For the second sweltering day in a row, thousands of family members and spectators lined the University of Virginia’s Lawn on Sunday as graduates toting foil balloons in every shape imaginable paraded to Final Exercises in front of Old Cabell Hall.

This weekend marked the first return to the full custom of UVA graduations since 2019, before the pandemic canceled the 2020 Final Exercises and forced the modification of last year’s. More than 4,500 students received degrees Sunday, including 1,705 baccalaureate degrees and 2,414 graduate degrees. The keynote speaker was Dr. Taison Bell, a UVA alumnus and director of the Medical Intensive Care Unit at UVA Health.

On Saturday, graduates from the College and Graduate School of Arts & Sciences received their degrees.

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A student in cap and gown flashes a peace sign to a photographer as he descends the Rotunda steps.
Dozens of students with balloons rising above them gather on the Rotunda’s plaza as they wait their turn to march down the Lawn.
A student embraces a toddler as he and more than 4,500 of his classmates make their way down the Lawn.
Spectators crowd against ropes, straining to get a better view as the procession across the Lawn prepares to start.
With Old Cabell Hall in the distance, students file from the top of the Rotunda’s steps, through its columns, and onto the Lawn.
A student with balloons tied to her right wrist skips with joy across the Lawn on the way to her seat in front of Old Cabell Hall.
Standard-bearers hoisting the banners of four University schools lead their graduates across the Lawn.
Two smiling students, including one with sunglasses shaped into the word “Grad,” mix with thousands of their classmates in the procession to Old Cabell Hall.
Students carrying colorful foil balloons, including one shaped as a mermaid, file down a series of steps on the way to their seats.
Clutching water bottles to keep cool and cell phones to record the event, three students smile broadly on the way to their seats.
Standard-bearers hoisting banners for the schools of Engineering and Nursing, and the McIntire School, lead lines of their graduates across the Lawn.
A student embraces a woman who popped out of the crowd for a hug.
A student holds his cell phone high and in front of him to take a selfie with a classmate.
Nearing the end of the five-minute walk from the Rotunda to Old Cabell Hall, a wave of students nears their seats.
Only the dome of the Rotunda is visible behind a sea of shiny foil balloons shaped like disco balls, music notes and cartoon characters.
A smiling student hoists up a facsimile of a boxing title belt reading “School of Medicine Champion.”
A woman wears a sign asks students not to release their balloons, but to instead let her collect them for the UVA Children's Hospital.
Hundreds of spectators turn to view the Rotunda as a wave of students toting blue balloons saunters down the Lawn.
Dr. Taison Bell, Sunday’s keynote speaker, encourages students to stay connected to the University community and to each other to solve the world’s challenges.
A student beams a smile and shows off her graduation sashes while raising her hand.
Two students hold each other in a tight embrace as their mortar boards catch the bright sun.

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Mike Mather

Managing Editor University Communications