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Southern Virginia University Safely Gathers On Campus for Unique Commencement Weekend

Southern Virginia University hosted a one-of-a-kind Commencement weekend on May 7 and 8 to honor and celebrate the Class of 2021. The events preserved key elements of the University’s traditional commencement exercises while complying with Virginia Commencement Guidelines to ensure the health and safety of the campus community and guests.

“We are grateful that we have the opportunity to be here together in person today,” said University President Reed N. Wilcox. “This has been a complicated, difficult, challenging year…These young men and women—and indeed everyone who’s been involved in this process—have labored against a tremendous degree of difficulty in enabling this to happen today.”

Southern Virginia University 2021 Graduates

On Friday, May 7, graduates and faculty gathered in the Knight Arena for the first time in more than a year to listen to the special keynote address by Ann Christensen. As President of the Clayton Christensen Institute for Disruptive Innovation and Vice Chairman of Southern Virginia University’s Board of Trustees, Christensen focused her remarks on developing and executing a strategy for the next phase of life.

“Once you pick a plan, pursue it with gusto…be there for everything that experience has to offer you, good, bad and ugly,” advised Christensen. “But make it deliberate; work hard in that direction you’ve chosen, figure out what are your kind of non-negotiable guideposts…add everything else after and let life teach you what the path will be.”

Christensen relayed advice given to her by her father, renowned innovator Clayton Christensen, as well as experiences from her own life. In closing, Christensen’s final advice centered on the Bible scripture 2 Timothy 1.

Ann Christensen, President of the Clayton Christensen Institute for Disruptive Innovation

“In times of uncertainty, it is kind of hard to feel like you have a sound mind and it’s definitely easy to fear,” said Christensen. “But I know that God loves you, and that He has a plan for you…He will guide you through all kinds of crazy twists and turns that are not what you expected, but will be magnificent.”

The following day, Southern Virginia University held two Commencement Ceremonies in front of its historic Main Hall—one for each half of the graduates—in order to safely accommodate and space out the graduates and their registered guests. 

In each of these ceremonies, both President Wilcox and Provost Jeremy John shared brief remarks centered on the work accomplished by the graduates during the pandemic.

President Wilcox speaks at the Commencement Ceremonies

“We remember from the traditions the honest, pure and noble Sir Galahad [and] the inspirational and courageous Joan of Arc who were knights before you,” said President Wilcox. “In the spirit of the noble concept of knighthood…no one has done more and better deserves the title of Knights than you do.”

“For a teacher, this is one of the most special moments of the year where we get to be together with the graduates and reflect on the relationship between teacher and student…[and] feel proud of them for their accomplishments, ” said Provost John.

“There’s no accomplishment in life that doesn’t occur without perseverance and work on the part of the individual, but also support from those who care about that person,” added John. “And also, of course, help and blessings from heaven.”

Following the awarding of diplomas, an octet lead by Dr. Kyle Nielsen carried on the tradition of singing the American folk song “Oh Shenandoah” at the close of the Commencement Exercises. Then, faculty members formed a congratulatory line to cheer on the graduates during the recessional.

Tiara Comstock (’21) takes selfie with her Philosophy Professor John Armstrong

Throughout the weekend, campus members and guests were strongly encouraged to follow the University’s Four Pillars of Protection established during the COVID-19 pandemic—guidelines of masking, distancing, sanitizing, and reporting.

Special guests in attendance were Southern Virginia Board of Trustees Chairman Hugh Redd, Board Members Alan Olsen, Former Board of Trustees Chairman Dane McBride, Founders Glade and Kathleen Knight, and Christine Christensen, wife of Clayton Christensen.

To watch the full Commencement Exercises, visit svu.edu/commencement.