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Seniors Encouraged to Make a Difference in the World

144 graduates make up Class of 2009

5/17/2009 9:31:11 AM


LYNCHBURG – Rainy weather may have moved the 2009 Commencement indoors, but it did nothing to dampen the spirits of graduates. Alumna Grace Gary ’76 presented the 2009 Commencement address to 144 graduates Sunday, May 17 at 10 a.m. Gary, the executive director of Nemours Mansion and Gardens in Wilmington, DE., was selected by the Senior Class to be this year’s speaker.

Members of the college’s graduating class are leaving the Red Brick Wall for destinations across the country – and the world — for jobs, internships and graduate school. Four of the 144 graduates earned master's degrees.

Students have been accepted to numerous graduate schools including the University of Notre Dame, Cornell, the Montessori Institute Northwest, Vanderbilt University, the London school of Economics and Political Science, the University of Oxford, the University of Reading, William & Mary, and the University of Kentucky.

During the ceremony, President John E. Klein encouraged the students to pursue their dreams.

“As you begin this next chapter in your life, you probably feel a mix of excitement and worry,” he said. “But you can go out into the world with confidence. Your years here have prepared you for anything life will put in front of you, and the people you see here today will continue to support you and believe in you. Henry David Thoreau said it best when he wrote, ‘If you have built castles in the air, your work need not be lost; that is where they should be. Now put foundations under them.’

“The world is waiting, and what happens next is up to you,” Klein added. “Like the thousands of alumnae who have come before you, you have the opportunity to make a difference. This is your only life, so make sure it matters.”

Gary brought a similar message to challenge and inspire graduates. She was one of the first women to complete the Goodyear Tire and Rubber Company's "Squadron Training" program and to become a "tire room" supervisor before going on to earn her master’s degree from the University of Virginia. Prior to her current position, she served as executive director or director of several organizations including the Aspen (CO) Historical Society, the Longue Vue House and Gardens in New Orleans, LA, Colonial Williamsburg's "Williamsburg Tourism Leadership Center," Preservation Pennsylvania; and the National Trust for Historic Preservation's Mid-Atlantic Regional Office.

Gary also frequently serves as a "Study Leader" for the National Trust for Historic Preservation's international tour program. She has lead 31 tours and lectured on architectural history in countries as divergent as Uzbekistan, Belgium, Lithuania, Russia, Peru, and China. She is also the author of two volumes in the National Trust's "Information" series, numerous articles on historic preservation, and "The Crisis Handbook", which has been used extensively by statewide preservation organizations across the United States.

“Understand that you own your life,” she told the Class of 2009. “It’s the only thing that will be completely, wholly, and unequivocally yours. Use it. The goal at the end of the day is to be yourself, not some pale imitation of a definition of success given to you by someone else. Listen to your dreams and have the confidence to pursue them."

Using Eleanor Roosevelt as an example, Gary challenged the graduates to not let life’s challenges keep them from making a difference and achieving their dreams.

“Eleanor Roosevelt lived in difficult, challenging, exciting, and hardheaded times,” Gary said. “She knew every twist and turn on the 'road of trials,' but she lived true to one of her own mottos: ‘You must do the things you think you cannot do.’

“That’s how heroes translate ‘Vita Abundantior,’

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CONTACT: Brenda Edson, Director of College Relations