Messages of Resilience Laud ‘Talented and Passionate’ Class During Lawn Ceremonies

May 19, 2024 By , ,

More than 7,600 students from 12 schools – some wearing boots as they waded through the mud brought on by 2 inches of rain early Saturday – walked the Lawn over the weekend as the University of Virginia held its 2024 Final Exercises.

Students from three schools graduated Saturday, and those from the remaining nine schools graduated Sunday.

The ceremonies marked completion of the 195th academic session at UVA. Speakers celebrated the graduating class for the resiliency it displayed through the highs and lows of the recent years on Grounds.

Adjusting for a rainy forecast, as was the case Saturday, was no issue for these students.

Related Story

Smiling football player Jahmeer Carter was among the many student-athletes graduating.

Smiling football player Jahmeer Carter was among the many student-athletes graduating. (Photo by Matt Riley, University Communications)

“I think everyone is really excited today to get to be outside and for me to actually walk the Lawn and then go to my department ceremonies,” said Nicole Portmann, who graduated Saturday from the College of Arts & Sciences. “My mom invited everyone, and everyone is here. My mom woke up and said, ‘Rain or shine, we’re going.’”

For many graduating students, this year’s ceremonies were the first in-person graduations they had experienced, thanks to the pandemic. Their time at the University began with remote classes and saw difficult times, including the November 2022 shooting deaths of classmates Lavel Davis Jr. and Devin Chandler, and D’Sean Perry, a member of the Class of 2023. All three students were honored with posthumous degrees last year.

Teo soaked graduates move through a Rotunda plaza

Graduates move through the Rotunda’s north plaza en route to walking the Lawn toward Old Cabell Hall. (Photo by Erin Edgerton, University Communications)

“We will never forget these talented and beloved teammates, classmates, friends and family members, and I will never forget how this community came together to comfort each other as we grieved,” UVA President Jim Ryan said. “All of you have my deepest gratitude and admiration for that.”

Saturday’s keynote speaker, psychology professor Daniel Willingham, encouraged graduates to curate a future environment filled with easy-to-access information, adjust their existing habits instead of trying to overhaul their routines, and to treat learning as a family value – even if they were just starting out as their own family of one.

Students graduating from McIntire

Sunday’s ceremonies featured graduates from the McIntire School of Commerce, above, and eight other schools. (Photo by Matt Riley, University Communications)

“I am confident that your experiences here have provided the foundation you need to continue learning for a lifetime,” Willingham said. “But think about that tomorrow. Today, celebrate your achievements with your loved ones.”

Anthony Panagides and his siblings did just that Sunday. Panagides, who received his computer engineering degree after the fall semester, came back to walk the Lawn with his sister, Reanna, who was receiving her master’s degree in data science.

J.C. Panagides, who graduated from the University in 2018 with a biomedical engineering degree, flew in from California, where he’s a medical resident at Stanford University, to support his brother and sister.

A grad and loved one embrace under an umbrella

Many who attended Saturday’s ceremony brought umbrellas with them to ward off the 2 inches of rainfall. (Photo by Erin Edgerton, University Communications)

“I could not be more proud of them,” J.C. said.

Anthony said he learned about the value of UVA through his siblings: Reanna received her bachelor’s degree from the School of Nursing in 2020 and is now working toward her doctoral degree in the same field.

“I applied to UVA, Virginia Tech and Georgia Tech, and that was it,” Anthony, a Sterling native, said. “But as soon as I got UVA’s acceptance letter, I, like, immediately rescinded the other two.”

It’s a decision he’s never regretted.

“Everyone at UVA just wants to support each other and see each other succeed,” he said.

In her Sunday address to the graduates, Risa Goluboff, the outgoing School of Law dean, agreed with the sentiment. A faculty member since 2002, she’s been here for the University’s heavier moments, many coming in her eight-year tenure as dean.

Student with loved one embracing excitedly with balloons under an orange and blue Virginia umbrella

Supporters of the graduates didn’t shy away from showing their love and pride. (Photo by Erin Edgerton, University Communications)

“And despite those challenges,” Goluboff said, “you all have filled me with hope and pride in how you responded to them.”

During the pandemic, a time of isolation on Grounds, Goluboff said she has fond memories of students still finding ways to be there for one another.

“They forged friendships despite so many obstacles,” she said. “I mean, do you remember the meals everyone ate outside in 25-degree weather, just to be together?”

Ryan described the outgoing class as “talented and passionate.” In his closing remarks, he told them he had “no doubt that you will carry the very best of this place with you as you face, with courage and purpose, the beautiful, joyous, challenging, sometimes tragic, and ever-magical road ahead. And should that road ever lead you back to Charlottesville, please know that we will leave the lights on for you.”

Media Contact