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U.S. Sen. Mark Warner speaks at Longwood University commencement

May 13, 2014

U.S. Sen. Mark Warner speaks at Longwood University commencement U.S. Sen. Mark Warner speaking at Longwood's commencement ceremony.

U.S. Sen. Mark Warner urged graduates at Longwood University’s commencement ceremony May 10 to practice civility in public discourse—and to call their mothers.

"Disagreement and rigorous debate about the big issues of the day and the challenges we face is both healthy and proper. But we should be able to debate these critical issues without questioning each other’s motives or our shared commitment to America’s success. No one in politics—and I mean no one—has a monopoly on virtue, or patriotism or the truth," he said. "I urge you to participate in our nation’s debates in a respectful manner because today we’re living in a nation that engages in too much confrontation and too little conversation."

Speaking of conversation, he also told graduates to seek out their loved ones and thank them "because you know you didn’t get here alone. … Never, ever, forget to call your mother."

Warner, who has been praised for his bipartisanship, urged the graduates to participate in the life of our country and, as they participate, to "vote for rational leaders—I don’t care which party. Vote for people who realize it’s more important to be an American than a Republican or a Democrat," he said.

Warner also said college should be more affordable.

"I don’t think anyone should go broke just because they want to go to college," he said.

Warner, a first-generation college student, said he graduated from college with $15,000 in debt. He then failed twice in business in his 20s before finding success in the fledgling cell phone industry in the early 1980s. "I’m not sure I could have taken those risks if I was burdened with the same level of student debt that many of you face," he said.

Commencement 2014 GraduateLongwood University President W. Taylor Reveley IV shares these concerns, and has called efforts to keep college costs low a moral imperative. In March, the Longwood Board of Visitors approved the smallest percentage increase in tuition and mandatory fees at any Virginia public university in more than a decade.

As Virginia governor, Warner helped Longwood rebuild from the 2001 fire that destroyed its signature building and signed into law Longwood’s designation as a university in 2002.

Speaking to graduates at the beginning of the ceremony, President Reveley held up Longwood —which has a mission of developing citizen leaders—as an example. "If the world and Virginia can more resemble Longwood at its best, that is a vision to celebrate and yearn for," Reveley said.

Longwood awarded 921 bachelor’s degrees in the May 10 undergraduate ceremony and 156 graduate degrees the previous evening.

In the undergraduate ceremony, Morgan Paige Reid, a psychology and sociology double-major from Bedford, received the Sally Barksdale Hargrett Prize for Academic Excellence, awarded to the graduating senior with the highest grade-point average. Reid, who graduated with a perfect 4.0 GPA, has been accepted into the graduate program in counseling at the College of William & Mary.

Heather Anne Monger, a kinesiology major (exercise science concentration) from Midlothian, received the Dan Daniel Senior Award for Scholarship and Citizenship. She graduated with a 3.88 GPA and was president of Mortar Board. She has been accepted into the graduate program in exercise physiology at the University of Virginia.

Commencement 2014 GraduatesDr. Sharon Emerson-Stonnell, professor of mathematics, received the Student-Faculty Recognition Award, which honors a faculty member for professional excellence and devoted service to students. Emerson-Stonnell, who joined the faculty in 1992, is a two-time recipient of the Maude Glenn Raiford Award. She is a former president of the Piedmont Council of Teachers of Mathematics and a recipient of its Outstanding College Teacher award.

In the graduate commencement ceremony, Dr. Sean Ruday, assistant professor of English, received the Faculty Research Award, and Dr. JoEllen Pederson, assistant professor of sociology, received the Faculty Teaching Award. Joanne Moore Paek of Moseley (education/counselor education program) received the Full-time Graduate Student Award; Deana Polly Kahlenberg of Hope Mills, N.C., who received an M.S. in communication sciences and disorders, the Part-time Graduate Student Award; and Chelsea Danielle Carroll of Lanexa (education/counselor education program) the Graduate Leadership Award. Andrea Leigh Proctor Brewer of Richmond (M.S. '10), a speech-language pathologist at Tussing and North elementary schools in Colonial Heights, received the Graduate Recent Alumni Award. 

"This degree seals your fate in two ways: first, as a lifelong learner, and second, and most importantly, as an individual who now thinks with a scholarly habit of mind," said Dr. Ken Perkins, provost and vice president for academic affairs, at the graduate ceremony. "Many things that come our way are temporary. The advanced degree you are about to receive is not temporary. It will serve you for your lifetime."

Longwood University, founded in 1839, enrolls just under 5,000 students and is the third-oldest public institution of higher education in Virginia.