Baseball Great Ryan Zimmerman Leads Off Finals Weekend for Class of 2024

May 17, 2024 By Jane Kelly, Jane Kelly,

Kristen and Chris Roach arrived in Charlottesville from Asheville, North Carolina, on Thursday, ready to soak up every bit of Finals Weekend with their graduating son, Cade.

The atmosphere at the University of Virginia Class of 2024’s Valedictory Exercises on Friday afternoon was a far cry from what Mom and Dad encountered in the summer of 2020, when they dropped their son off at Brown College in the midst of the pandemic. They couldn’t even go into his dorm room. 

This time, the Roaches were determined not to miss anything. “We want to do all the things we can to celebrate,” Kristen said. 

“Just to be in person to celebrate the class means more than watching everything from home,” Cade added. 

Callaway Lee presents the class gift to UVA President Jim Ryan.

Fourth-year student Callaway Lee presents the class gift to UVA President Jim Ryan. (Photo by Matt Riley, University Communications)

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The trio was not alone in their enthusiasm. Hundreds of families streamed into John Paul Jones Arena for Valediction, which is the act of bidding farewell.

During the first part of the ceremony, student leaders took turns stepping to the podium to bestow awards for leadership, high character, community service and vigilance to the student experience to their peers and University staff members.

The mood was festive as fourth-year student Callaway Lee presented UVA President Jim Ryan with the class gift, a check for $46,555.

Picture Associate Dean of Students Tabitha Enoch with Nathan Flyzik of Orientation and Transition Programs.

Associate Dean of Students Tabitha Enoch, left, was presented the 2024 Gordon F. Rainey Jr. Award for Vigilance to the Student Experience by Nathan Flyzik of Orientation and Transition Programs. (Photo by Matt Riley, University Communications)

“All of us at UVA are benefiting from the generosity of those who have come before us, and I’m grateful to see so many paying that generosity forward.” Ryan said in thanks. “It’s one of the best ways to make sure that future generations of UVA students will have the same opportunities that all of us have had, if not more.”

‘Be the Positive Influence We All Need Right Now’

The Washington Nationals selected Ryan Zimmerman, who played baseball for the Cavaliers in the early 2000s, as the fourth overall pick in the 2005 Major League Baseball draft. The infielder would go on to become the “face of the franchise” and helped the Nationals win the 2019 World Series.

The two-time all-star told UVA’s Class of 2024 they are about to receive “one of the most prestigious degrees in the state, country and even the world.”

Audience taking picture.

Families were in a celebratory mood. (Photo by Dan Addison, University Communications)

“You earned it; it was not just given to you,” he said. “But now it is your job to validate it. Go out there with confidence and let your talents shine!

“Much has been said about the world and the country you are about to venture out into – how it’s a bad place to grow up, things are unfair, and much more,” he continued.

But Zimmerman said the members of UVA’s Class of 2024 can be change agents in the world. “What I have noticed more and more lately is we have a lot of people who like to complain about these problems, but far less people who are willing to offer solutions for these problems,” he said.

Portrait of Kyle Woodson

Kyle Woodson, president of the Class of 2024, gave closing remarks at Valedictory Exercises. (Photo by Matt Riley, University Communications)

“You all have the tools and the opportunity to change this – arguably more than any other generation before you,” Zimmerman said. “Go from here and be the positive influence we all need right now.”

The ceremony opened with a class video looking back at the last four years. There was the first snow, sunset visits to Carter’s Mountain, football games, Lightings of the Lawn and concerts on the Downtown Mall – all rites of passage for UVA students. The video closed with the time-honored phrase, “You have worn the honors of honor. You have graduated from Virginia.”

On Saturday and Sunday, the University will bestow 7,616 degrees upon the graduating class.

Here are some more photos of Friday's Valedictory Exercises.

Media Contact

Jane Kelly

University News Senior Associate Office of University Communications