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2009 News Releases

Commencement 2009

May 9, 2009

Former Longwood basketball star Jerome Kersey speaks at Commencement 2009 Former Longwood basketball star Jerome Kersey speaks to graduates at Commencement 2009

Longwood University graduates were urged at commencement to work hard, rely on family and friends for support, and learn by listening to others and adapting.

"Hard work is the secret sauce," said Longwood alumnus Jerome Kersey, who played in the National Basketball Association (NBA) for 17 years and was known for his work ethic. "When you stop working on your game, you stop succeeding. Put as much time and effort into your 'craft' as you do into Facebook and your social networking."

Some 742 bachelor's degrees and 172 master's degrees were awarded May 9. Kersey, who attended Longwood from 1980 to 1984 and received his degree in 2006, dispensed career advice drawn from his professional basketball career. 

"You will do work you think is beneath you. It is not. And you aren't the first person to get the assignment or react with indignation. You will not enter the game as an MVP, and veterans won't treat you like one until you earn that through hard work, sacrifice, and a lot of humbling lessons. Championships are not for the faint of heart. Your convictions and commitment to winning within the organization's values must be rock-solid. Even superstars in college become ordinary when they enter a new arena. If you want to regain your superstar status, get after it. It won't be handed to you when everyone else is just as hungry and talented as you."

Kersey, a Clarksville native, still holds 10 basketball records at Longwood, where during his senior season he earned 1st Team All-America and State Player of the Year honors and led the nation's Division II players in rebounding. He played in the NBA, mostly with the Portland Trail Blazers, from 1984 to 2001, twice helping lead the team to the NBA Finals and winning a championship with the San Antonio Spurs in 1999. Kersey, who lives in the Portland suburb of Happy Valley, Ore., remains one of the most popular players in the history of the Trail Blazers' franchise. He participated in Longwood's 2006 commencement ceremony after taking two courses online that spring and finishing his B.S. in social work.

Longwood graduate at Commencement 2009The Sally Barksdale Hargrett Prize for Academic Excellence, given to the graduating senior with the highest academic average, was shared by Brian David Hill, a history major from Vinton, and Heidi Rose Swartzentruber, a history major from Keezletown. Both have a perfect 4.0 average, earned their degrees with a social science secondary education endorsement, and are Hull Education Scholars, members of the Honors Program who hold its most prestigious scholarship for students seeking teacher certification.

Rebekah Leigh Hosler, a liberal studies major from Colonial Heights, received the Dan Daniel Senior Award for Scholarship and Citizenship. She has as 3.95 GPA and is a member of Phi Kappa Phi national honor society. Dr. Cathy J. Roy, associate professor of exercise science, received the Student-Faculty Recognition Award, which honors a member of the faculty for professional excellence and devoted service to students.

Swartzentruber will teach at Macha Girls Secondary School in Macha, Zambia, for the next year. Hill will pursue a master's degree in European history at James Madison University while working as a graduate assistant. Hosler plans to teach elementary school.

Kersey told the graduates: "You won't do it alone. You can't do it alone. You don't need to do it alone. Life success is a team effort. Most of you had the help of at least one other person whose presence or support at a critical moment helped you arrive at this moment. Even if you do well by yourself, you could do better with support.

"Learn how the rule-makers and enforcers think. Your sense of what is right is irrelevant if you can't adapt to someone else's rules. Your success is going to be a function of listening to your coaches and doing exactly what they need done, and knowing how the referees are going to call the game. The company/team/organization needs role-players more than they need prima donna superstars."

Commencement 2009 Photo Gallery

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