Their time to shine

May 14, 2024

University News

The Class of 2024 had to wait for their time in the spotlight. Though they may not have experienced a high school graduation ceremony, on Sunday, dressed in their caps and gowns, the graduating class strode into the Robins Center to a standing ovation and the slow and steady beat of Pomp and Circumstance. The undergraduate Commencement conferred degrees on 757 students from the School of Arts & Sciences, the E. Claiborne Robins School of Business, and the Jepson School of Leadership Studies.

An additional 33 bachelor’s degrees and 80 master’s degrees were awarded through the School of Professional & Continuing Studies and 147 juris doctor degrees from the Richmond School of Law over the weekend.

“You started learning at Richmond amid a global pandemic and you persisted. You experienced losses, and you endured. You gave of yourself — sometimes when it was difficult — to be good students, classmates, and friends,” said President Kevin F. Hallock in his welcome to the undergraduate class. “Collectively, you’ve made this moment. Take stock of that and be proud. We are so proud of you.”

The student body elected graduating senior Kerry-Ann Moyo as the speaker for the Class of 2024. Moyo graduated with a bachelor’s degree in rhetoric and communication studies and plans to pursue a career in media and entertainment as a communication and brand strategist.

A Zimbabwean student raised in South Africa, Moyo spoke on the concept of ubuntu, a word derived from a Zulu phrase, “which means that a person is a person through other people.”

“For me, ubuntu is the internal program that makes us human,” Moyo said. “It is a willingness to grow while looking in the eyes of someone unfamiliar and saying, `I see you,’ but most importantly it is seeing yourself in their eyes.”

She saw these qualities in her classmates. “We have taken the hardship and the lessons that we have learnt, and we have nurtured and supported each other, we have fought for and cheered for our community,” she said. “This is ubuntu.”

Alum Heidi Petz, who delivered the Commencement address, received an honorary degree. The 1997 Jepson School graduate serves as president and CEO of The Sherwin-Williams Company.

Petz shared her unexpected path to the corporate world. Right after graduation, she had a job offer in hand, but declined it to travel with friends to London. “A lovely place, incidentally, where I did not have a job.” Soon after her arrival, with nothing but fancy shoes packed in her suitcase, she found herself hobbling around London on a broken heel. Despite the risk, and the poor packing, she landed her first job at Price Waterhouse Cooper. “Bet on yourself, try a few things, and trust you will recover,” she urged the students.

Executive Vice President and Provost Joan Saab then led the conferring of degrees.

Alafair Cutler, who received her bachelor’s degree from the Jepson School of Leadership Studies, expressed a mix of emotions before the ceremony. “Of course, I’m super sad to leave Richmond,” said Cutler, who wore the school’s bright blue sash and honor cords. “But I’m really excited for this next chapter of my life.”

She described her classmates as resilient, a group who started off college during challenging times but made the most of that experience.

“Richmond is filled with the best people, and I’m so lucky to have met them.”

After the last student, Thomas Parker Williams, a Jepson graduate, received his degree, the students let out a loud cheer.

Alum Edward H. Pruden Jr., class of 1972, then greeted the students as new members of the University of Richmond Alumni Association, “a remarkable, diverse, and global web of over 50,000 Spiders around the world.”

Pruden then asked them to move their tassel from the right side of their mortar board to the left, to signify their change in students to alums.

Then, he spoke the magic words they had been so long waiting for.

“I now invite the class of 2024 to celebrate becoming alumni by tossing your caps.”