Gates keynotes Class of 2007 graduation

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May 22, 2007

6:11 PM

p. The College held its 314th annual commencement exercises May 20, awarding degrees to 1,762 undergraduate and graduate students. College Chancellor Sandra Day O’Connor and Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates, ’65, were both in attendance, with Gates delivering the commencement address.

p. College President Gene Nichol opened the ceremony, recounting the past four years, which were often marked by misfortune.

p. “You came in on a hurricane, and kept up the pace. Converting Isabel into a two-week ‘hurrication.’ And the Preston Dorm fire into a lesson in commitment and community. Children of nature and fate,” Nichol said. “You touched your stricken sisters and brothers in Blacksburg in ways that taught and ennobled us all,” he added.

p. In his commencement address, Gates thanked the College for inspiring him toward public service. Originally a pre-med student, Gates switched his major to history after his freshman year.

p. “God only knows how many lives have been saved by my becoming Director of CIA instead of a doctor,” Gates said.

p. Gates encouraged the class to pursue public service, and resist national trends of apathy toward national politics. He also said that, while many understand their rights as American citizens, few realize their responsibilities.

p. “Young Americans are as decent, generous and compassionate as we’ve ever seen in this country,” Gates said. “That is what makes it puzzling that so many young people who are public-minded when it comes to their campus and community tend to be uninterested in— if not distrustful of—our political processes. Nor is there much enthusiasm for participating in government, either as a candidate or for a career.”

p. Before his address, Gates took part in the College’s ROTC affirmation ceremony in the Wren Chapel. Gates swore in six newly commissioned lieutenants, who are joining the army after graduation.

p. Senior Elizabeth Derby delivered the senior commencement address, noting the class’s academic diversity.

p. “Each one of us carries the secret of a million little triumphs, and let that be celebrated today,” Derby said. “Twisted in the double helix of our bloodlines, traced along the curves of our features, history — genetic, immediate, universal — is pulsing with our heartbeats, shimmering in every breath we take. In this moment we are past and present enmeshed, thrilling with time and the selves we have found at William and Mary.”

p. The College also issued several awards for public service and academic achievement. Seniors Chris Lemon and Richael Faithful were the 2007 recipients of the Algernon Sidney Sullivan, which recognizes character and service.

p. The College also awarded a Sullivan Award to Louise Kale, executive director of William and Mary’s historic campus.

p. Senior Laura Smith received the Lord Botetourt Medal, awarded annually to the student who demonstrates notable academic achievement. Smith, a double major in Music and Anthropology, earned a 4.0 grade point average while at the College.

p. Former Student Assembly President senior Ryan Scofield received the James Frederic Carr Memorial Cup, which recognizes excellence in leadership. Carr, the award’s namesake, was a College student who died in World War I.

p. Philosophy professor Alan Fuchs received the Thomas Ashley Graves Jr. Award, given annually to recognize an undergraduate faculty member.

p. Graduate student Kristen Emily France won the Thatcher Prize for Excellence in Graduate and Professional Studies. The award, named for former Chancellor of the College Margaret the Lady Thatcher, is awarded annually to one graduate student. France graduated Sunday with a Ph.D. in marine science from the College’s Virginia Institute in Marine Science.

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