Lynchburg University’s launch festivities culminated last weekend in a series of graduation ceremonies. With temperatures in the mid-90s, Friday night’s masters ceremony was moved indoors.
Friday morning on Shellenberger Field, Lynchburg’s Doctor of Medical Sciences program celebrated 257 graduates and 125 degree candidates, who will graduate by the end of the summer.
In the afternoon, the doctoral program in physical therapy graduated 40 students, while that evening, 76 graduates of the master’s programs and 105 candidates were recognized. Both ceremonies took place at the Turner Gymnasium.
On Saturday morning, the Doctor of Education in Leadership Studies celebrated six graduates and 12 nominees at Schewel’s Sydnor Performance Hall.
Friday’s first ceremony served as a reminder that COVID-19 is still here and on the rise again. Speaking from quarantine in his downtown Lynchburg hotel room, Wells World Service COO Dr Richard Handley urged DMSc graduates to use their training for good.
His speech peppered with puns and jokes included references to the movie “The Matrix”, Elon Musk and John Lennon.
“As far as the state of the American healthcare system as a whole goes, with rare exceptions, we are not doing well at all,” Handley said. “There is so much work to do, so many vulnerabilities, so many deeply difficult problem sets to solve.
“My challenge to you today is to go boldly into your organizations and fight hard for the lofty ideals of balanced accountability and just culture, which exist to encourage you and your staff to always seek and self -Report human errors, near misses and system failures whenever possible, without fear of retaliation or loss of job or livelihood.
“By upholding this kind of humble transparency and self-awareness, we continue to improve the quality of healthcare and patient safety. …Be a neo – stay humble, vulnerable, transparent, honest, kind, gracious, inclusive and go fight for your crews, your teams and ultimately your patients.
In his address to fellow graduates of the Doctor of Physical Therapy program, Dr. Andrew Van Haren ’19 MSAT, ’22 DPT argued that the most important skills of a physical therapist are learned not in the classroom, but with their patients. .
He recounted his own experience teaching a COVID-19 patient, whom he called “John,” to walk again after a long, near-fatal hospital stay.
“What you really need to know to kick-start your career isn’t what you learned in school,” Van Haren said. “Yes, knowing the scapula ascending rotators is important, but really everything you need to be successful you learned outside of school. Things like persistence, capitalizing on every opportunity, and being grateful. These are the things that John taught me.
“Persist no matter how hard it gets and always keep your goals in mind. …Take this opportunity to make a difference in someone’s life. …And finally, show your gratitude. Acknowledge where you came from and make sure those who helped you get there know that you appreciate them. We have so much to be grateful for.
Van Haren ended his speech by thanking faculty and staff, family and friends, and peers.
“This faculty has prepared us, our experiences have prepared us and we have prepared ourselves. Now go out and do great things. Thank you and congratulations, class of 2022!”
A series of student awards followed the keynote, including one for Van Haren.
The Master’s Programs Launch Ceremony speech was delivered by long-time professor and administrator Dr. Julius Sigler ’62. Sigler returned to Lynchburg in the mid-1960s, shortly after the then College began offering master’s degree programs, including a master’s degree in physics. Since then, thousands of people have earned advanced degrees from Lynchburg, Sigler noted.
“You have earned more than a piece of paper and whatever prestige you earn from your mastery,” he said. “You have shown flexibility and the ability to learn on your own. This is perhaps the most important skill you take away from college.
Sigler, a first-generation college student who had tremendous support from his parents, as well as his wife of 57 years, invited graduates to think of three people — not including family — who helped them get there. where they are today.
“Thinking of the people you would nominate, decide to thank them, if possible, while you still can,” he said.
Sigler’s choices included his 9th grade math teacher, his thesis supervisor, and former Lynchburg Dean Dr. James Huston, who “taught me a lot of history, fueled my love for the humanities, and set an example of academic leadership that one could only hope to emulate.
Sigler speculated that most master’s graduates would end up in some sort of service position — health care, education, or social work.
“Service is a good thing,” he added. “If service is not part of your professional life, make it part of your community life. Service has been a tradition at Lynchburg University since its inception.
With a new degree also comes “expectations of expertise and expectations of leadership,” Sigler said. “Use your wits and skills for the good of your community and your nation. Use your research training to determine what is true and what is specious. Step forward to lead when you see the need for leadership.
He encouraged graduates to take risks, suggesting they would likely regret the things they didn’t do much more than the things they did.
“You carry with you the strong imprint of this university,” he concluded. “Even though your undergraduate degree was earned elsewhere, you are now a full-fledged Hornet. We dream of your future with you and look forward to your success. Be proud of your accomplishment and be confident as far as you can go.
“You probably won’t be able to fully or even approximately predict the course of your life’s journey, but don’t be afraid to lift the sails to the wind and enjoy the journey. Be bold and quick.
During the Doctor of Leadership Studies Hooding and Ceremony ceremony the next morning, the chair, Dr. Alison Morrison-Shetlar, praised the resilience of the graduates over the past two years.
“These are extraordinary times,” Morrison-Shetlar said. “A pandemic that has turned our lives upside down, political and racial unrest that has shaken the very foundations of our republic, an escalation of war in Ukraine and an uncertain economy that worries us all.”
Through it all, the graduates “persevered and even thrived,” she added. Urging them to use what they learned both in and outside the classroom, for her part, Morrison-Shetlar said she learned to “value every human interaction,” that “mental health and well-being are more important than anything,” and to live in the moment.
She added that she hopes graduates will remember these lessons and “build [their] future at the top of the University’s three pillars of leadership, diversity and innovation.
The former is especially relevant for EdD graduates, she noted.
“Here at Lynchburg University, the doctorate in instructional leadership is the pinnacle of leadership development,” Morrison-Shetlar said. “I am proud that our graduates serve as teachers, counsellors, administrators – all leaders – in virtually every school district in the Commonwealth.
“Leadership development is a hallmark of the Lynchburg student experience and today the world welcomes a new generation of talented young leaders.”
Their time in Lynchburg and every experience along the way would serve them well on their new journey, Morrison-Shetlar said.
“You will make a difference in our world, our community and our family. You will change lives. …I wish you a passionate and purposeful life and I hope you stay connected and engaged in the life of your university.
The 2022 Kenneth R. Garren Leadership Award, presented by the Chairman Emeritus, Dr. Ken Garren himself, was awarded to Jyoti Aggarwal ’18 MEd, ’22 EdD and Tracy Mallard ’22 EdD.
Watch live recordings of this year’s launch ceremonies.