NOVA held its 49th Commencement with two graduation ceremonies on May 17. Virginia Governor Terry McAuliffe was the speaker for the General Commencement at 2:00 p.m., and Dr. Stacey Ocander of Metropolitan Community College (Omaha, Nebraska) addressed attendees at the Health Professions Commencement at 7:00 p.m. Due to capacity at the George Mason University’s Patriot Center, this was the first year there were two graduation ceremonies.
This year, NOVA had 7,789 students who completed their degrees or certificates.
The General Commencement opened with remarks from Loudoun Provost Julie Leidig, NOVA College Board Chairman Michael Wooten and Aaron Latta, student representative on the NOVA College Board. Latta introduced McAuliffe.
Speaking to an already energetic crowd, McAuliffe said NOVA is the best community college in the U.S. and the College is experiencing its own transition as it approaches its 50th anniversary. He thanked all those who have shepherded NOVA through the years, from 761 students in 1965 to 75,000 students today.
McAuliffe pointed out many of NOVA’s accomplishments, including that the College is the largest minority-serving institution in Virginia and currently serves 7,200 military veterans with 647 graduating this spring.
“Many of you are the first in your family to go to college,” McAuliffe said. He highlighted Chris Chen who deferred NOVA admission the first year to work to support himself and his mom. He took classes anyway, driving 54 miles to campus. Recently named a Jack Kent Cooke scholarship recipient, Chen was among the graduates.
“It’s not that you fail, it’s what you do the next day. People want to be with winners, not whiners,” McAuliffe said. “Every day that you get out of bed is a great day. So always remember, always be a happy warrior. It’s your life. Go live it.”
The Health Professions Commencement had 188 Medical Education Campus graduates who attended. Ocander is the dean of health and public services at Metropolitan Community College and president of the National Network of Health Career Programs in Two-Year Colleges.
She reminded the graduates, “Each time you rise, remember, someone may see you and want to be you.”
Acting President Mel Schiavelli wrapped up both ceremonies by asking for a brief moment of silence in memory of Professor Judith Snyder, who was integral to NOVA commencements for more than 25 years. Sadly, she passed away the week before the ceremonies.
Schiavelli told students they were part of the largest graduating class of any two-year college in America, representing 175 countries and territories and 40 percent of all Virginia transfer graduates.
“I congratulate and salute you,” Schiavelli said. “We are proud of you.”
NOVA-TV Center has made the recordings of NOVA’s General Commencement and
Health Professions Commencement available online.