William and Mary commencement sends graduates out on new adventure

aheymann@vagazette.com

William and Mary students walked over the Crim Dell to the background of bells from the Wren Building to mark commencement Saturday for the Class of 2018.

Every spring commencement, graduates walk across campus, taking the opposite route they walked as freshmen. Saturday's ceremony was held in Zable Stadium, the first one outdoors in 25 years.

Several attendees looked for shade as temperatures reached 87 degrees.

The College gave out 2,045 degrees, 717 of which were graduate and 1,328 of which were undergraduate.

"The last exam has been taken; the final paper submitted,” said Robert Gates, William and Mary chancellor. “The registrar has double-checked and, yes, you have indeed made it through one of the most rigorous educations in the world. Well done."

Five honorary doctorate degrees were given, including to William and Mary’s first African-American residential students, Lynn Briley, Karen Ely and Janet Brown Strafer.

Katherine Johnson, who was a mathematician at NASA Langley who helped make the first human spaceflight possible, received an honorary doctorate. Johnson was unable to attend the ceremony due to health issues, but her daughters represented her at the event. She was presented her honorary degree in her home earlier this semester by President Taylor Reveley, a video of which was shown at the ceremony.

Johnson recorded a video message, which was shown at Zable stadium.

“Give the world your best,” she said. “Always do your best with whatever you have. Like it and show it.”

The keynote was delivered by Sen. Mark Warner.

Reveley was surprised at the ceremony with an honorary degree for his service to the university. William and Mary’s Board of Visitors voted unanimously to present Reveley with the honor.

It was Reveley’s last commencement as president; he will retire June 30, and will be replaced by Katherine Rowe on July 1.

“I feel like a corpse at an Irish wake,” Reveley said. “I need to be here for the event, but no one expects me to say anything.”

Reveley did not leave without giving the new alumni some final advice. Reveley said while the new graduates were ready to set sail on their new adventures, his ship was finally coming into port after a 50-year career.

“My spirit is lifted by the promise I see in each of you, Class of 2018, and that I see in this iconic institution,” Reveley said.

Watch ceremony online

You can watch the live stream recording of the commencement ceremony at facebook.com/williamandmary.

Amelia Heymann can be reached by email at aheymann@dailypress.com, or on twitter @HeymannAmelia.

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