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Celebrating the Class of 2010

May 28, 2010

Dear members of the University community:

Students of the Class of 2010 and their families gathered in Charlottesville last weekend to celebrate the University's most joyful occasion, when we award degrees and honor the achievements of our graduating students. The threat of rain that lasted most of the weekend gave way to sunny skies just as we began the 181st Final Exercises on Sunday morning. This link will open a slide show ( of images from this year's graduation.

Best-selling author David Baldacci spoke at Valedictory Exercises on Saturday. In my commencement address at Final Exercises, I encouraged our graduating students to use the knowledge they have acquired here to make themselves agents for good and for decency in the careers and communities to which they now go. I talked about the English poet John Keats' idea of "negative capability" - the capacity to live in a state of uncertainty, in a state in which not every mystery or incongruity is resolved to our satisfaction. Keats' concept was one of the first steps in what one might call the modern era toward understanding how we think and how our minds work.

Our students walked the Lawn this year without four of their classmates who had died earlier in the year. Yeardley Love's death was the most recent, and perhaps the most confounding for our students and for all of us. Whatever the outcome of the pending court cases, there will be no satisfying conclusion to the story of her death. When our anguish and anger subside, we may be left with nothing more than bewilderment and the sense of uncertainty that Keats described. We will always remember Yeardley Love, and her family will always be part of our University family.

This may be my last message to alumni, parents, and friends and my colleagues in the University community before I step down from the presidency on August 1. As Betsy and I prepare to leave Carr's Hill, we do so with some sadness about leaving and with some excitement for what lies ahead for us, but mostly with exquisite gratitude for the people who have made our years here so wonderful. Alumni, parents, and friends, faculty and staff members -- all of you have touched our lives and shaped the memories of this place that we take with us as we go.

For your long-standing dedication to the University, and for your many kindnesses to Betsy and me through the years, I will always remain very grateful.

John Casteen