Ferrum College Celebrates 98th Annual Commencement

217 graduates received their diplomas during today's graduation ceremony.

Ferrum College President Jennifer Braaten at 2014 Commencement 

FERRUM, VA. (May 10, 2014) – Ferrum College held its 98th annual commencement ceremonies for the class of 2014 this morning.  After a brief sprinkle of rain, the forecasted storms held off and the 217 graduates received their diplomas during the ceremony in Hart International Plaza, which also included the presentation of student, faculty and alumni awards and a keynote address by U.S. Army Brigadier General and current U.S.A. Deputy Director for Strategic Planning and Policy, U.S. Pacific Command, Burdett K. “Burt” Thompson ’82. The senior class speaker was Anthoney D. Hill '14.

“Celebrating the accomplishments of these wonderful young men and women is a wonderful way to mark our Centennial year,” said Ferrum College President Jennifer Braaten, speaking about the class of 2014. “I am incredibly proud of our graduates, as well as our faculty and staff who taught, nurtured, mentored and supported them throughout their undergraduate years.”

In an address during which he discussed the qualities that make a good leader such as moral courage and self-reflection, General Thompson told the students, “It has been said ‘talent is a gift but character is a choice.’ We have no control over a lot of things in life. We don’t select the location or circumstances of our birth and upbringing. We don’t get to pick our talents or IQ. But we do choose our character every time we make choices.  Men and women of character are trusted. And without trust you cannot lead. The bedrock of leadership is character on which the whole edifice of leadership rests.”

General Thompson, a 2009 Ferrum College Distinguished Alumnus Award recipient, also taught the graduates, friends, family, faculty and other onlookers how to cheer “Hooah,” an all purpose exclamation used by soldiers. “The word is an expression of high morale, great strength and absolute confidence. When powered by an overwhelming proud and a usually loud tone of voice, HOOAH seems to stomp out any possibility of being bound by the written word,” he explained.

“You entered Ferrum to learn, to grow as individuals, to expand your horizons, but as you depart this place later today, know that your college, your community, our Nation in fact the World needs you to make a difference, we need you to lead,” said Thompson before he led the crowd in a rousing “Hooah” in honor of the Class of 2014.

Among the day’s award recipients was Ed George '68, who received the Ferrum College Beckham Medallion. Named for the College's first president Dr. Benjamin M. Beckham, the Beckham Medallion is the highest honor bestowed upon an alumnus. George’s passion for and commitment to his alma mater began during his first days on campus as a football player and remains strong more than forty years later. “Ed lives by the College’s motto ‘Not Self, But Others’ and is a model of selfless service to family, community and alma mater,” said S. Kelly Herrick ’84, the immediate past chair of the College’s Board of Trustees during his introduction of George.

The graduation ceremony was followed by a picnic lunch on the lawn for graduates and their guests. The weekend celebration also included a traditional Baccalaureate service on Friday evening in Vaughn Chapel followed by a candlelight ceremony at Hart International Plaza to symbolize the light of knowledge that the new graduates will carry forth into the world.