VCU graduates praised for their resolve to not lose focus during pandemic
George Copeland Jr. | 5/19/2022, 6 p.m.
With graduates hailing from 43 countries and diverse cultural backgrounds, the sheer scale of accomplishment was immense during Virginia Commonwealth University’s graduation ceremony last Saturday.
“I see tremendous determination and resolution,” VCU President Michael Rao told the approximately 5,000 graduates, including more than 3,000 who earned undergraduate degrees and nearly 1,000 who earned master’s degrees. “The grace and care that you’ve shown for each other has been a model for people everywhere to follow. We saw through the pandemic many human responses — some of them good, and some were not so good. You’ve shown us the very best.”
Among the thousands of students, families and friends inside the Greater Richmond Convention Center was Samia Saleem, the ceremony’s student speaker who encouraged the graduates to never stop dreaming.
“The truth is that none of us knows what is truly destined for us, but deep down inside, there’s a voice that tells us to take the risk,” said Ms. Saleem, a psychology and chemistry major. “There’s a dream we see, where we imagine ourselves living the best life possible. Today, I encourage you to hold on to that dream, no matter how impossible it may seem.”
Recognition was given to VCU alumni, volunteers and MCV Alumni Association members Michele A. Romano and Donald J. Romano, who received the Edward A. Wayne Medal during the ceremony for their support of the School of Medicine, the College of Health Professions and the School of Nursing.
Laura Chioma Jones received the Board of Visitors Award for her achievements as a sculpture major who also minored in art history and psychology. As part of the award, Ms. Jones received a one-year scholarship equal to in-state tuition and fees.
The university-wide ceremony was one of 40 that took place recently, with more department and school-specific ceremonies occurring throughout the past week in locations ranging from the Altria Theater to the Siegel Center and the Virginia War Memorial.
The commencement’s key-note speaker, author and interior designer Charlotte Moss, was in many ways a reminder of the pandemic’s long-term impact on VCU. Initially set to speak at the spring 2020 commencement ceremony, her address was delayed to ensure public safety as VCU adjusted to meet safety guidelines and restrictions.
That delayed address proved to be a fitting send-off for the graduating class as Ms. Moss recounted her own long journey to VCU and her time as a stu- dent. She also spoke about how the two years since her planned speech had driven her toward a personal recalibration that now involves advocating for those who have suffered most from the impact of COVID-19. She encouraged the graduates to BARKY’S continue rising to the pandemic’s challenge while remaining cognizant of the changed world around them. She also told them that as they pursue their own goals to never lose the desire to help others with the skills they earned at VCU.
“The world needs you to create a better place, a place so great, we can’t even imagine it,” Ms. Moss said. “And now you have the tools to do it.”