May 30-June 12, 2003
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Soggy day, bright future
Forging the path to regenerative medicine
Digest -- U.Va. News Daily
Peace Corps rates U.Va. No. 1
Outstanding in their fields

Years of service

Davis is new Faculty Senate chairman, Childress next in line
Surgical system uses ‘bits and bytes’ to reduce trauma
Board of Visitors meetings
Reverie and reality: photographs by Rodney Smith
Career workshops for employees
Film society to show Kurosawa classics
Soggy day, bright future
Arts & Sciences graduate Joshua Abraham says hello to friends amidst a sea of umbrellas as constant rain fell over the graduation ceremony on May 18.
Photo by Andrew Shurtleff
Arts & Sciences graduate Joshua Abraham says hello to friends amidst a sea of umbrellas as constant rain fell over the graduation ceremony on May 18.

Staff Report

On a day soured by leaden clouds and chilling rain, members of the University’s Class of 2003 hooted, hollered and hugged each other to spread their own cheer over Final Exercises on May 18.

Thousands of family members, friends and relatives huddled on the Lawn — with many more watching from remote sites around Grounds — to celebrate degrees earned by more than 5,600 graduates.

For Paul Kevin Hanna of Covington, it was a day to receive his master’s degree in physics education. For his 4-year-old son, it was the perfect day to jump in puddles. The boy’s yellow slicker kept him partially dry, but his antics in the rain made a muddy mess of his shoes and pants.

“[We’ll] clean him up later, but for now he might just as well enjoy himself,” said the youngster’s mother.

The mood throughout the morning was buoyant despite the weather and changes in plans. University officials decided early Sunday to hold diploma exercises at indoor sites after the morning’s ceremony on the Lawn.

The six remote-viewing sites, which featured a live broadcast on large screens, proved popular. The first customers for the Chemistry Building remote site were in their seats by 7:45 a.m., and the auditorium quickly filled. Many people kept track of the hardier, outdoor members of their party via cell phone. After one such conversation, a woman shook her head, noting that her younger children would probably be sick in time for their school exams, and returned to her dry, warm seat.

In Ruffner Auditorium, the crowd stood to recite the Pledge of Allegiance and sing the national anthem. They groaned as they saw people splashing through puddles during the procession from the Rotunda. They cheered as President John T. Casteen III called out the schools of their graduates.

Thousands of family members and friends huddle on the Lawn May 18 to celebrate degrees earned by more than 5,600 graduates.
Thousands of family members and friends huddle on the Lawn May 18 to celebrate degrees earned by more than 5,600 graduates.

One man standing near the door said, “I just saw my son! I saw him walk down the Lawn. That probably wouldn’t have happened if we were out there with all those umbrellas.”

Back outside, U.Va. Police Lt. Vincent Jones said the rain presented challenges but no problems. “We’re getting the graduates graduated and going home happy,” he said. “The rain won’t put a damper on our efforts to make a nice experience for the families who’ve come out for this.”

He said he didn’t mind working in any weather, rain or shine. “I have a good raincoat and a hat, so I’m all set,” he said.

While the mass gathering was spared lightning and thunder, the rumblings of war were vivid in the address by keynote speaker Mortimer M. Caplin.

Caplin, 86, recalled his graduation from the U.Va. School of Law in 1940, when President Franklin Delano Roosevelt spoke in Memorial Gymnasium about the threat to freedom posed by Nazi forces overrunning Europe. That ceremony, too, was marred by inclement weather, and Roosevelt made the moment even more dramatic by declaring, “On this 10th day of June 1940, the hand that held the dagger has struck it into the back of its neighbor.”

Caplin went on to enlist in the Navy, serve as a beachmaster on fiercely-contested Omaha Beach during the D-Day landing in Normandy and, after the war, combine a distinguished career in private practice and public service. During the Kennedy administration, he was commissioner of the Internal Revenue Service, and later he served on the U.Va. Board of Visitors.

Members of the Curry School of Education celebrate as their degrees are awarded during the rain-soaked graduation ceremony on the Lawn.
Members of the Curry School of Education celebrate as their degrees are awarded during the rain-soaked graduation ceremony on the Lawn.

Two key lessons came out of his war experience, Caplin told the graduates.
“First, avoid fixed and rigid plans. Instead, allow for flexibility, innovation and possible change. But always hold true to your personal values.

“Second, be willing to accept risk when necessary as you move toward your goals. ... Simply put, have faith in your choices and be at the ready to risk challenge as well as change. You will grow in strength as you do.”

Citing newspaper headlines, Caplin stressed three challenges that define the world facing graduates: balancing new needs for national security while protecting constitutional liberties, fighting world hunger and addressing the financial demands that accompany increased life expectancy. While confronting those challenges, Caplin stressed, graduates should remember Jefferson’s insistence that each person owes a debt of public service to the country by sharing the responsibilities of a democratic society.

Caplin’s message complemented Saturday’s valediction address by Dr. L.D. Britt, a U.Va. alumnus who now is chairman of the Department of Surgery at Eastern Virginia Medical School.

Britt, too, recalled starting his career amid rumblings of war, but the Vietnam War was “indefensible,” he said. Equally indefensible over the years have been the business leaders and public stewards whose greed and self-interest have gone toward supporting lavish lifestyles at the expense of the public trust.

He urged the students gathered in University Hall, where the exercises were moved because of the weather, to trust their judgment, even in tough times.

“No one is immune from hardship, not even a Cavalier, but it will be judgment that will help you keep that ‘Not For Sale’ sign always in front of the door of character.”

Saturday’s service was marked by the presentation of the class gift, a check for $54,936 presented to Vice President and Provost Gene Block. In addition, Algernon Sydney Sullivan Awards were presented to students Michelle Morse and Andrew Bond and to Sylvia Terry, associate dean of U.Va.’s Office of African-American Affairs.

The Class of 2003’s wet clothes will eventually dry, but their experience at U.Va. will have a lasting impact.

Graduating student Norman Smith, who earned his bachelor’s degree in history, said his years at U.Va. have been “amazing and eye-opening.” Hailing from Kulleoka, Tenn., a small town where only 7 percent of his high school class went to college, he said his U.Va. education has given him “vision” for his life and career and has broadened his mind to the world and his possibilities in the world.

He plans to pursue a career in music and is headed to Nashville - “but not country music,” he said. He said he learned here that “no matter what my goals and aspirations, I have the ability to do the things I put my mind to.”

Katherine Hamilton and her family drove down from Warrenton Sunday to see her son, John P. Hamilton, awarded undergraduate degrees in foreign affairs and Spanish. With water streaming off her umbrella, she said the rain was “a shame,” but looked forward to another chance at a dry day on the Lawn.

“We’ll do it again in three years,” she said. That’s when John is expected to graduate from U.Va.’s Law School.


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