This weekend we will celebrate Finale, the Jepson School’s senior recognition ceremony, followed by Commencement. Although the virtual nature of this year’s graduation events will be markedly different than previous years, the sentiment of celebrating our seniors’ accomplishments during their time at the University of Richmond remains unchanged.
At Jepson, 75 majors and 15 minors have spent the last four years applying an inter-disciplinary lens to the study of leadership, with the goal of understanding how to lead ethically and effectively. They have considered what constitutes a just society, critically examined complex leadership dilemmas, explored different styles of leadership, and delved into leader-follower dynamics.
Jepson students have applied what they learned in the classroom by leading on campus and in the broader community. Some have led academically, such as the three Phi Beta Kappa initiates and the recipient of the SPIDY Presidential Award for the woman athlete with the top academic record.
Others have fostered a sense of community through their leadership in the Jepson Student Government Association and the Jepson Corps. Still others have worked on campus-wide initiatives in their roles as presidents of the Interfraternity Council, the National Panhellenic Conference, and the Student-Athlete Advisory Committee.
Our seniors have been recognized for their civic engagement off campus as well. One received a city-wide award for her support of LGBTQ youth. Another, a national Newman Civic Fellowship in recognition of her outreach to refugees. A third, a Virginia Governor’s Fellowship to work on statewide education policy.
These achievements represent but a sampling of how our leadership studies students have distinguished themselves during their collegiate years. We have much to celebrate this weekend.
Yet our closing celebrations will not include the in-person camaraderie we anticipated. The COVID-19 pandemic that forced our campus community into virtual learning during the last six weeks of the semester also has necessitated a move to a virtual Finale and Commencement, which will be published Saturday morning to the Jepson and University websites, respectively.
If anything good can be said about this disappointing end for our seniors, it is this: They have witnessed in real time what some have called the greatest challenge to global leaders since the end of World War II. The lessons they have learned about good and bad leadership will stay with them as they leave Jepson and the University to engage as active citizens and leaders.
Abigail Adams wrote, “It is not in the still calm of life, or the repose of a pacific station, that great characters are formed…the habits of a vigorous mind are formed contending with difficulties. All history will convince you of this…Great necessities call out great virtues.”
We live in a time of great necessities. I have every confidence our graduates have developed the great virtues to lead us through these challenges.