Among the clusters of graduates preparing to line up for the University of Mary Washington’s 108th commencement ceremony Saturday morning was Arrow, a small black-and-white dog wearing a service vest.
“She deserves to walk in the ceremony with me because she’s been with me in classes for the last two-and-a-half years,” Arrow’s owner Kira Itzkoff, 27, said.
Itzkoff, who lives in Mineral, said she was enrolled at UMW years ago but dropped out in 2012 because of “issues.” That was before she got Arrow.
“She can sense when I’m about to have a breakdown and she’ll press up against me,” Itzkoff, a computer science major, said. “I couldn’t have done this without her.”
After graduation, Itzkoff and Arrow will move to Seattle, Wash.
“We have a job waiting for us at Microsoft,” she said.
Itzkoff was among the 1,234 students who graduated Saturday from UMW.
The university conferred 443 Bachelor of Arts degrees, 523 Bachelor of Science degrees, 10 Master of Geospatial Analysis degrees, 37 Master of Business Administration degrees, 75 Master of Education degrees, 30 Master of Science in Elementary Education degrees, 63 Bachelor of Liberal Studies degrees and 41 Bachelor of Science in Nursing degrees.
Graduating students hailed from Virginia, Maryland and other East Coast states, as well as more distant states such as Utah and Nevada. Some were from foreign countries, including Japan, Eritrea, the United Kingdom, Spain, El Salvador and Venezuela.
“I am excited,” said Day–Shawn Jacob. “I am glad to be graduating,” he continued, emphasizing “glad.”
The sociology major said he plans to stay in his hometown of Fauquier. He said he’s received several job offers but hasn’t accepted one yet.
He’d decorated his cap with rolls of faux-paper money stacked in layers. It was one of many elaborately decorated caps that revealed the graduating students’ personalities—from silk flowers and inspiring phrases to Pokémon figures and gilded horns.
Walking with younger students such as Jacob were older, returning students such as Debra Wander, of Spotsylvania, a UMW employee in human resources who was completing her degree at the university after first enrolling—at what was then Mary Washington College—20 years ago before dropping out her senior year for family obligations.
“Second act!” Wander said.
She said returning to school as an older student was “inspiring.”
“I have truly enjoyed studying with traditional students,” she continued. “They’ve introduced me to broader perspectives. They are truly going to be great future leaders.”
Commencement speaker Anabeth Guthrie, a 1997 graduate of UMW and chief of communications at the National Gallery of Art in Washington, acknowledged the hard work of all the graduating students—as well as the creativity of their cap decorations.
She gave the graduates five rules that she said would guarantee their future success—say thank you, take notes, be punctual but not over-punctual, have empathy and continue working hard.
As part of the commencement ceremony, UMW conferred top awards on graduating seniors displaying excellence in academic achievement and on several faculty members for teaching excellence.
For the first time, the university presented the Colgate W. Darden award—a medal and cash sum—to four seniors, Sophia Josephine Lamp, Emily Lynn MacIndoe, Hollis Pultz and Lauren Marie Van Nostrand, who each completed their college career with perfect 4.0 GPAs.
Leslie Martin, associate professor of sociology, received the Grellet C. Simpson Award, the institution’s most prestigious annual award for excellence in undergraduate teaching given to a senior faculty member.
Elizabeth Johnson–Young, assistant professor of communication, received the UMW Alumni Association Outstanding Young Faculty Member Award, presented annually to an exceptional member of the faculty who has served the institution for at least two years but no more than five years.
Jeremy Larochelle, associate professor of Spanish, received the Mary W. Pinschmidt Award. The winner is selected by the graduating class as the faculty member “they will most likely remember as the one who had the greatest impact on their lives.”
Woody Richardson, professor in the College of Business, was recognized with the Graduate Faculty Award. The honor showcases an exceptional full-time faculty member who has demonstrated excellence in graduate teaching and professional leadership in a graduate program.
Prior to conferring diplomas, UMW president Troy Paino—who had live-streamed himself bringing up the end of the procession down Campus Walk to the delight of watching students—told graduates he was “looking forward to shaking hands with each of you.”
Though clouds were threatening at times, “It never rains on UMW’s graduation,” he said, and it didn’t.