After taking one last walk across campus as students -- through the historic Wren Building, down the brick pathways and across the Crim Dell Bridge -- William & Mary's Class of 2010 joyously entered Kaplan Arena on Sunday afternoon for its Commencement ceremony.
Though their time at William & Mary may have seemed to go by quickly, they will almost certainly be affected by what they learned and experienced at the university for many years to come, said commencement speaker Christina Romer '81.
"What I learned in those four years changed my life forever," said Romer, one of the country's top economists and chair of President Barack Obama's Council of Economic Advisers.
"I am guessing that the same is true for many of you. One amazing class in a new subject, some special professor, an all-night discussion with a roommate, and you finally realize what you love and what you want to be when you grow up."
Romer received an honorary degree during the ceremony, along with former Secretary of Treasury Paul O'Neill and Annette Gordon-Reed, one of the country's leading presidential scholars and winner of a 2009 Pulitzer Prize.
The honorary degrees were presented by William & Mary Chancellor Sandra Day O'Connor and Rector Henry C. Wolf '64, J.D. ‘66. O'Connor received a standing ovation when she took the podium at the beginning of the ceremony to welcome graduates and the more than 10,000 family and friends in attendance.
"I have treasured my connection with this wonderful university. The more I see of it, the more I like it," she said. "This (university) is truly special, particularly in the quality and dedication of the faculty."
O'Connor noted that most were likely to experience only one Commencement ceremony, and she encouraged graduates to remain connected to the university. The chancellor added that if the graduates could work some public service into their lives, she would be "particularly proud" of them.
"Our nation needs help, and it needs help now," O'Connor said.
Public service is a mantle often taken up by William & Mary graduates, and this year's Commencement speaker is no exception.
"I often tell students the story of how I became an economist," Romer said. "I was all set to major in government and go to law school. But, as part of the government major, we were required to take a year of economics. After about two weeks-I was hooked. Because of that one requirement and a brilliant introductory economics professor, I found what would become my passion and my life's work. Over my time here, I also got drawn into William & Mary's wonderful history department. I ended up blending the two subjects in my academic research, becoming a specialist in the economic history of the Great Depression."
During her address, Romer spoke about the economic recovery work she's been involved in since joining the White House. Romer compared the current administration's response to the economic crisis with President Franklin D. Roosevelt's response to the Great Depression.
"There are many parallels between President Obama's response to the economic crisis and President Roosevelt's response 75 years earlier," she said. "The parallels arose not from a deliberate effort to follow Roosevelt's lead, but from the fact that we were facing similar problems and shared similar core values."
Though there are many similarities between the two responses - including a focus on "ordinary families" and getting people back to work - they are also very different on a "practical level," said Romer.
"Ours is not the New Deal repeated, but new policies for a new century," she said. "Economic analysis has improved markedly in the decades since the Great Depression. In our policies, we sought to learn from past mistakes and apply new thinking."
The "Great Recession" is far from over, Romer said, and the administration needs support as it continues to address it.
"We owe it to ourselves and to future generations to take the trauma of the past two years and channel it into reforms that will help prevent future financial crises," she said. "We are so close to a genuinely bipartisan set of sensible new rules of the road for the financial system. We need to see these new rules through to the end, so that your generation and your children's never have to face another Great Recession."
William & Mary's Class of 2010 will face many challenges - economic and other -- as they enter the world, said Romer.
"But in talking to many of you and your professors, I feel a wonderful sense of optimism," she said. "You are coming to the workforce with a first-rate education and with the values born of hard times."
Awards and honors
Along with Romer, Josh Goldman '10 spoke during the ceremony, saying that everyone at William & Mary shared the same sense of community, the same Tribe Pride.
"I challenge each person to use their own gifts and in their own unique way spread Tribe Pride," Goldman said.
Several other students took the stage during the ceremony to receive awards. Several faculty and staff members also received awards and honors.
The Lord Botetourt Medal, established in 1772 "for the honor and encouragement of literary merit," was presented to Kira Allmann '10, a double major in linguistics and government who graduated with a 4.0 GPA and was named a Rhodes Scholar this year - just sixth in the College's history to receive the prestigious honor. While recognizing Allman, President Taylor Reveley also praised two other members of the Class of 2010 who also earned 4.0 GPAs: Cori DeSanto and Adam Farrar.
The James Frederic Carr Memorial Cup, which is presented annually to the graduating senior "who best combines the qualities of character, scholarship and leadership," was given to Bailey Thomson '10, who double-majored in Middle Eastern studies and government.
The Thatcher Prize for Excellence -- which is presented annually to a graduate or professional student of outstanding scholarship, service and character -- was given to Brian Daugherity, who received his Ph.D. in history. He has published one book and several articles, and is a significant contributor to civil rights scholarship.
This year, the Graves Award for sustained excellence in teaching was presented to two professors: Joe Galano, associate professor of psychology, and Kate Slevin, chancellor professor of sociology.
The Algernon Sydney Sullivan awards, which are presented to two members of the graduating class and one person who has close ties to the College, were presented to Jessica Kim '10, Lamar Shambley '10 and David Hindman who served as the United Methodist campus minister for the past 22 years.
Also recognized during the ceremony was Thomasine Lewis, a long-time Marketplace staff member. She received this year's Charles and Virginia Duke Award, which is presented to an outstanding member of the College staff who exhibits exemplary service and dedication to William & Mary.
The College presented 1,246 undergraduate degrees and 636 graduate degrees during Sunday's Commencement ceremonies, which included events across campus.
At the main event, Reveley provided closing remarks, focusing on six final thoughts from the year, including the revelation of the Griffin mascot, graduating senior Chase Hathaway's success as "towel man" and graduating senior Scott Foster's successful run for the Williamsburg City Council.
Reveley also remarked on the surge of Tribe pride that followed a successful athletics season, both on the field and in the classroom.
"William & Mary does intercollegiate athletics the right way," he said. "As in so many other respects, there is only one William & Mary."
The College's president also noted the Tribe pride that came as the result of the academic success of its students.
"There is no other public college or university in the country with the caliber of engaged learning, faculty with students, that characterizes William & Mary," he said.
William & Mary's former students - its alumni - are also a great source of both pride and support for the College.
"Relatively few colleges and universities will thrive amid the enormous competition and change that will confront higher education in this century," he said. "One common characteristic of those schools that do thrive is going to be powerful alumni support. Without it, even once great schools will circle the drain. With it, their juggernauts will roll. It's our job, yours and mine, to ensure that William & Mary's juggernaut rolls."
As the Class of 2010 prepared to leave William & Mary Hall, Reveley reminded them that they will be "a vital and cherished part" of William & Mary for the rest of their lives.
"To be from William & Mary is a badge of great distinction," he said. "Wear it with open, robust pride. Tribe Pride will galvanize our juggernaut and get it rolling unstoppably."