This year, graduation was in-person after 2 years of being virtual. It was scheduled to be in the Sunken Gardens under a tent that held 1300+ attendees on Saturday, May 21, 2022 from 4:30 to 5:30pm. On Friday, because of forecasted temperatures of 98 degrees and a heat index of 103, the university decided, for safety reasons, to move graduation to Unity Hall (old Trinkle Hall) which holds 800. With the last minute change in venue, the department ceremony went well, even with the air-conditioning not keeping up with all the people in the hall. Michael Deschenes, the Chair of the department, spoke briefly and then Brennan Harris, who will become the new Chair in July, presented Michael with a plaque which read ”In recognition of your work and dedication for 11 years of service as Department Chair” Leah Patek was named Major of the Year and gave a speech to the graduating class of 2022. (The full speech is below.) Then Brennan read the name of the graduates and as they came up on stage, Michael handed them their diplomas and their families were able to take pictures. At the end of the ceremony there was a resounding cheer for the graduates and refreshment were available afterwards. We are proud of our department’s graduates and wish them all the best.
Leah Patek's Major of the Year Speech
Thank you so much, Professor Deschenes, for the introduction and for all of the work that you do for our department. Let’s all give him a(nother) round of applause.
Good evening, class of 2022. It is an absolute honor to be speaking to you all today. I’ll be honest: when I first learned that I would speak to the whole department, I was super intimidated.
Not just because I have so much respect for you all as academics and as people, but also because I think our department has some of the most attractive people at William and Mary. We’ve got
the athletes, gym bros, personal trainers - I wonder “why isn’t everyone a kinesiology major?”
But in all seriousness, thank you for the opportunity to share this space with you today. This year’s graduating class encountered countless unexpected challenges. Back in 2018, many of us
didn’t know the difference between an epidemic and a pandemic. Most of us students did not even declare our majors until sophomore year: the year of history’s longest recorded spring break. Since then, we completed a whole host of remote, asynchronous classes and sat through endless Zoom meetings. We anxiously refreshed the COVID dashboard page and read through what felt like daily COVID update emails. Many families adjusted to their 20-year olds moving back in unexpectedly for many more months than they originally planned. We saw our colleagues, friends, and family become sick as we paused our normal routines and reevaluated our futures.
It would be impossible to unpack all the ways that the pandemic has affected us, but one thing it has certainly made clear is just how little control we often have over our own lives. At times, this pandemic caused overwhelming feelings of hopelessness as we were separated from so many of the people and activities that once grounded us. In my own life, whenever I’ve found myself getting too hopeless, I am brought back to one of my favorite quotes which many of you may recognize as the serenity prayer: “Grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference.” No matter what external stresses we face, there are some things we can control. We can control the way we react to the stress of uncertainty, we can control the way we carry ourselves, and, we can control how we treat those around us, even when we ourselves are overwhelmed. While there was so much we could not control during our four years, there were some things we could. The many ways in which the people here took charge over what they could control deserves sincere praise.
To the professors: thank you for adjusting to this chaotic period with so much grace. You adapted to constantly changing regulations, you learned Zoom for us, and you gave us your trust. As we are the health sciences department, you also informed us about the pandemic as it was happening and provided us with a world-class education on how to look out for the health of ourselves and our families. Even through Zoom, you somehow managed to be just as informative, patient, light-hearted, and compassionate as ever. You checked in on us not just in terms of our academic careers, but in terms of our wellbeing. I’ll never forget how Professor Deschenes started every lab meeting by asking each of us how we were doing outside of the lab. His endless compassion, along with that of so many others in this department, has supported us when we needed it most.
To the families: thank you for providing your unwavering support. You were there through all the intense periods of social isolation, all of the stressful finals periods. You sent loving voicemails and you provided shoulders to cry on. Thank you especially to those of you who extended your support beyond your immediate family and provided other students with a place to quarantine, a care package, or even just a text checking in. I saw many families grow throughout these years.
To our staff and Adair hall managers, thank you for always bringing a positive attitude and a smile. Even though Adair SHOULD feel like the most haunted building on campus, with all the cadavers, skeletons, and piano music at odd hours, you manage to foster an environment of warmth and comfort. As people enter the building, they are often greeted with a smile and wave from Chris Wilson in the front office. And as they walk the halls, they might be so lucky as to meet the delightful staff members like Jody, who somehow always seems to be in a good mood.
And lastly, to the students: thank you for making William and Mary a home away from home. Your consistent hard work, humor through dark times, and sincere dedication to uplifting those around you shaped our time here. You balanced demanding academics, numerous extracurriculars, part-time jobs, and your own personal health, with caring for family members, friends, and even strangers.
We will go on to become incredible physicians, PAs, physical therapists, counselors, educators, public health officials, and PhD research scientists - the people that future generations will come to in times of crisis, and I am confident that this competent, selfless group of people will be prepared to guide us through them. Give it just a few more years of graduate school, and I would trust any of you with my life. Even if you don’t continue into the health field, I know that the graduates from this department will bring empathy and intellect wherever they go and will brighten whatever sphere of the world they choose to enter next.
Part of why I am so confident about our futures is based on what we have already accomplished. We set an already-difficult goal - graduating from William and Mary - and accomplished it while surviving way more challenges than we ever could have expected. Even under stress from every angle, we managed to control what we could with resilience, grace, and consideration. For that, and for so much more, you should be incredibly proud of yourselves.
As we move forward from today I only have one request: whenever you find yourself feeling powerless, I ask you to remind yourself of what you can control and own it. External stresses will be a constant in your life whether you like it or not, but your character is built in what you choose to do with what you can control. The little acts of checking in on an old friend, or welcoming a new person to a space carry weight. They really are not little at all.
And with that - it has been an honor and a privilege celebrating with you today. So thank you all, and congratulations to The Kinesiology Department’s class of 2022!