did it his way: mixing humor, wisdom and even song
By Matt Kelly
speaker Dr. Francis S. Collins exhorted the graduates to have
fun and, as an illustration, burst into song at the close of his
director of the National Human Genome Research Institute and a
native of Staunton, received a standing ovation for the song,
a parody of My Way about getting through college by
doing it their way.
than 5,500 degrees were conferred under cloudy skies May 20 in
the 172nd graduation
ceremony for the University. Exuberant students ignored the mud
on the Lawn and the threat of more rain as they celebrated the
latest milestone in their education. Some students screamed and
waved to friends and family while others joked among themselves
and hoisted colorful balloons as they processed from the Rotunda
to Old Cabell Hall.
President John T.
Casteen III said that graduations marked shared accomplishments
and he praised families for the sacrifices that made it possible
for the students to be there. He also praised the faculty for
its passion for learning and for conveying that passion to the
reminded the students that during their time here, U.Va. was and
continues to be the pre-eminent public university in the country
and that that adds value to their degrees.
in his remarks, mixed humor and the profound, nostalgia for his
days at the university and advice for the future. A 1970 graduate
of U.Va., he majored in chemistry.
told the graduates that through advances in medical science, their
lifespans could be increased notably, to over 100 years of age.
Remember, the best revenge is to live long enough to be
a problem to your children, he said.
I did it their way
came, I bought the books
I stayed in the dorms and
I worked, studied hard
Made lots of friends who
They gave me grades,
And may I say, not in a fair way
But Im a good Wahoo
I did it their way.
Now, my fine young friends,
Now that I am a full professor,
Where once I was oppressed,
I have now become the cruel
With me, I hope you will see
The double helix is a highway
And yes, youll learn its best
To do it my way.
is an excerpt from a song credited by Dr. Francis Collins
to Bright Morning Star, music group from the 1980s. It is
a parody of the Revaux/Francois/Anka song My Way,
which was made popular by Frank Sinatra.
recalled some of his time at the University, but noted that the
essential concerns remained the same: sex for the students,
athletics for the alumni and parking for the faculty.
advised the graduates to seek a balanced life, noting that it
was simple to say, but harder to achieve. He said it could be
done in part through how students made four decisions in their
first was in what work they chose or in how they gave back to
the society. "Some
say that the purpose of life is to have a life of purpose,
do this, the graduates needed to understand that while they have
lofty plans, they touch other people one at a time. And that is
how they will bring about change, he said.
second decision is how they approach faith, the meaning of life
and what happens after death. Collins said he can easily and simultaneously
believe in the scientific rigor of intellectually disciplined
mind and in a God that has a personal interest in each of us.
third area focuses on what the graduates will do about love. He
advised them to reject prejudices, since humans are 99.9 percent
the same genetically. On a personal level, he said if they have
not found someone they want to spend the rest of their life with,
they should keep looking.
fourth decision he advised the graduates was to keep fun in their
lives. He cited Winston Churchill as saying that people could
not consider weighty matters unless they were also capable of
considering humorous matters. As a way injecting fun into the
graduation celebration, Collins pulled out his guitar and sang
a song about college life. The song centered on working as others
direct you to in college, and Collins included a verse of his
own at the end, saying that now that he was a professor, he had
become the oppressor.
graduates gave Collins a standing ovation.
never heard an encore demand for a graduation speaker before,
Casteen added after Collins remarks.
Association president Leigh B. Middleditch Jr. spoke on the honor
system, noting that his remarks were written before the recent
allegations of 122 violations of the honor code in a physics class.
He said while many students seem ambivalent about the honor code,
he advised the graduates to consider the honor code and whether
or not it sets U.Va. apart from other schools and if it added
value to their lives and their degrees. He said the students should
also consider what it means to give their word and stick by it.
said the honor code could offer the students the best lessons
they take away with them from U.Va.
echoed Middleditchs remarks, advising the graduates not
to follow the path of unenlightened self-interest. Dream,
create and commit your fortunes to the common good, Casteen