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Lion fountain with blue skies on Kaufman Mall.

Graduation Isn't Just a Warm-Weather Event

Local malls won't be the only places attracting excited crowds this Saturday.

It used to be that college commencements were held only in the heat of May. But for more than 30 years, Old Dominion has also been graduating students in December.

On Saturday, December 16, about 1,450 will receive their degrees - so many, in fact, that we will have two ceremonies at the Ted.

Students typically don't start college expecting to graduate in December. It just happens, depending on their course loads and life circumstances. The advent of December commencement is another way that Old Dominion tries to meet students where they are and make the educational process as convenient as possible.

Max Allee will be graduating this weekend with a 4.0 average. After four years in the Navy, Max enrolled at Old Dominion in January 2016, armed with 50 credits. He could have graduated sooner, he says, but he wanted to complete a double major - in criminal justice and sociology.

Max was a military wellness trainer at Old Dominion and interned over the summer with the Chesapeake Sheriff Department. He will soon begin work as a deputy sheriff with the department, with the goal of rising to a leadership position in law enforcement.

Eric Gonzalez, an electrical engineering student who also is a Navy veteran, could have graduated sooner - if he hadn't accepted four consecutive summer internships with Dominion Energy and Boeing.

Eric said he wouldn't have landed those internships without the connections he made through the ODU chapter of the Society of Hispanic Professional Engineers, where he served as president. He also credited the support of the Student Veterans Association.

He had the enviable dilemma of choosing from a handful of job offers and has decided to move to Orlando to work for Lockheed Martin.

Our December commencements, like our ceremonies in May, showcase the diversity of our student body. Virginians, international students, military-affiliated students, first- and fourth-generation students - all will receive degrees.

And, like their summer counterparts, Old Dominion's ceremonies will feature inspiring and accomplished speakers.

Graduates attending the morning commencement will hear from Drew Ungvarsky, a 2002 Old Dominion Honors College alumnus whom Adweek named among its "15 chief creative officers who are inspiring the advertising of tomorrow." Ungvarsky is the CEO and executive creative director of Grow, a digital agency in Norfolk with clients including Google, Burberry, FedEx and Nike. He also has been a driving force in revitalizing downtown Norfolk.

Miki Toliver King, vice president for operations and digital marketing at The Washington Post, will speak in the afternoon. An attorney who grew up in Chesapeake, King has engineered financial success in a challenging industry. She launched the first paid subscription product at Politico, and during her time at The Post, digital subscriptions have grown more than 200 percent.

Congratulations to all of the graduates and their families for completing their journeys. And I wish the rest of you a happy holiday season and new year.

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