Messages of Resiliency Greet ‘Talented and Passionate’ Class on Final Day of Lawn Ceremonies

May 19, 2024 By Andrew Ramspacher, Andrew Ramspacher,

With rain only a muddy memory from the previous day’s ceremonies, the University of Virginia wrapped its weekend of Final Exercises on Sunday.

Much like the weather’s return to better form – there wasn’t a poncho in sight – UVA’s Class of 2024 was praised for its ability to bounce back.

More than 3,600 graduates from nine schools – the School of Architecture, School of Continuing and Professional Studies, Darden School of Business, School of Engineering and Applied Science, School of Law, McIntire School of Commerce, School of Medicine, School of Nursing and School of Data Science – heard remarks from UVA President Jim Ryan and keynote speaker Risa Goluboff, the outgoing dean of the School of Law. Both focused on resilience.

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Ryan called the class “talented and passionate,” and recognized that many of them who graduated high school in 2020 were likely experiencing an in-person graduation ceremony for the first time.

“Your time here began during the pandemic,” Ryan said, “and the months and years to follow could not have been entirely what you were expecting.”

While there have been difficult periods on Grounds over the last four years, Ryan credited the 2024 class for helping UVA persevere.

In the aftermath of the November 2022 shooting on Grounds that took the lives of football players Devin Chandler, Lavel Davis Jr. and D’Sean Perry, Ryan saw a community come together to comfort, even as it grieved.

“All of you,” he said, “have my deepest gratitude and admiration for that.”

Ryan acknowledged the last few weeks on Grounds have been “challenging,” and added, “I know that May 4 in particular was a distressing and painful day for many in our community,” referring to the day police cleared a pro-Palestinian encampment. 

He then told the graduates, “I know the strength and grace of your class has carried us through both joy and sorrow. And I hope and trust that you will look back on your years here as among the most important and life-changing of your lives.”

2018 alumnus J.C. Panagides, center, returned to Grounds to attend the graduations of his siblings, Anthony, left, a computer science major; and Reanna, right, who received a master’s degree in data science.

2018 alumnus J.C. Panagides, center, returned to Grounds to attend the graduations of his siblings, Anthony, left, a computer science major; and Reanna, right, who received a master’s degree in data science. (Photo by Matt Riley, University Communications)

If he needed more proof about the rewards of his UVA experience, J.C. Panagides saw it firsthand Sunday.

The 2018 biomedical engineering graduate, who’s now in medical residency at Stanford University, flew in from California to watch his two younger siblings – Reanna, who received her master’s degree in data science; and Anthony, who received his computer engineering degree – walk the Lawn.

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

Anthony, who finished his graduation requirements at the end of the fall semester and is working as a software developer at Paradyme in Tysons Corner, 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.

A group of grads gathers on the steps of the Rotunda and one looks at the camera, emotional

The mood was festive Sunday as graduates ascended the stairs on the north side of the Rotunda to make their entrance to the Lawn. (Photo by Matt Riley, University Communications)

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

A student wears glasses with "Go Hoos" written on the lenses

A graduate’s fashion accessory captures the spirit of the members of the Class of 2024, many of whom missed out on in-person high school graduation ceremonies due to the pandemic. (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?”

Two grads smile enthusiastically while holding their balloons along with several other grads in a crowd

Many graduates carried balloons to help family members pick them out from the crowd. Volunteers collected many of the balloons to be distributed to patients at UVA Health Children’s. (Photo by Matt Riley, University Communications)

At UVA, she said, “We have a testing of ideas, every day, every week, across thousands of classes and thousands of events and speakers from all perspectives and all viewpoints. It is not always easy to disagree and engage with respect and empathy, especially over deeply held views in challenging times. But we manage it more often than not.”

And for this, Goluboff said, the Class of 2024 is leaving “here rich with the resources of this place and with this spirit. What you do, how you use your talents … how you use your voice, all of that is up to you.

“None of you will do it the same way. And that is as it should be.”

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Andrew Ramspacher

University News Associate University Communications