Frank Beamer, center, received an honorary degree from Radford University after his graduation speech to the class of 2017 on Saturday. With him are, right, Brian O. Hemphill, President of Radford University and left, Joseph Scartelli, Acting Provost for Radford University.

Radford University conferred degrees on 1,887 undergraduate and graduate students at its spring commencement ceremonies May 4-5, culminating with the undergraduate ceremony on Moffett Lawn.


“It’s been a really great four years at Radford University, and coming here was the best decision of my life,” said Lauren Gallops as she waited for the main ceremony to begin on a cool and occasionally rainy Saturday morning.

“I’ve really been able to connect with professors, and I’ve made so many lifelong friends here,” said the public relations major from Roanoke. “I’m going to be leaving a piece of myself here and taking a piece of Radford with me as well.”

Radford alumnus and retired Virginia Tech football coach Frank M. Beamer served as keynote speaker. Beamer received his Master of Science in Guidance and Counseling from Radford College in 1972.

“I’m proud of my degree and as I look around today, I can see that the class of 2017 has greatly enhanced my degree,” Beamer said. “So, thank you to all my fellow alumni.”

Beamer spoke of overcoming adversity and preparing for success, citing his mother Herma Beamer, a 1936 Radford graduate, as an uplifting example.

“As you embark on your career, as you put your degree from Radford University to work, each of you are going to face adversity. It’s going to happen, so prepare for it each day,” Beamer said. “But more importantly, prepare each day for how you will react to the situation. You may not be able to control what happens to you, but you can control how you respond. My mother taught me that at an early age.”

Beamer asked the graduates to draw inspiration from a famous speech from a basketball coach, the late Jim Valvano, and from a song by one of his favorite country music artists, Tim McGraw.

Radford University awarded an honorary degree to George M. Harvey, Sr. Pictured are (from left) Radford University President Brian O. Hemphill, Harvey and Radford University Interim Provost Joseph Scartelli

“As you begin your life after college, there will be times when it seems like there’s a mountain to climb. You’re going to face adversity, but you can climb it,” he said. “You can make it to the peak by preparing each day for how you will handle adversity. Dream big and remember: laugh, think, cry. But more than anything, always stay humble and kind.”

Beamer encouraged the graduates to be thankful to people who helped them toward their goal of graduating.

“There are a great number of people who have helped you get here today,” he said. “Many have given you guidance, support and direction. Make sure you thank them today. Make sure you tell them you love them today.”

Following his address, Beamer was awarded an honorary doctoral degree “in recognition of the invaluable lifetimes achievements created through unyielding commitment, dedication, leadership and unwavering compassion,” said Interim Provost and Vice President for Faculty Affairs Joe Scartelli.

Presenting the honor was Radford University President Brain O. Hemphill.

“Coach Beamer, by the authority invested in me by the Radford University Board of Visitors, as president I hereby formally confirm upon you the honorary doctorate of public service degree,” Hemphill said. “Dr. Beamer, you are now a double alumnus of Radford University. Thank you for your many contributions to the Radford family and the New River Valley.”

Later in the ceremony, Hemphill awarded local business owner George M. Harvey Sr. an honorary Bachelor’s in Business Administration.

“I’m proud to be standing here in front of you, and I want you to know that I’m honored to be here,” Harvey said. “They say that there is such a thing as a slow learner. I’m 89 and I’m just now getting my degree – I think I take the cake on that.”

Presiding over his first spring commencement, President Hemphill told the graduates that a Radford education “prepares you for a life of service, not only to your family, but to those in need. I am confident that you will take your Radford education with you on the journey ahead. I urge you to continue to make education a lifelong pursuit.”

Radford University celebrates Spring 2017 commencement

Faculty and student award winners for the 2015-16 academic year were also announced at the ceremony.

Faculty award winners were:

• Parvinder Sethi, Professor of Geology – The Donald N. Dedmon Distinguished Teaching Professor Award

• Agida Manizade, Associate Professor of Mathematics – The Distinguished Creative Scholar Award

• Ricky Cox ‘90, English instructor – The Distinguished Service Award

• Pamela Frasier, Associate Professor of Health and Human Performance – The Distinguished Faculty Advising Award

• Laura Noll ‘15, Research Compliance Manager for the College of Graduate Studies and Research – The Anna Lee Stewart Award for Contributions to Faculty Development

• Niels Christensen, Professor of Psychology and Director of the Radford University Honors Academy – The Award for Administrative and Professional Excellence

Student award winners included:

• Jennifer Trice, Glen Allen, Virginia, graduate student

• Andrew Weed, Leesburg, Virginia, graduate student

• Alex Atwood, Front Royal, Virginia, senior

• Rachel Jones, Dinwiddie, Virginia, senior

• Devin Jones, Ashland Virginia, junior

• Jessica Wollmann, Blacksburg, Virginia, junior

• Natacha Rangel Ribeiro, Midlothian, Virginia, sophomore

• Emily Stinson, Abingdon, Virginia, sophomore

• Jenny Davis, Memphis, Tennessee, freshman

• Cole Faulkner, Bland, Virginia, freshman

Following the main ceremony, each of Radford University’s six colleges held individual ceremonies across campus, continuing celebrations throughout the day. President Hemphill visited each ceremony.

Graduating from Radford was a “bitter sweet” moment for Miranda Venhuizen, a marketing major from King William. “It was the best four years of my life,” she said. “I’ve learned so much here, and I’m very excited to be graduating with all my friends.”

For the commencement ceremonies, social work graduate Holly Ogilvie of Winchester was accompanied by a special friend, service dog Annie. Annie must accompany Ogilvie, a brain cancer survivor, to warn of seizures. Ogilvie, Annie and friends waited excitedly for the processional to begin and then marched triumphantly onto Moffett Field for the main ceremony.

“Everyone on this campus was so helpful and went out of their ways to help me . . . from allowing Annie to join me today to allowing me to make up work I missed because of treatments,” said Ogilvie, who completed her degree in four years while sending her cancer into remission.

Nearby, marketing major Justin Patchen of Manassas reflected on the changes he has gone through in his four years at Radford.

“I am sure different now than I was as a freshman. I feel prepared and ready to go out and make some money,” said Patchen, who will complete an internship this summer before following up on the job offers he has received.

The emergency department at Carilion New River Valley will be nursing graduate Holly Sanford’s next professional stop.

“I will remember the experiences, my classmates and my professors,” said Sanford, from Montross. “The highlight was being accepted into the nursing program and completing it.”

As they look ahead, two of Sanford’s nursing colleagues, Ashley Taylor of Virginia Beach and McKenzie Lynn of Riner, are contemplating becoming roommates in Charlottesville. After graduation, both will launch their nursing careers at the University of Virginia Medical Center.

For Taylor, Radford helped her become “more seasoned and knowledgeable about nursing and life itself,” she said.

“I have grown more confident, that is for sure,” Lynn said.

Psychology major Lexi Ward of Chesterfield said she has “made lifelong friends and memories that I can keep forever. I’m just really blessed to have had the opportunity to come to this university.”

On Friday, the university held its 30th annual Graduation and Hooding Ceremony for students of the College of Graduate Studies and Research.

More than 250 graduate degrees were conferred, including Masters of Science, Masters of Social Work, Masters of Arts, Doctors of Physical Therapy, Masters of Business Administration, Educational Specialists in School Psychology, Doctors of Nursing Practice and Master of Fine Arts.

Laura Jacobsen, acting dean of the college, offered remarks on the monumental achievement of earning a graduate degree.

“With every book or article you have read, every challenge you’ve accepted, every internship you have held, every research adventure that you have pursued, every presentation or performance you have delivered and every friendship that you have made, I say to you to you today: you have not just prepared for your future, but you have lived it,” Jacobsen said.

Radford University’s Army ROTC (Reserve Officer Training Corps) commissioned seven officers Friday in a ceremony in the Hurlburt Student Center Auditorium. The new officers have earned the rank of second lieutenant and were granted authority by the United States Army to carry out their duties as newly commissioned officers.

Among those were Frank Camacho, a marketing major from Fairfax, who will enter the Army Aviation Corps. According to his mother, Camacho has dreamed of flying since he was a child.

“When he was 3 years old, he wanted so badly to become a helicopter pilot,” Beatriz Camacho said. “As the years passed, we realized it was a real goal. By the time he was in high school, he knew what he wanted to do. He came to Radford, got into the ROTC program and put in all the hard work necessary.”

Frank Camacho’s aunt Eliana Elias “flew from Peru just for today,” she said. “I’m a very proud aunt.”

Retired Lt. Col. Ed Zimmerman ‘85 delivered the commissioning address.

The School of Nursing and Doctor of Physical Therapy program held Friday afternoon pinning ceremonies for graduates, and a Multicultural Congratulatory Ceremony was held Friday evening in the Bondurant Auditorium.

The ceremony’s keynote speaker was alumnus Tyson Beale ’99, M.B.A. ’02. Beale, of Virginia Beach, serves as the North Carolina State Coordinator for the Association of Student Conduct Administration (ASCA) and has served as both assistant and associate vice chancellor for Student Affairs and associate dean of University College at Fayetteville State University.

Beale offered the graduates advice and encouraged them to stay on track.

“I believe that remaining humble, listening to the ultimate voice and believing in yourself makes the difference,” he said. “Certainly, you all are already aware that your destiny awaits you, that your best days are ahead and that your career is calling your name.”

The majority of this year’s graduates – 95 percent – were Virginia residents. Graduates came to Radford from 112 Virginia localities, which accounted for 84 percent of the Commonwealth.

The remaining graduates came to Radford from 17 other states, including Maryland, North Carolina, Pennsylvania and West Virginia.

Graduates also represented 19 foreign countries, including Ethiopia, Ghana, Canada, Honduras, India and the United Kingdom.

Four hundred and seventy-four undergraduates received degrees in science, technology, engineering, mathematics and health (STEM-H) disciplines. The most popular major was psychology with 145 graduates. Exercise, sport and health education was the second most popular with 126, followed by business management (122), criminal justice (118) and marketing (103).

The number of first-generation graduates totaled 596, 36 percent of the graduating class.

Another unique statistic of the Class of 2017 are graduates ranged in age from 19 to 57, and eight graduates celebrated birthdays on commencement day.

— Submitted by Sherry Wallace

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