Teresa A. Sullivan will preside over her third Final Exercises as president of the University of Virginia this weekend, welcoming between 30,000 and 35,000 people to Grounds. Sunday is the 184th edition of the University’s ceremony honoring graduating students.
For the graduates, their families and friends, the weekend promises the usual visual and emotional appeals – the lush and inviting Lawn, the procession of faculty, the iconic Academical Village backdrop for photos and videos.
This year also promises new twists and features: Students who have earned undergraduate degrees in fewer than four years will wear special, orange academic stoles, a gift from the Office of the President. And many of those weekend photos destined for Facebook and scrapbooks will feature a copper-colored Rotunda dome instead of a white one – the first time this has been the case since before the last round of major Rotunda renovations, completed in 1976. Unpredictable weather delayed plans to paint the new roof.
The University’s 11 schools will award 6,363 degrees. That total includes 3,761 bachelor’s degrees, 1,634 master’s degrees and 509 first professional degrees. Some 896 graduates are international students. Eighty students earned their degree in three years; two in just two years.
For students and guests, a compelling set of speakers awaits. Stephen Colbert will deliver remarks at Saturday’s Valediction, and James Henry “Jim” Webb is the keynote speaker for Final Exercises on Sunday.
Webb is a former U.S. senator and Secretary of the Navy, decorated Vietnam War veteran and successful journalist, filmmaker and author. Born in Missouri in 1946, Webb graduated from the U.S. Naval Academy in l968. He served with the Fifth Marine Regiment in Vietnam and was awarded the Navy Cross, the Silver Star Medal, two Bronze Star Medals and two Purple Hearts during his active-duty service.
Webb received his J.D. at Georgetown University Law Center in 1975. He served the U.S. Congress as counsel to the House Committee on Veterans Affairs from 1977 to 1981. In 1982, he led the fight for including an African-American soldier in the memorial statue that now graces the Vietnam Veterans Memorial on the National Mall, and wrote the inscription at the base of the flagpole. In 1984, he was appointed the inaugural assistant secretary of defense for reserve affairs. In 1987, he became the first Naval Academy graduate in history to serve in the military and then become Secretary of the Navy.
Colbert is the host, co-writer and executive producer of Comedy Central’s Emmy and Peabody award-winning series “The Colbert Report.” He is a best-selling author, political satirist, writer, comedian and former presidential candidate. Colbert is a graduate of Northwestern University, where he majored in theater.
Colbert’s wife, Evelyn McGee Colbert, is a 1985 alumna of U.Va.’s College of Arts & Sciences. She majored in drama and English and participated in several summer productions of the Heritage Repertory Theatre, now the Heritage Theatre Festival.
In 2011, the Colberts made a generous gift to create a new Arts Scholars program in the College. Arts Scholars have direct access to the best resources in the arts at the University, a senior faculty member as their adviser-mentor, and funding for arts-intensive summer work. Sixteen students benefited from the program in its inaugural year in 2011, and 13 students who entered this fall were selected to be Arts Scholars in studio art, music, drama and dance.
Live Web Stream and Remote Viewing
Guests also can watch a live broadcast of Sunday’s Lawn Ceremony at these remote viewing locations: Alumni Hall Ballroom, Chemistry Building Auditorium, Gilmer Hall auditoriums (rooms 130 and 190), Harrison Institute Auditorium, Newcomb Hall Ballroom and Theater, Student Activities Building and Zehmer Hall Auditorium.
If the inclement- or severe-weather plan is followed for Valedictory or Final Exercises, announcements will be made no later than 8 a.m. on local radio stations and the University’s home page, www.virginia.edu. If in doubt, call the University’s weather hotline, 434-924-7669 or 434-243-7669, or the graduation information line, 434-982-2908.
In the case of inclement or severe weather on Saturday, Valedictory Exercises will be moved from the Lawn to John Paul Jones Arena. Tickets – three per graduate, available starting today at the University Bookstore – will be required for entry into the arena.
If the weather is inclement, the University may decide to hold Sunday’s Final Exercises on the Lawn, but implement the inclement-weather plan for diploma ceremonies. Under this plan, faculty and students and their guests will go to the inclement-weather sites designated on the Diploma Ceremony Locations chart for diploma distribution.
If weather is severe Sunday, there will be a central convocation in the John Paul Jones Arena for undergraduate and Master of Teaching degree candidates only. Faculty and students should arrive at the arena by 9:30 a.m. Only guests with tickets will be allowed entry. Graduate and professional students will go to the designated severe-weather sites for both degree conferral and diploma distribution. Faculty and students should arrive 30 minutes before their respective ceremony.
Parking and Transportation
Free parking will be available at the Emmet/Ivy Parking Garage, Scott Stadium, John Paul Jones Arena and University Hall. Shuttle buses will be available at all sites, except the Emmet/Ivy Garage. Limited paid parking will be available in the Central Grounds Garage; no shuttle service will be provided.
Public parking will not be available on Central Grounds. McCormick Road will be closed from University Avenue to the McCormick Road Bridge from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. on Saturday and from 6 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Sunday.