On May 14, NOVA celebrated the achievement of 7,662 graduates and 50 years of history. Dr. Jill Biden, second lady of the United States and full-time NOVA English professor, addressed the graduates in a packed house at Jiffy Lube Live in Bristow, Virginia.
Biden extended congratulations on behalf of President Barack Obama, First Lady Michelle Obama, Vice President Joe Biden and herself.
She said she found herself at NOVA seven years ago after several emails from Dr. Jimmie McClellan, Alexandria dean of liberal arts, who told her to not give up on teaching just because she was now second lady. McClellan said she needed to keep teaching and perhaps she might like to visit NOVA to see the many exciting things going on at the second largest community college in the nation.
“I did finally come visit, and it felt like home to me,” she said. “At the White House, I have my marble office and beautiful furniture. At NOVA, I have my… cubicle. But it is adorned with crayon drawings from my grandchildren and notes from my students. Here is where it feels most like me. Teaching is not just what I do, it is who I am. Teaching does not end when we walk out the classroom door. We cajole, counsel, mentor—whatever it takes to connect with students to succeed in school and beyond.”
The class of 2016 contains students who have worked hard to reach this milestone in order to better their opportunities in the workforce and in life. The class of 2016 is filled with students who have immigrated to the United States from other countries; those who are the first in their families to ever attend or graduate from college; those who have faced grinding poverty, have been homeless, have dealt with health crises or have faced any number of insurmountable obstacles.
NOVA has grown across the decades to better meet the needs of its graduates and of the community.
During the College’s 50 years, NOVA has had five presidents. President Scott Ralls celebrated his first commencement ceremony since joining the College in September 2015.
As Ralls came to give his charge to the graduates, he promised he would make it short since it was unusually cold and windy for an evening in May.
“You have made NOVA what it is today,” he said. “We were called the college of opportunity; the gateway to the American dream when we were dedicated 50 years ago. Tonight, we ask you to go out and inspire others to reach their heights. And when they want to know how to get a path to where you are, tell them about a college that has 50 years of experience as the academy of opportunity and the gateway to the American dream. Thank you NOVA. Thank you to our graduates.”