Lexington, Virginia • May 27, 2010
Tradition held at Washington and Lee University on Thursday, when the 411 members of the Class of 2010 received their diplomas in bright sunshine on the Front Campus.
When the graduates arrived at W&L in the fall of 2006, it rained. The tradition says that rain on move-in days means sun on commencement. And sun is what they got.
The graduating class included the highest number of students ever - 20 - to receive two degrees, both a bachelor of arts and a bachelor of science, from the University. In addition, 31 percent of the class, also a record, graduated with more than one major.
In addition to the undergraduate degrees, the University awarded honorary degrees to Dr. Robert M. Sinskey of Santa Monica, Calif., a 1945 Washington and Lee alumnus and a pioneering ophthalmologist, and to Pauline Yu, president of the American Council of Learned Societies and a distinguished scholar of East Asian language and culture and an advocate of the liberal arts.
By tradition, Washington and Lee President Kenneth P. Ruscio delivered the principal remarks. He told the graduates and their families that it remains important where people "acquire and hone their values" and that institutions matter in this regard.
"Just at a time when colleges ought to embrace the challenge of helping students decide what should be important, they seem to be shying away," Ruscio said, adding: "We have not and will not."
The character of the W&L community shapes the character of the individuals who belong to it, Ruscio said. The University, he continued, has given its students not a roadmap but rather a destination and a compass.
"It has instilled in you a disposition toward honor," said Ruscio. "You leave here not with the answers about what to do in a particular situation but with a disposition, a temperament, a moral vocabulary, a sense that life will not spare you from a multitude of personal and professional situations that will require a decision about how to act honorably."
Earlier in the exercises, Kenneth Hopkins, of Palm Coast, Fla., the Class of 2010's representative to the Executive Committee of the student body, spoke on behalf of the graduating class. He told his classmates that they now have an obligation to live up to their responsibilities as alumni of the University.
"Becoming a W&L alumnus is a very prestigious moment," Hopkins said. "With this new role come new responsibilities. The alumni that came before us paved the way for our successes and have continued to give back to the institution that helped them to where they are today. Now it is our turn to share this responsibility. The time and resources that we have been fortunate to take advantage of over the past four years must be replenished for the next generation of students, so that our legacy can live on."
Several honors and awards were announced during the proceedings: