VCU commencement speaker calls on newest graduates to engage in conversation not confrontation 

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During fall commencement ceremonies today, U.S. Sen. Mark Warner told Virginia Commonwealth University’s newest graduates they have an obligation to engage in community and national discussions, but to do so in a civil and respectful manner.

Your obligation is to strive — to reach — and to be unafraid to fail.

“You have been well prepared with a VCU degree, but along with this world class education comes a responsibility to your community,” said Warner, who serves on the Senate finance, banking, budget and intelligence committees. “Your obligation is to strive — to reach — and to be unafraid to fail.”

Warner served as Virginia’s 69th governor from 2002 to 2006. Before entering public office, Warner spent 20 years as a successful technology and business leader. He co-founded the cellular telephone company that became Nextel.

Sen. Mark Warner speaks at VCU's 2015 fall commencement.
Sen. Mark Warner speaks at VCU's 2015 fall commencement.

More than 2,300 students attended the main commencement ceremony at the Stuart C. Siegel Center and individual academic unit ceremonies on and near campus. More than 2,500 professional, graduate and undergraduate degrees were conferred.

VCU President Michael Rao, Ph.D., called on the graduates to help shape the world.

“As you think about what the world will be, make it one where we finally realize that our society is the strongest when all of its members can contribute to their fullest potential,” Rao said. “Make it one with doors of opportunity, not walls of opposition. Make it one where distrust and division yield to promise and progress. Make it one where inspiration comes from every place, because there’s a spark in every person.” 

Fall commencement 2015.
Fall commencement 2015.

The Edward A. Wayne Award, established in 1971 to honor individuals who have made outstanding contributions or provided exemplary service to VCU, was presented to William L. “Bill” Murray, Ph.D., managing director of public policy for Dominion, and Jean Hovey, a self-employed consultant who conducts evaluation and policy research and analysis. Murray, who is an adjunct professor of health policy at the VCU School of Medicine, previously served as legislative director for former Gov. Tim Kaine and as deputy director of policy in the Warner administration. Hovey, who works as a volunteer mental health advocate, previously served as managing editor of an academic journal, as a National 4-H Council trainer and as a Virginia Department of Medical Assistance Services policy analyst.

A Presidential Medallion was awarded to Sheldon M. Retchin, M.D., executive vice president of health sciences at The Ohio State University and CEO of the Wexner Medical Center. Retchin served as senior vice president for health sciences at VCU and CEO of the VCU Health System from 2003 to 2015. The Presidential Medallion recognizes individuals for their extraordinary achievement in learning and commitment to the mission of VCU.

Social media highlights from the day’s festivities have been collected at