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2008 News Releases

Commencement 2008: Longwood graduates urged to take advantage of opportunity provided by U.S. citizenship

May 10, 2008

Commencement 2008: Col. Jayne Carson Col. Jayne Carson addresses the graduates at Commencement 2008

Longwood University graduates were urged at commencement to be informed, contributing citizens who take advantage of the opportunity provided by U.S. citizenship.

“Remember that this great gift of opportunity you’ve been given is yours because of the country you are so lucky to live in,” said Col. Jayne Carson, a 1980 Longwood alumna who retired recently from the Army. “In the hurriedness of everyday life, we seldom ponder the great gifts of freedom and liberty and the opportunities they give us. But thankfully they are there every day and have been assured to us by two of the most important documents in the history of mankind, the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution of the United States.”

Carson asked the graduates to be “men and women of character, people who do the right thing even when no one is watching,” to be “contributing citizens” who vote in all elections, to be an “informed participant in life,” and to give back. “Many will expect much from you, which is OK since you have much to give,” she said at commencement, held May 10 on Wheeler Mall.

Carson was a member of Longwood’s first class of ROTC cadets and returned to teach in the ROTC program from 1988 to 1991, during which she earned a master’s degree from Longwood. In her last assignment before retiring May 1, she was chief of staff of the U.S. Army Combined Arms Support Command at Fort Lee.

Some 724 bachelor’s degrees and 142 master’s degrees were awarded. Carson, whom Longwood President Patricia Cormier called a “true citizen leader,” received an honorary doctor of humane letters degree.

The Sally Barksdale Hargrett Prize for Academic Excellence, for the graduating senior with the highest grade-point average, was shared by Arianne Kathleen Barrus (B.M. with an education concentration) of Midlothian, Melanie Katharine Goss (B.A, English) of Portsmouth, and Sangi Lyn Hatcher (B.S., business administration) of Chase City. Each had a perfect 4.0 GPA.

Mandalyn Renee Thompson, an economics major from Pamplin who graduated summa cum laude, received the Dan Daniel Senior Award for Scholarship and Citizenship. Thompson is a member of Phi Kappa Phi national honor society and is the university’s William G. McGowan Scholar for 2007-08.

Dr. Melissa C. Rhoten, associate professor of chemistry and chair of the Department of Chemistry and Physics, received the Student-Faculty Recognition Award. In 2006 she received the Maria Bristow Starke Faculty Excellence Award. That award and the Junior Faculty Award, usually given at commencement, will now be awarded at convocation.

During Carson’s Army career, in which she started as a field artillery officer and later became a logistician, she served in Bosnia, South Korea and Germany, in addition to numerous locations throughout the United States.

“I have lived in and been to a lot of places in this world and am convinced that we are lucky,” she told the graduates. “We are so lucky to be Americans and to live in this democratic state…But this great nation of ours was not conceived overnight – there were 11 hard years between the signing of the Declaration of Independence and the crafting of the Constitution, and then another four years before the Bill of Rights was drafted. Like Rome, the United States was not built in a day, and we should keep that in mind as we witness and assist fledgling democracies in other parts of the word – it’s not quick, it’s not clean, and it’s not easy.”