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2012 News Releases

Longwood awards 1,027 degrees at commencement May 12

May 12, 2012

Former Virginia Supreme Court Justice John Charles Thomas
Former Virginia Supreme Court Justice John Charles Thomas delivers the commencement address to more than 1,000 graduates.

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Former Virginia Supreme Court Justice John Charles Thomas urged graduates at Longwood University commencement May 12 to "be fearless in fighting for the America we want to build."

"Here in front of me are teachers, scientists, doctors, lawyers, nurses, soldiers, builders and innovators who have the collective strength to grab America by the scruff of the neck and set it on the right course. You have that power in you," said Thomas, the first African American and the youngest person, at 32, to be appointed to Virginia's highest court. Thomas served on the court from 1983-89 and is now a senior partner with the Richmond-based law firm of Hunton & Williams.

"As I look out at you with your youthful energy and you at the top of your game and you with the resolve that got you here today, I know that the solution for what ails us in America and around the world is right here in front of us. You can and will be able to change the world for the better," he said.

Thomas began his remarks just after receiving an honorary Doctor of Laws degree. "I get to start out my speech by becoming a member of the Lancer family," he said.

Longwood awarded 875 bachelor's degrees and 152 master's degrees during the ceremony. This includes students who finished degree requirements this spring as well as in summer 2011 and fall 2011.

The Sally Barksdale Hargrett Prize for Academic Excellence, awarded to the graduating senior with the highest grade-point average, was shared by Jessica Renee Alley of New Castle, B.S. in kinesiology; Jillian Michelle Chesson of Virginia Beach, B.S. in liberal studies; Mary Catherine Hoyt of Newport News, B.S. in business administration (economics concentration); Stephanie Lauren Roddenberry of Carson, B.S. in business administration (finance concentration); Crystal Elaine Peoples of Chesapeake, B.S. in mathematics; and Megan Ashley Hendrick of Farmville, B.S. in liberal studies. Each had a perfect 4.0 GPA.

Hoyt also received Longwood's other award for graduating seniors, the Dan Daniel Senior Award for Scholarship and Citizenship.

Commencement 2012Jeff Halliday, assistant professor of communication studies, received the Student-Faculty Recognition Award, which honors a faculty member for professional excellence and devoted service to students. Halliday, who joined the faculty in 2007, teaches in the mass media concentration and is an adviser to campus radio station WMLU, The Rotunda (student newspaper) and  "The Longwood Show."

In his remarks, Thomas compared the graduates to a trapeze artist. "That trapeze artist has something that you guys have today-that trapeze artist has momentum. You leave here with momentum and at the top of your game. We believe you have what it takes to grab that next ring. If all of you work with fairness and honor and fortitude and determination to do the best job that you can ever do anywhere that you find yourself, the world will feel the presence of the Longwood Class of 2012 because together you can move mountains."

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