Two VCU graduates in graduation robes smile while looking at a phone.
VCU’s May commencement ceremony, which was held at the Greater Richmond Convention Center, honored the university’s approximately 4,700 new graduates. (Kevin Morley, Enterprise Marketing and Communications)

Mo Alie-Cox shares the value of hard work and belief in yourself at VCU’s commencement

“The satisfaction and happiness that you get from knowing you put the work in to achieve something and it actually happens is second to none,” Alie-Cox told graduates.

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When Mo Alie-Cox was new to professional football, a veteran told him that as soon as “you enter the building” in the NFL, “they’re already looking for your replacement.” It was a lesson about the importance of hard work and forever setting out to prove yourself that has helped push him in his career, Alie-Cox told graduates today at Virginia Commonwealth University’s May commencement ceremony.

“You guys should be no strangers to hard work, or you wouldn’t be here in these seats right now,” said Alie-Cox, a former standout for the VCU men’s basketball team who now competes for the Indianapolis Colts in the NFL. “The satisfaction and happiness that you get from knowing you put the work in to achieve something and it actually happens is second to none. As you take the next steps of your journey, you're going to have to work even harder.”

Mo Alie-Cox standing at the podium wearing commencement regalia.
Mo Alie-Cox addresses the Class of 2023 at VCU's May commencement ceremony. (Tom Kojcsich, Enterprise Marketing and Communications)

The ceremony, which was held at the Greater Richmond Convention Center, honored VCU’s approximately 4,700 spring graduates, including more than 3,000 earning undergraduate degrees. The university also hosts an assortment of in-person graduation ceremonies at the department, school and college levels.

Alie-Cox, who received an honorary doctorate of humane letters at the ceremony, told the graduates to always have faith that their goals are attainable. He revealed that at one point early in his NFL career he questioned if playing professional football was something he still wanted to do.

“Being young, you often want to see immediate success and for me that didn’t happen right away,” Alie-Cox said. “I had a talk with my mom, and she pretty much told me to finish what you started and have faith that everything will work out. She also told me that your bad day is someone else’s good day. There are people who would give up a lot to be in your situation so make sure you see it through. A month went by, and I got called up to the active roster, and six years later I’m still there. I don’t want to even know where I would be right now had I lost faith.”

VCU President Michael Rao, Ph.D., told the graduates that they were poised to make a major impact on the world.

"Our world and our society are in a time of tremendous change, but times of change are really opportunities,” Rao said. “This is your chance to really reimagine the world – what we want it to look like and how we get there. You are perfectly positioned to lead us in building the world that we all want to live in together. In your time at VCU, you’ve learned how to be some of the most innovative and creative thinkers in the world. That's what really separates a VCU graduate. And that’s what the world needs now.”

Graduates wave black and gold pom poms.
Graduates celebrate at VCU's universitywide commencement ceremony. (Kevin Morley, Enterprise Marketing and Communications

Coleman “Coley” Wortham III received the Edward A. Wayne Medal at the ceremony. The award honors individuals who have made outstanding contributions or provided exemplary services to VCU. Wortham, the chairman of Davenport & Company, is the chairman of the Children’s Hospital Foundation Board, and he and his family have supported many areas of VCU, including MCV Hospitals, the Massey Cancer Center, VCU Athletics, and the VCU schools of Business, Dentistry and Medicine.

Faye Z. Belgrave, Ph.D., received the Presidential Medallion at the event. The Presidential Medallion honors members of the university community for extraordinary achievement in learning and commitment to the mission of VCU. Belgrave is an internationally recognized author, teacher, researcher and equity advocate. She joined the VCU faculty in 1997 as a professor of psychology and was appointed associate dean for equity and community partnerships in the College of Humanities and Sciences in 2020.

In addition, Isabel “Izzy” Diaz and Zion Segears received the Board of Visitors Award, which recognizes the achievements of outstanding undergraduate students who represent the distinctive attributes of a VCU student. The recipients receive a one-year scholarship in the amount equal to in-state tuition and fees.