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ODU Hosting First Commencement Ceremony Exclusively for Graduate Students; Ceremonies May 5 and 6

By Brendan O'Hallarn

Old Dominion University's 126th Commencement Exercises will include a brand-new ceremony.

Because of the growth of the number of degree recipients and the desire to recognize the accomplishments of the University's graduate students, a ceremony for master's and doctoral graduates of every Old Dominion academic college will be held 7:30 p.m. Friday, May 5.

It is one of four ceremonies for graduates at the Ted Constant Convocation Center on May 5 and 6. More than 2,750 bachelor's, master's and doctoral degrees will be conferred.

Dean Robert Wojtowicz said the creation of the Graduate School in 2016 allowed the University to "focus more effectively on the many outstanding achievements of our graduate students." Wojtowicz said the advanced degree ceremony "will be an important way for the University to recognize graduate students across all of the colleges at the end of their academic journey."

Austin Agho, Old Dominion's provost and vice president for academic affairs, said the ceremony also accommodates the growth in the number of students who want to attend commencement.

"Adding this ceremony allows us to spotlight the achievements of our students earning graduate degrees," Agho said, "and provide them with the maximum number of tickets to share their special moment with their families and friends."

Tim Seibles, professor of English and Poet Laureate of Virginia, will deliver the commencement address at the graduate ceremony. The other commencement speakers will be Christine Pantoya, senior vice president of mobile strategy for the NBA; Ting Xu, founder and president of Evergreen Enterprises, and Angela Hucles, founder and CEO of Empowerment Through Sport and an Olympic gold medalist

Pantoya will speak to graduates of the College of Arts & Letters at 3 p.m. on Friday, May 5. Xu will deliver remarks Saturday, May 6 at 9 a.m., to graduates of the Darden College of Education and the Strome College of Business. Hucles will speak at 2 p.m. May 6 to graduates of the Batten College of Engineering and Technology, College of Health Sciences and College of Sciences.

Barry M. Kornblau, a real estate and investment executive and long-time benefactor of Old Dominion University, will receive an honorary Doctor of Humane Letters at the 2 p.m. ceremony. Xu will receive an honorary Doctor of Humane Letters at the 9 a.m. ceremony.

Information about all three ceremonies is available at the Old Dominion University commencement website.

Tim Seibles, the recently appointed Poet Laureate of Virginia, is a professor of English at Old Dominion University, where he teaches literature and classes in the Master of Fine Arts writing program. He has written several poetry collections, including "Hurdy-Gurdy," "Hammerlock," "Buffalo Head Solos" and the recently released "One Turn Around the Sun." His first book, "Body Moves," has just been re-released by Carnegie Mellon University Press as part of its Contemporary Classics series. "Fast Animal" was one of five poetry finalists for the 2012 National Book Award.

Seibles has been a National Endowment for the Arts fellow and was awarded a seven-month writing fellowship from the Provincetown Fine Arts Work Center in Massachusetts. In the spring semester of 2010, Seibles was poet-in-residence at Bucknell University in Pennsylvania. His poetry is featured in several anthologies.

Seibles also has been a workshop leader for Cave Canem, a writer's retreat for African-American poets, and for the Hurston/Wright Foundation, another organization dedicated to developing black writers.

Christine Pantoya '95, senior vice president, mobile strategy with the National Basketball Association, leads the NBA's mobile strategy and partnerships business, including the continued advancement of the league's direct-to-consumer content offerings. In this role, Pantoya manages collaborations among all business areas that contribute to the development and delivery of the NBA's over-the-top and mobile product offerings globally.

Before joining the NBA in January 2015, Pantoya served as vice president, corporate strategy and development at Verizon Communications. At Verizon, Pantoya was responsible for developing strategic growth initiatives and multibillion-dollar revenue stream models across various areas, including media and entertainment, advertising, games, telematics and m-commerce. During her career, Pantoya has helped launch sales channels for several startup wireless providers and was instrumental in integrating systems and processes during the merger of Nextel and Sprint.

Pantoya earned her M.B.A., with a focus on marketing, from Old Dominion University's Strome College of Business. She holds a bachelor's degree in Spanish from the University and remains active in the ODU community, serving on the Strome College of Business' executive advisory council and mentoring students.

Ting Xu '88, a native of Shanghai, China, founded Evergreen Enterprises in her home outside Richmond, Virginia, in 1993 with $20,000. From a small decorative flag line, Evergreen has grown to become one of the leading gift, garden and home decor companies in North America, with more than 400 employees.

Under her leadership, Evergreen has completed numerous acquisitions, including the 2010 purchase of Plow & Hearth, a multi-channel retailer of home, garden and children's products; the 2012 purchase of Team Sports America, a provider of licensed sports novelty items, and the 2014 purchase of VivaTerra, a multi-channel retailer of high-design eco-friendly home decor.

Xu, a member of the University's Strome Entrepreneurial Hall of Fame, earned bachelor's and master's degrees in computer science from Old Dominion. She later worked for the Virginia Health Department as a computer programmer.

Angela Hucles, a two-time Olympic gold medalist for the U.S. in soccer, is founder and CEO of Empowerment Through Sport. A former professional soccer player for the Boston Breakers, Hucles is the U.S. Soccer Foundation's 2009 Humanitarian of the Year.

With a passion for helping others achieve their dreams and more than 25 years' experience in sports, she founded Empowerment Through Sport in 2012, an organization focused on discovering sports leadership skills and athlete transitions that translate to life success. Hucles has become a regular speaker on topics of sports leadership, equality, inclusion and safe spaces, anti-bullying, and the power of sport and its impact on personal growth and development. She is the past president of the Women's Sports Foundation, founded by Billie Jean King.

Hucles was the leading scorer for the U.S. Women's National Team in the 2008 Olympic Games. She played her inaugural season of Women's Professional Soccer for the Boston Breakers. Hucles started in 48 of her 109 career appearances, ranking 24th on the all-time U.S. list.

Barry M. Kornblau '71 graduated from Old Dominion University with a bachelor's degree in political science. He began working as the senior vice president at Realty Industries Inc. After a merger with United Dominion Realty (UDR) Trust Inc., Kornblau became senior vice president and director of apartment operations at UDR, responsible for more than 40,000 apartments in nine states. He left UDR in 1997 and returned to managing a personal apartment portfolio at Summit Realty Group Inc. In 2011, Kornblau retired from the apartment business but continued his private investing.

Kornblau also was a founder and director of Commerce Bank of Virginia and served as a director of Rentgrow Inc. of Waltham, Massachusetts. He remains a director of SanAir Technologies Laboratory as well as the Virginia Community Development Corporation.

Kornblau is a longtime benefactor and supporter of everything ODU, beginning with involvement in the Big Blue Club more than 45 years ago. He endowed a real estate scholarship and later another for football. He served on the University's Board of Visitors from 1997 to 1999 and from 2007 to 2015 and was vice rector from 2012 to 2014. He also has served on other alumni and education boards.

Kornblau made significant contributions to open the school's first alumni center, which was named for him, and the Keyes Hitting Facility, named after his late friend and ODU baseball standout, Paul Keyes. Kornblau has received many honors from ODU, including the Distinguished Alumni and Bud Metheny Awards.

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