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Actor, VCU athletics hall of famer challenges graduates: ‘Give yourself permission to fail’

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Actor and VCU athletics hall of famer Boris Kodjoe.

Actor and VCU athletics hall of famer Boris Kodjoe challenged graduates to face their fear of failure and step out on faith at Virginia Commonwealth University’s spring commencement ceremony Saturday at the Richmond Coliseum.

“The fear of failure is real. But that’s where faith comes in,” Kodjoe said. “ … Dear Class of 2018, I implore you, you must give yourself permission to fail in order to experience the privilege of success. There’s no success without failure because there’s no triumph without adversity, no diploma without a lesson learned. Have faith that when you fall and get up again, you will win.” 

Kodjoe, a 1996 graduate of the VCU School of Business, made his on-screen debut in 1998 on “The Steve Harvey Show.” Kodjoe is an accomplished actor with dozens of credits that span film (“Downsized,” “Ferdinand”), TV (“The Last Man on Earth,” “Real Husbands of Hollywood”), and theater (“Cat on a Hot Tin Roof”). He currently stars as Dr. Will Campbell on “Code Black,” a medical drama on CBS. He was a standout tennis player at VCU from 1992-96 and was inducted into the VCU Athletics Hall of Fame in 2017.

Kodjoe spoke Saturday about tennis, his path from Germany to VCU to Hollywood, and the struggles he endured early in his modeling and acting career. He expressed his hope for the future and admiration for VCU’s newest graduates. 

“You have been blessed with an education that has ensured your academic development and your social awareness, an education that has given you knowledge and ignited your curiosity of the world and all of its people beyond these grounds, an education that has nurtured your confidence, fortified your integrity and expanded your socially conscious mind,” he said. “I truly admire you, because you have met the divisiveness that has been festering amongst us and built bridges using language of empathy.”

VCU awarded more than 5,000 professional, graduate and undergraduate degrees Saturday. VCU President Michael Rao, Ph.D., told graduates they represent the future and strength of the world and called on them to use their VCU education and experiences to make a difference.

“Graduates of Virginia Commonwealth University, we look to you with confidence that you are the light,” Rao said. “Because you received a world-class education with amazing educators, mentors and a supportive community, you are ready for the future. You will go forth and you will do great things.”

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Kodjoe was awarded the Honorary Doctor of Humane Letters, VCU’s highest form of recognition, which acknowledges outstanding contributions to society through scholarship, humanitarianism, science, art and public service.

The Edward A. Wayne Medal, established in 1971 to honor individuals who have made outstanding contributions or provided exemplary services to VCU, was awarded to M. Virginia “Ginny” and Charles F. Crone in recognition of their 30 years of philanthropy and engagement with VCU that has benefited the Massey Cancer Center, MCV Foundation, VCU College of Health Professions and the schools of Medicine and Nursing. Charles Crone is the retired president of MC Wholesale Club and former vice president of the Williamsburg Pottery. Ginny is retired from BASF Corp.   

The VCU Board of Visitors Award, which recognizes an undergraduate student for outstanding academic achievement, leadership and service, went to Terry L. Everett, a junior biology major. Everett has participated in the Louis Stokes Alliance for Minority Participation and Ram Camp leadership programs, and in 2015 he participated in the I-LEAD retreat. On Martin Luther King Jr. Day in 2016, he and friends filmed a #BlackExcellence rap video, highlighting their future aspirations of becoming doctors. Everett has served as a New Student Orientation leader and currently serves as a student ambassador, CEO of B the Movement, and vice president of the Theta Rho Chapter of Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity Inc. 

About VCU and VCU Health

Virginia Commonwealth University is a major, urban public research university with national and international rankings in sponsored research. Located in downtown Richmond, VCU enrolls more than 31,000 students in 217 degree and certificate programs in the arts, sciences and humanities. Thirty-eight of the programs are unique in Virginia, many of them crossing the disciplines of VCU’s 11 schools and three colleges. The VCU Health brand represents the VCU health sciences academic programs, the VCU Massey Cancer Center and the VCU Health System, which comprises VCU Medical Center (the only academic medical center and Level I trauma center in the region), Community Memorial Hospital, Children’s Hospital of Richmond at VCU, MCV Physicians and Virginia Premier Health Plan. For more, please visit www.vcu.edu and vcuhealth.org.