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Graduates radiate from the ‘Center’

Posted on Thursday, June 5, 2014 at 11:27 am

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“It was the center of my universe for four years!”

Those were the words of Victoria “Tori” Puryear, a graduating senior at Randolph-Macon who did not want to take off her sunglasses for a photograph because she had been “crying most of the night.” Her sentiments were echoed by several other graduating seniors as they lined up along the red brick walk, full of hopefulness and excitement for the 2014 commencement exercises.

Coming from the small town of Madison and towering over most of her classmates, Puryear played volleyball at R-MC, and was named Female Athlete of the Year for 2014.  Her academics were outstanding as well, as she gained membership into four honor societies. She said that Randolph-Macon taught her how to network and how to speak to people – important abilities that would be reiterated by the commencement speaker.

Randolph-Macon Valedictorian Jonathan Kogel, of Hollywood, Md., is hooded by his father Samuel during Saturday’s graduation ceremony in Ashland, one of 225 seniors to receive degrees May 31.

Randolph-Macon Valedictorian Jonathan Kogel, of Hollywood, Md., is hooded by his father Samuel during Saturday’s graduation ceremony in Ashland, one of 225 seniors to receive degrees May 31.

Senior speaker Ky Hoang received a bachelor of arts in economics/business and arts management and said that the small, liberal arts education he received at Randolph-Macon taught him to be persistent and diligent.

“It only took me a couple of weeks to get used to the trains,” he said with a nod to his nights spent in the Sigma Phi Epsilon fraternity house.

Randolph-Macon was blessed with perfect weather for the outdoor ceremony in which 225 seniors were awarded diplomas. Four honorary degrees were awarded, including an Honorary Degree Doctor of Letters to FOX News Senior Political Analyst and renowned journalist Brit Hume.

Randolph-Macon’s President Lindgren introduced Hume by telling the story of his graduation from the University of Virginia in 1965.  The young Hume graduated with a wife and a baby on the way, but with no job prospects.

“I had no idea what I wanted to do; I tried teaching, and I failed at that. I finally went to an employment agency in Hartford, [Conn.] and found a job as a reporter for The Hartford Times newspaper,” Hume said.

This fortunate turn of events evolved into a 43-year career in journalism – 23 years at ABC News, serving as White House correspondent from 1989 to 1996, and then as a senior political analyst for the FOX News Channel.

With an active Twitter account, Hume is no stranger to social media. When asked during a pre-commencement press conference about his opinion on the recent privacy laws enacted by the European Union, he suggested that the “right to be forgotten” would restrict free speech and diminish the importance of the social media platform. With a nod to his many years of writing and editing, he also urged young adults to “practice good English” while online.

“I follow my granddaughters on Twitter, and they will write me impeccable, hand-written thank-you notes, but then online nothing is capitalized, nothing is indented.  [Young people] need to create a good impression online,” Hume said.

During the ceremony, Hume also urged the graduates to “do the small jobs as well as you can [because] small jobs can lead to big jobs.”  As an example, he cited a cheerful young reporter who came to ABC news in the early 1980s who was assigned the lowliest jobs of answering telephones or going out for coffee.

“But she did all these jobs with uncommon cheer. She did them very well. She got them right. And she was, on top of that, cheerful. She was wonderful on the telephone. And everybody loved her. Her name was Katie Couric,” Hume said.

In closing, he told the graduates that they were “already rich” in terms of what their college degrees will give them throughout their lives. “Last year college graduates on average in America made 98 percent more money than non-graduates,” which, he said, made the cost of college practically “a bargain.”

Following a luncheon on the grounds of the Copely Science Center, the campus streets slowly emptied.  As cars were packed and goodbyes were said, the sense of new beginnings and optimistic promise pervaded the campus.  After four years in the Center of the Universe, the class of 2014 left to make the world a better place.