University of Virginia Prepares for 181st Final Exercises, May 22 and 23

May 17, 2010 — Between 30,000 and 35,000 people are expected to descend upon the University of Virginia Grounds on May 22 and 23 for graduation weekend.

U.Va. President John T. Casteen III, who is stepping down Aug. 1 at the conclusion of his 20th year, will give the commencement address at U.Va.'s 181st Final Exercises on Sunday. He will speak from the south end of the Lawn following the traditional academic procession from the Rotunda, which begins at 10 a.m.

Author and U.Va. law graduate David Baldacci will give the valedictory address Saturday at 11 a.m., also on the Lawn. He is the author of 19 political thrillers, including "Absolute Power," "The Whole Truth" and the newly released "Deliver Us From Evil."

Other public events, all on Saturday:

• The School of Nursing Hooding Ceremony, 1 p.m., Carter-Harrison Research Building terrace (rain site: McLeod Hall Auditorium).

• The Curry School of Education Hooding Ceremony, 2 p.m., Culbreth Theatre.

• Joint Commissioning Exercises for Army, Marines, Navy and Air Force ROTC candidates, 3 p.m., Old Cabell Hall Auditorium. Admiral John C. Harvey Jr. will speak.

• The School of Nursing Pinning Ceremony, 6 p.m., Old Cabell Hall Auditorium.

• The Donning of the Kente ceremony, sponsored by the Office of African American Affairs, 6 p.m., Culbreth Theatre.

• The Virginia Glee Club Finals Concert, 9:30 p.m., Old Cabell Hall Auditorium. Degree candidates admitted free (ticket is required); for others: general admission $15, students $5. Tickets available at Mincer's, Newcomb Hall Ticket Office at 434-924-7314 (through May 21) and the door.

For information on Finals Weekend, visit here.  


• John T. Casteen III arrived at the University in 1961, as a 17-year-old, first-year student and the first member of his Tidewater Virginia family to attend college. He went on to earn three degrees in English from the University. Having developed an interest in medieval literature and poetry, he wrote his 200-page Ph.D. dissertation on the heroic Anglo-Saxon epic poem, "Andreas."

He returned to U.Va. to become its dean of admission in 1975 and again as its seventh president in 1990. He taught English at both U.Va. and the University of California at Berkeley, published an award-winning short-story collection in 1981, served as Virginia's secretary of education from 1982 to 1985, and was president of the University of Connecticut from 1985 to 1990.

At 66, Casteen is among the nation's longest-serving college presidents. He has been an outspoken advocate on issues that were often controversial, including increasing the number of students who are women, minorities and of low socioeconomic backgrounds. In 2003, he worked with the Board of Visitors to create AccessUVa, the University's groundbreaking – and extraordinarily successful – full-need financial aid program.

During his tenure, he led two of the most ambitious fundraising campaigns in all of American higher education. His vision regarding the financial future of higher education in Virginia – and his aggressive steps to protect the University – helped solidify its financial future and relieve its dependence on what continues to be erratic state support. He will remain active in the University's current $3 billion campaign.

Casteen has overseen a major restructuring of the University's administrative and governance structures, significant improvements in academic programs, the creation of a new school – the Frank Batten School of Leadership and Public Policy – and major expansions of physical facilities.

Upon leaving the presidency, he will be named President Emeritus and a University Professor. Regarded as an authority on medieval literature, Casteen will return to the faculty following sabbatic leave.

• David Baldacci, a 1986 graduate of the Law School, is a frequent visitor to U.Va. He spoke at the Law School's commencement in 2006 and was the valedictory speaker for the class of 2002. He has also participated in the Virginia Festival of the Book.

Baldacci, a native Virginian, still lives in the commonwealth, just outside Washington. His undergraduate degree in political science is from Virginia Commonwealth University and, after graduation from U.Va., he practiced law for nine years in Washington.

A best-selling and prolific writer, he is also the author of seven original screenplays, essays, short stories and a young-adult fiction series.

Baldacci contributes to and is involved in several philanthropic efforts. His greatest efforts are dedicated to his family's own Wish You Well Foundation, which supports family literacy in the United States by fostering and promoting the development and expansion of new and existing literacy and educational programs.

Baldacci serves as a national ambassador for the National Multiple Sclerosis Society and participates in numerous charities, including the Barbara Bush Foundation for Family Literacy, the American Cancer Society and the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation.

Inclement Weather

If the inclement- or severe-weather plan is followed for Valedictory Exercises or Final Exercises, announcements will be made no later than 8 a.m. on local radio stations and the University's home page. If in doubt, call 434-924-SNOW, 434-243-SNOW 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 the John Paul Jones Arena.

For Sunday, the severe-weather plan will be followed only in case of thunder, lightning, high winds or other conditions that make it unsafe to hold ceremonies outside. Rain alone does not constitute severe weather.

Depending upon the weather, the University may decide to hold Final Exercises on the Lawn as planned, but move diploma ceremonies inside. 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 the weather is severe, there will be a central convocation in the John Paul Jones Arena for the College of Arts & Sciences and the schools of Architecture, Commerce, Continuing and Professional Studies, Education, Leadership and Public Policy, and Nursing.

In that event, faculty and students should arrive at the arena by 9:30 a.m. Graduating students will be seated on the main floor of the arena. Only guests with tickets will be allowed entry into the arena. A limited procession (faculty and the president's party only) will begin promptly at 10 a.m. Faculty should be assembled no later than 9:45 a.m. in the Courtside Club, located on the lower level of the arena.

Faculty and students of Darden, Engineering, Law and Medicine and their guests will go to the severe-weather sites designated on the Diploma Ceremony Locations chart for both degree conferral and diploma distribution. Faculty and students should plan to arrive at rain sites 30 minutes prior to the start of their respective ceremony.

Alcohol is not permitted at any of these locations.

Live Web

A live webcast of the commencement is available on the University of Virginia's website.

Guests can watch Final Exercises from eight remote viewing sites, including this year for the first time, Alumni Hall. The other remote sites are Newcomb Hall Ballroom, Newcomb Hall Theater, Ruffner Hall Auditorium, Chemistry Building Auditorium, Gilmer Hall Auditoriums (rooms 130 and 190), and Zehmer Hall Auditorium.


• Weekend Parking: Free parking will be available at the Emmet/Ivy parking garage (near the Cavalier Inn) beginning May 15 and continuing throughout the weekend. Shuttle bus service will not be available from the garage.

• Saturday: To accommodate graduates and guests attending Valedictory Exercises, bus service will run from University Hall and Scott Stadium to Central Grounds from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m.

• Sunday: Public parking on Central Grounds will be suspended. Graduates and guests attending Sunday's ceremonies are urged to park at the Emmet/Ivy garage and walk to Central Grounds, or to park at Scott Stadium or University Hall and take a free shuttle bus to the Lawn area. Bus service will begin at 7 a.m. and run continuously throughout the day. Prior to the Lawn ceremony, buses will stop on McCormick Road near the University Chapel. After Final Exercises, buses will run from the Chapel to University Hall and Scott Stadium.

The Central Grounds parking garage, on Emmet Street below the U.Va. Bookstore, will offer limited spaces on Sunday for a $5 fee, payable upon entering the garage. No bus service will be available from the Central Grounds garage.

For guests attending diploma ceremonies near the Chemistry Building, Gilmer Hall, Kent House Lawn, Ruffner Hall, Thornton Hall and other buildings in that vicinity, bus service will be available from McCormick Road near the McCormick Road residence area to University Hall and Scott Stadium beginning at noon.
For people attending diploma ceremonies on North Grounds – the Darden School, Law School and North Grounds Recreation Center – buses will run to University Hall and Scott Stadium until the diploma ceremonies conclude at approximately 5:30 p.m.


The University will award 3,570 baccalaureate degrees, including 79 earned in three years and three earned in just two years.

The University will also award 517 first professional degrees, and 2,169 graduate degrees – including 316 Doctor of Philosophy degrees, 18 Doctor of Education degrees, two Doctor of Juridical Science degrees and 12 Doctor of Nursing Practice degrees.

Among the graduates are 718 international students.

The total number of degrees being awarded this year is 6,256.

• The youngest graduate is Catherine Ellen Hueston of Charlottesville, who turned 18 on May 19. A Distinguished Major, she is earning an interdisciplinary Bachelor of Arts degree in neuroscience.

• The oldest graduate is Robert Coleman of Warrenton, 63, who will be earning a master's degree in the history of art and architecture.

Degrees by gender

• Total female: 3,449 (55.1 percent); bachelor's, 57.4 percent; master's, 53.5 percent; education specialist, 83.3 percent; Ph.D., 52.9 percent; law, 41 percent; M.D., 48.9 percent.

• Total male: 2,805 (44.8 percent); bachelor's, 42.5 percent; master's, 46.5 percent; education specialist, 16.7 percent; Ph.D., 47.1 percent; law, 59 percent; M.D., 51.1 percent.

• No gender specified: 2 (both bachelor's).

Most degrees by state
1. Virginia 3,831
2. Maryland 194
3. New York 186
4. Pennsylvania 156
5. New Jersey 125
6. Florida 111
7. Georgia 102
8. Texas 99
9. California 94
10. North Carolina 85.

Most degrees by foreign nation
1. China 150
2. South Korea 88
3. India 82
4. Canada 26
5. Taiwan 17
6. Japan 16
T7. Turkey 15
T7. United Kingdom 15
9. Thailand 14
10. Hong Kong 13

Degrees by school
• Basic Medical Sciences (interdisciplinary): 85 (42 master's, 43 doctorates)
• College and Graduate School of Arts & Sciences: 2,885 (2,503 bachelor's, 244 master's, 138 doctorates)
• Curry School of Education: 671 (43 bachelor's, 481 master's, 60 education specialists, 87 doctorates)
• Darden School of Business: 390 (387 master's, three doctorates)
• Frank Batten School of Leadership and Public Policy: 28 (28 master's)
• McIntire School of Commerce: 547 (319 bachelor's, 228 master's)
• School of Architecture: 146 (76 bachelor's, 68 master's, two doctorates)
• School of Continuing and Professional Studies: 44 (44 bachelor's)
• School of Engineering and Applied Science: 692 (469 bachelor's, master's 168, doctorates 55)
• School of Law: 416 (38 master's, 376 J.D., two doctorates)
• School of Medicine: 141 (141 M.D.)
• School of Nursing: 211 (116 bachelor's, 77 master's, 18 doctorates)

Most popular undergraduate majors
1. Economics 347
2. Foreign Affairs 295
3. History 275
4. Psychology 257
5. Finance 226
6. Biology 225
7. English 185
8. Government 135
9. Spanish 129
10. Accounting 103

Miscellaneous Finals numbers

Academic procession: Takes about an hour. Final Exercises last about two hours.

Attendance: Between 30,000 and 35,000 people are expected to descend upon the Grounds.

Buses: 48 buses will ferry students and guests around Grounds

Diplomas: U.Va. diplomas are 17 inches wide and 22 inches high

Diploma ceremonies: 55 ceremonies for 11 schools and disciplines will be held starting at 12:30 p.m.

Food: U.Va. Catering plans to serve 500 pounds of hot dogs, 17,000 petite gourmet cookies, 4,000 bakeshop cookies, 500 jumbo cookies, 2,500 brownies, 400 gallons of lemonade, 200 gallons of iced tea, 4,000 bottles of water and 400 pounds each of pineapple, cantaloupe, honeydew melon and strawberries. There will be about 75 food service employees working.

And more food: 17,000 cookies, 221 gallons of lemonade and 140 gallons of water will be served at the President's Reception and at some of the diploma ceremonies

Chairs: For about 6,000 graduates, their families and guests, approximately 40,000 chairs at 50 sites, including 20,500 on the Lawn, are set up for Finals Weekend. About 21,000 chairs are used for the individual diploma ceremonies that follow the main ceremony, held on the Lawn.

Stages: Workers install 12 stages of various sizes around Grounds and furnish them with podiums, tables, stairs, ramps or lifts, skirting, rails and sound systems. Facilities will deploy 16 sound reinforcement systems this year, connecting 42 loudspeakers and 22 microphones by rolling out almost one mile of cabling. A quarter-mile of electric wire is used to power monitors and speakers. A half-mile of speaker cable is used to connect speakers.

Tents: Around 18 tents are set up for information booths, food tents and other functions.

TV monitors: Two Jumbotron television monitors, each 10 feet by 13.3 feet, are set up on the Lawn.

Viewing sites: Besides the Lawn, guests can watch Final Exercises from eight remote viewing sites, including this year for the first time, Alumni Hall.

Landscaping: About 2,000 pounds of grass seed are sowed on the Lawn starting in early spring in preparation for the University's Finals Weekend.

Workers: Around 140 Facilities Management employees are deployed on the day of graduation. Around 200 Facilities Management employees are involved in the preparation for Finals Weekend, which includes everything from set-up to take-down. Graduation will also be staffed by about 35 workers from Development and Public Affairs. There will be more than 100 University police and security officers, as well as participation from the Charlottesville police, the from Albemarle County police and the city and county sheriff’s offices. There will also be about 230 ushers.

Hospitality: The Housing Division is providing accommodations for about 450 out-of-town guests for the weekend.

Web cam: Watch 24 hours on the Lawn for Final Exercises in 24 seconds

— By Dan Heuchert