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Eberly graduates honored at two commencement ceremonies

MORGANTOWN, W. Va.— For the first time in two years, students in the Eberly College of Arts and Sciences walked across the stage at the WVU Coliseum during two graduation ceremonies.

Approximately 1,000 students attended Eberly’s graduate and undergraduate commencement ceremonies on Sunday, May 15. They were joined by their friends and family, faculty and staff from Eberly College, WVU President E. Gordon Gee and University officials.

Gregory Dunaway, Dean of Eberly College, commended both groups of graduates for succeeding in the face of great adversity and reminded them that, while times have been hard recently, they can and will change the future.

"Our world demands that it be led by those who are not only highly educated and trained but by those who possess a desire to make our world a better place, a more respectful and just place, one that values the diversity of humanity and by those who will endeavor to persevere in accomplishing these goals," he said. "You might say individuals who possess a Mountaineer spirit.You are such individuals."

Honorary Doctoral Degree recipient Denise Giardina, a West Virginia native, citizen advocate and an award-winning author with six novels, addressed graduate degree candidates at Eberly’s first ceremony. She shared a story from her teenage years, when her mother bought her a book because their local librarian would not allow them to borrow it.

The book was Lord of the Flies, and Giardina was deemed too young to read it. Her mother bought it from a local bookstore, gave it to her and told her not to let anyone tell her she can’t read something – a lesson Giardina shared with the audience.

“Reading freely and asking questions is an essential component of a democratic society, and the questions that grow from that reading are more important and more necessary than the answers,” she said.

She encouraged the audience to always ask questions and to beware of anyone who tries to limit their ability to do so.

In the second ceremony of the day, Presidential Honorary Degree recipient Stavros Lambrinidis, Ambassador of the European Union to the United States, also encouraged the audience to ask questions. Specifically, he told graduates to as one important question as they move into the next chapter of their lives: why?

“More important than knowing what you want to do or how you want to do it, take the time to ask yourself why you want to do it,” he said. “In my experience, knowing your ‘why’ is fundamental to fulfilling your life’s promise, whatever it may be, and to use your potential to its fullest, to make good choices, and to succeed in a broader sense as a person with character.”

Lambrinidis said he finds hope in the graduates’ intellectual power and the academic training they have received as Mountaineers.

“WVU teaches you to learn, it teaches you to collaborate, and it teaches you to be the very best you can be.”

According to President Gee, life itself has become similar to an endless final exam with ever-shifting questions. He shared his own message of hope for the future, commending graduates on their resilience and perseverance that got them to this point.

“In seemingly hopeless times, resilience arms us against despair and builds the courage to overcome obstacles,” he said. “And the hope you have honed to survive and thrive over the past two years will serve you well throughout your lives.”