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President's Corner: January 2019

One of the best parts of my job is getting to shake the hand of many graduates who walk across the stage of the Ted Constant Convocation Center. Their elation at reaching their life's goal after years of challenging work is contagious.

Last month was no different. About 1,760 students earned degrees. The rain didn't put much of a damper on the joy and excitement in the Ted.

The graduates heard from two leaders in business and politics. James Squires, the chairman and CEO of Norfolk Southern Corp., reassured them that if they didn't have a grand plan for the future, that was OK. "The journey is the key," he said. "I learned by going from one location to the next."

Virginia Lt. Gov. Justin Fairfax also talked about his life story, emphasizing his family's dedication to education and the power of perseverance. He lost the Democratic primary for lieutenant governor in 2013 but didn't give up and was elected four years later.

In addition, Karl Schoenbach, Eminent Scholar emeritus and one of the pioneers of our successful bioelectrics program, received an honorary doctorate.

The stories of our graduates are just as powerful. Each traveled a unique path to success.

Barry Carp enrolled part-time at Old Dominion in 1967 but left in 1971 to devote himself to a new job with the state Department of Health. Decades later, after he retired, he decided it was time to fulfill his lifelong dream. Last month, at the age of 76, Carp received a bachelor's degree in political science.

Montae Taylor, who grew up in Richmond, hadn't thought much about higher education until a friend was arrested in a robbery. Determined to make a difference in his community, he attended ODU and was president of the student NAACP chapter and vice president of Brother 2 Brother. He now works as a development manager for a local nonprofit and plans to attend law school.

Taylor majored in both sociology and criminal justice. Other recent graduates with double majors include Linda St-Laurent, who was the honor graduate in the College of Arts & Letters. She studied English and international studies and ended her college career with an impressive 3.97 grade point average.

The Outstanding University Scholar Award was given last month to Katherine Letchworth, a computer science major with a 3.99 GPA. Thomas Kennedy, a lecturer in computer science whom Letchworth cited as her most inspirational faculty member, said she is "the most diligent student I have taught at ODU. She has continuously impressed me and my colleagues."

Letchworth now works as a software engineer at Space and Naval Warfare Systems Command.

Our campus yesterday returned to its usual bustle, with the start of the spring semester. In less than four months, I look forward to participating in yet another joyous celebration as our newest graduates bask in the glow of their accomplishments.

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