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President's Corner: April 2016

Old Dominion University will again be the scene of exuberant cheers and selfies next month. In three ceremonies at Ted Constant Convocation Center on May 6 and 7, more than 3,000 students will celebrate the end of their undergraduate or graduate experiences.

These events will mark a significant milestone not just for the graduates but also for the university. As I write this, we expect 3,786 students to satisfy the requirements for graduation and 3,090 to attend one of the ceremonies. Both of those numbers are record highs for a spring commencement. And that means the percentage of no-show graduates will be at its lowest level.

If you factor out the 370 or so distance-learning students who took classes from afar, few graduates will be staying home on their special day.

That might make the Ted a little more crowded and the ceremonies a bit longer, but it's overall great news. It shows that our efforts to improve students' experiences, both inside and outside the classroom, are making a difference.

We would not be at this point today were it not for the diligence and daily engagement of our faculty. In addition, our Student Success Center and the increased emphasis on advising have helped more students reach the finish line. Our initiatives to enhance residential life and enrich extracurricular options are increasing their satisfaction and school spirit.

The ceremony on the morning of May 7 will be special for another reason. Old Dominion will honor one of the university's most loyal friends. Judge Marc Jacobson will receive an honorary doctorate of humane letters.

Judge Jacobson served for 14 years on the Norfolk Circuit Court and General District Court. He was a member of our Board of Visitors from 2004 to 2014 and rector from 2006 to 2008.

You don't have to walk too far on campus to see evidence of Judge Jacobson's quiet generosity. The Welcome Center at the Ted is named for him and his wife, Connie. So are the Athletic Academic Center and the President's House. The Jacobsons also have endowed the annual Raoul Wallenberg Humanitarian Lecture, which is part of the President's Lecture Series, and a full scholarship for a women's basketball player.

We also are fortunate to have three accomplished speakers from different spheres of life addressing our graduates.

U.S. Rep. Rob Wittman, an advocate for members of the military and watchdog for the Chesapeake Bay, will speak on May 6 to degree recipients from the College of Arts and Letters. On the morning of May 7, Robert Blue, president of Dominion Virginia Power, one of the state's largest energy companies, will address graduates of the Batten College of Engineering and Technology and the Colleges of Sciences and Health Sciences. And that afternoon, Joyce Roché, a former president and CEO of Girls Inc. and mentor to businesswomen, will speak to graduates of the Strome College of Business and Darden College of Education.

To the graduates, their families and the other honorees, I offer congratulations and wishes for a joyous day.

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