of Engineers) and Zachary A. Raymond (Infantry). The Marlin Company was formalized on campus in 1998 and operates as part of the ODU Monarch Battalion. Through elective classes and field training, students receive valuable tools, training, and leadership experiences that lead to military service and are assets in any career field. Watch the ceremony here.
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Last week I participated in my final meeting as Chair of the Climate Leadership Network. I served in that capacity for two years and it was an incredibly enriching, eye-opening, and meaningful experience.
I am proud to be a longtime member of the group with my involvement dating back to 2007. As I served on the Second Nature Board of Directors ex-officio as the Chair, I was pleased to recently be elected to a three-year term on the Second Nature Board at the conclusion of my CLN service this summer.
VWU is a member of a select group of 440 institutions nationwide in the Climate Leadership Network, composed of colleges and universities taking action on climate and preparing students through research and education to solve the challenges of the 21st century. Learn more about the Climate Leadership Network and Second Nature here.
Our institutional mission embraces social responsibility and participatory citizenship as essential parts of an undergraduate curriculum in the classroom, on campus, and in the community. With our commitment to the vitality of this program, we will continue to advance the cause of sustainability and environmental stewardship.
Virginia Wesleyan recognizes our responsibility to protect and enhance the environment and its biodiversity for the health of local and global ecosystems, future generations, and ourselves.
As a learning community located in the rich and unique ecosystems of Coastal Virginia and the Chesapeake Bay watershed, we are committed to promoting and developing the next generation of environmental stewards. The ongoing sustainability efforts of the University reflect a larger commitment to ethical conduct and social responsibility through environmental stewardship and education. As an affirmation of this commitment and to ensure this remains a priority for the University under all leadership (current and future), our sustainability team has developed the Environmental Guiding Principles of Virginia Wesleyan University. The guidelines were approved by the Board of Trustees at their spring meeting.
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As I shared last week, the original Fine Arts Building will be renamed "Susan Beverly Hall" in honor of alumna Susan Beverly '72--longtime benefactor and friend of Virginia Wesleyan. Today I am pleased to share with you additional charitable namings of facilities within the building: The Robert G. Cabell III and Maude Morgan Cabell Foundation Visual Arts Studios; The Mary Morton Parsons Foundation Ensemble Rehearsal Room; Alison J. and Ella W. Parsons Fund Fine Arts Entrance & Lobby; and the James A. Hixon Music Studios.
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Each May, directly following Commencement on most campuses, a private college/university in Virginia hosts the State Council of Higher Education for Virginia annual meeting with the presidents of independent colleges. This year's meeting was originally to be hosted by Virginia Wesleyan on our campus, but was held as a Zoom Virtual Meeting. Next year's annual in-person meeting of the PCAB/SCHEV will be hosted on our campus on the Monday following graduation.
The meeting provided an opportunity for presidents to discuss the status of Virginia Tuition Assistance Grants (VTAG), COVID-19 relief and higher education plans to re-open.
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We're pleased to have Joann Renn back on campus. In addition to providing interim leadership for the athletics department, she will serve as a member of the President's Cabinet and will lead the search for a new Executive Director of Intercollegiate Athletics. We welcome her back to campus and are grateful for her willingness to return on short notice to provide important leadership during this unique time.
University Signs Sponsor and Service Agreements
I am pleased to announce that we have recently completed negotiations with several contract providers:
- A new five-year sponsorship commitment with Cox Communications in support of The Excellence Fund and intercollegiate athletics. Cox is our University internet and telecommunications provider.
- A new five-year agreement with Pepsi that includes several sponsorships, donations to the scholarship fund, and product support for intercollegiate athletics. Pepsi is the exclusive beverage provider for our dining service and campus.
- A new contract with the athletics website manager SideArm Sports. A transition to the new provider will occur this summer. SideArm is the leading provider for collegiate sports websites with over 1,100 colleges and universities, conferences, and high schools utilizing their product. SideArm offers user-friendly features and engaging experiences for our fans.
- Extended our agreement with Boxcast for livestreaming all events on the VWU Digital Broadcasting Network. This includes convocations, graduation, special events, and Marlin sports. Boxcast offers an easy-to-use interface and on-demand features for fans to navigate and rewatch their favorite Marlin events.
TCA Virtual Summer Camp
Tidewater Collegiate Academy at Virginia Wesleyan University is offering virtual summer camp programs to develop 21st-century skills with a specific emphasis on service learning. All programs are supervised by licensed teachers with expert guests including local artists, scientists, lawyers, professors, and engineers. Learn more here.
AROUND TOWN AND ACROSS CAMPUS
The plaza area surrounding The Beacon has been named Gamble Plaza in memory of the late VWU Senior Vice President Mort Gamble. The Gamble Plaza plaque was installed recently in recognition of his longtime leadership and friendship. Dr. Gamble remains in our thoughts and is remembered so fondly by all who knew him.
Adjacent to The Beacon, a refresh of Monumental Chapel and Beazley Recital Hall is in progress.
It has been enjoyable to see the continuous progress on Oxford Village at Coastal 61 each day. The complex is nearing completion and recent photos can be found here. For more information, visit Coastal61.com.
Dr. Brian Kurisky, Director of Civic Engagement and Service Learning/Chief Diversity Officer, is settling into his new office in The Lighthouse (Clarke Hall). The relocation of Brian's office to The Lighthouse places him adjacent to the three other pillar programs of the University--study away, undergraduate research, and career development.
Dr. Craig Wansink, Joan P. and Macon F. Brock, Jr. Director of the Robert Nusbaum Center, is pictured here in front of the Center, featuring new signage.
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In closing and on this Memorial Day, I pause to reflect on those who have lost their lives defending our country, how valuable our freedoms are, and the freedoms we still need to improve.