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Jim Lehrer calls W&M Class of 2012 to civility, service

  • Commencement 2012
    Commencement 2012
    Chancellor Robert Gates (left) and Commencement speaker Jim Lehrer pose for a photo on Sunday.
    Photo by Stephen Salpukas
  • Commencement 2012
    Commencement 2012
    A graduate shares an embrace before the senior walk on Sunday.
    Photo by Stephen Salpukas
  • Commencement 2012
    Commencement 2012
    Former Student Assembly President Kaveh Sadeghian poses for a photo with his mom.
    Photo by Stephen Salpukas
  • Commencement 2012
    Commencement 2012
    The Class of 2012 gets ready to begin its walk through the Wren Building at the start of the traditional senior walk across campus.
    Photo by Robert Boag
  • Commencement 2012
    Commencement 2012
    A student walks over the Class of 2012's senior class gift marker.
    Photo by Robert Boag
  • Commencement 2012
    Commencement 2012
    Students cross the Crim Dell bridge on their way to W&M Hall.
    Photo by Robert Boag
  • Commencement 2012
    Commencement 2012
    A graduate waves to the audience while talking on the phone as the Class of 2012 filled William & Mary Hall on Sunday.
    Photo by Stephen Salpukas
  • Commencement 2012
    Commencement 2012
    Three students pose for a photo together as the Class of 2012 fills William & Mary Hall.
    Photo by Stephen Salpukas
  • Commencement 2012
    Commencement 2012
    Jim Lehrer addresses the Class of 2012 during the ceremony.
    Photo by Stephen Salpukas
  • Commencement 2012
    Commencement 2012
    Carolyn "Biddy" Martin '73, president of Amherst College received an honorary degree during the event.
    Photo by Stephen Salpukas
  • Commencement 2012
    Commencement 2012
    Jonathan Jarvis '75, director of the National Park Service, also received an honorary degree at the event.
    Photo by Stephen Salpukas
  • Commencement 2012
    Commencement 2012
    Danielle Green '12 served as the student Commencement speaker.
    Photo by Stephen Salpukas
  • Commencement 2012
    Commencement 2012
    President Taylor Reveley closed the Commencement ceremony by remarking on the Griffin, saying that it has a "wonderful blend of talents," just like each graduate.
    Photo by Stephen Salpukas
  • Commencement 2012
    Commencement 2012
    More than 1,900 undergraduate and graduate students received their degrees on Sunday.
    Photo by Stephen Salpukas
  • Commencement 2012
    Commencement 2012
    A student receives her degree during the government department's degree conferral ceremony.
    Photo by Robert Boag
  • Commencement 2012
    Commencement 2012
    Jonathan Conway '12 is pinned as a 2nd lieutenant in the U.S. Army during the commissioning ceremony on Saturday.
    Photo by Skip Rowland
  • Commencement 2012
    Commencement 2012
    William & Mary held its first Donning of the Kente ceremony on Friday. Students designed the stoles, seen here, which were presented at the event.
    Photo by Stephen Salpukas
  • Commencement 2012
    Commencement 2012
    Chon Glover poses for a photo with a student during the Donning of the Kente event.
    Photo by Stephen Salpukas

Strive for civility and incorporate service into your lives, Jim Lehrer told William & Mary’s Class of 2012 at the College’s Commencement ceremony on Sunday.

“No matter what you decide to do with your life, also find a way serve,” he said.

Lehrer, the longtime host of the “PBS NewsHour,” spoke to an audience of thousands in William & Mary Hall during the May 13 event, in which more than 1,900 undergraduate and graduate students received their degrees.

The broadcast news icon received an honorary doctor of humane letters at the event. Alumna Carolyn “Biddy” Martin ’73, president of Amherst College, also received an honorary doctor of humane letters degree during the ceremony, and Jonathan Jarvis ’75, director of the National Park Service, received an honorary doctor of public service degree. William & Mary President Taylor Reveley and Chancellor Robert M. Gates ‘65 presented the honorary degrees.

Gates, who formerly served as the U.S. Secretary of Defense, was invested as the College’s 24th Chancellor at the Charter Day ceremony in February. At the Commencement ceremony, Gates congratulated the Class of 2012 and reminded them of their predecessors.

“William & Mary still produces leaders of national caliber; just look around you,” he said.

{{youtube:medium:left|Xkxt09UoDxM, Robert Gates' Commencement remarks}}

Like Lehrer, Gates encouraged the graduates to find ways to serve.

 “This legacy of service is the greatest tradition of the College of William & Mary, the alma mater of a nation,” he said. “It is now yours to uphold.”

A call to civility and service

Lehrer first visited William & Mary in the 1950s, when he was a Marine cadet at Quantico. While visiting the campus, a dream was born: Lehrer decided that he would one day return to the school to be its writer-in-residence.

“That didn’t happen,” he said. “But, from my perspective, receiving an honorary degree from you all today pretty much settles that dream.”

{{youtube:medium:left|iB9NKE9DrLE, Jim Lehrer's Commencement address}}

Lehrer began his address by demonstrating a “bus call” – an informational loudspeaker message for bus passengers. Lehrer used to give bus calls as a ticket agent at a Texas bus depot while he was in junior college.

“Calling the buses was the first time I was paid money to speak into a microphone,” he said.

After grabbing the audience’s attention with the call, Lehrer implored the graduates to engage in civil discourse, something that he called “one of the most serious losses we, as a society, have suffered in recent years.”

“We are a civilized people; we should disagree in a civilized manner,” he said. “We should acknowledge the right of other people to disagree with us. We should acknowledge the possibility that, sometimes—yes, maybe rare times, but sometimes—we might even be wrong.”

Lehrer also challenged the graduates to find ways to serve.

“We must all serve, with our minds and our voices and our hearts,” he said. “I hereby implore you to do so, not just between now and Election Day, November 2012, but always.”

Lehrer concluded his remarks by quoting a commencement  speech in novel that he wrote, challenging the students once again to serve, but to also take risks.

After wishing the graduates well, Lehrer ended with a nod to the bus call he began with:

“Whatever you do and wherever you go, don’t forget your baggage please.”

Awards and honors

Several students and faculty members were recognized or received awards during the ceremony.

Danielle Greene ’12, who earned a Bachelor of Arts degree in history and English, served as the student Commencement speaker.

{{youtube:medium:left|Uo_MmZ7KvRs, Danny Greene's Commencement speech}}

Rebecca Koenig, who earned a Bachelor of Arts degree in English and history with a near-perfect grade point average, received the Lord Botetourt Medal. Established in 1772 “for the honor and encouragement of literary merit,” the medal is presented to a graduating senior who has “attained the greatest distinction in scholarship.”

Ksenija Kapetanovic, who received a Bachelor of Science degree in neuroscience, was presented with the James Frederic Carr Memorial Cup. The cup is presented annually to the graduating senior "who best combines the qualities of character, scholarship and leadership."

Jeffrey Bozman, a Marine veteran who received his law degree on Sunday, was the recipient of this year’s Thatcher Prize for Excellence. The prize is presented annually to a graduate or professional student of outstanding scholarship, service and character.

The Thomas Ashley Graves Jr. Award for Sustained Excellence in Teaching was presented to Nancy Gray, professor of women’s studies and English.

The Algernon Sydney Sullivan awards, which are presented to two members of the graduating class and one person who has “a close working relationship” with the College, were presented to Jennifer Quigley, Andrew Gardner and Chancellor Professor of Government Clay Clemens.

Theatre and Dance Technical Director David Dudley, this year’s Duke Award recipient, was also recognized during the Commencement ceremony. The Duke Award is presented annually to staff member who exhibits exemplary service and dedication to William & Mary.

The Commencement ceremony came at the end of a weekend full of activities for the graduates, including an alumni induction ceremony and a service of celebration. On Friday, the College held its first Donning of the Kente ceremony, in which students of color were honored for academic achievement and received custom graduation stoles to wear during Commencement. On Saturday, seven William & Mary students were commissioned into the U.S. Army.

Marvelous combination

As President Taylor Reveley closed the ceremony, he remarked on the Griffin, the College’s somewhat new mascot and an unofficial member of the Class of 2012 since Gardner – the original person to fill the suit – was graduating.

{{youtube:medium:left|X9wFwFYCyR0, Taylor Reveley's closing remarks}}

The College president called the Griffin – part eagle and part lion – a “marvelous combination.”

“Just like William & Mary, where we mate the heart of a liberal arts college with the brains of a research university, where we are both public and ivy, where our varsity athletes are also students in fact,” he said.

Like the Griffin, each of the graduates has “a wonderful blend of talents,” Reveley said.

“I am very proud of what you’ve accomplished while at William & Mary,” he said. “I look forward to seeing you make a serious difference for the better in the worlds. And, remember, your ties to William & Mary are for life.”