Coleman challenges VCU graduates to find meaningful paths that change the world

VCU awarded nearly 2,900 degrees to August and December graduates at its commencement ceremony Sa...
VCU awarded nearly 2,900 degrees to August and December graduates at its commencement ceremony Saturday at the Stuart C. Siegel Center. (Photo credit: Kevin Morley, University Marketing)

Christy Coleman, CEO of the American Civil War Museum, called on graduates to find purposeful paths that change the lives of others and help future generations during Virginia Commonwealth University’s fall commencement ceremony Saturday in the E.J. Wade Arena at the Stuart C. Siegel Center.

“Today is the culmination of all you’ve dreamed about, worked for and now manifest,” Coleman said. “Now that you have reached this stage of your life, there are going to be new paths put before you. …How you choose your journey is going to define you.”

Coleman was named president and CEO of the American Civil War Center at Historic Tredegar in Richmond in 2008. In 2013, she helped orchestrate the merger of the American Civil War Center with the Museum of the Confederacy to create the American Civil War Museum, which is located in Richmond and Appomattox. Earlier this year, Time magazine featured Coleman on a list of “31 People Who Are Changing the South.”

Coleman told graduates Saturday that VCU prepared them to follow any path in life and she challenged them to pursue paths that use their talents and passions to make an intentional impact on others and to determine what kind of “ancestors” they want to be for those who follow. 

“I want you to think about that as you embark on your next journey,” Coleman said. “If you succeed at both of those things, the world will never be the same.”

Christy Coleman, CEO of the American Civil War Museum, speaks to graduates during VCU's December commencement ceremony. (Photo credit: Tom Kojcsich, University Marketing; gallery photos by Tom Kojcsich and Kevin Morley, University Marketing)
Click to view slideshow. Christy Coleman, CEO of the American Civil War Museum, speaks to graduates during VCU's December commencement ceremony. (Photo credit: Tom Kojcsich, University Marketing; gallery photos by Tom Kojcsich and Kevin Morley, University Marketing)

VCU has nearly 2,900 professional, graduate and undergraduate degree recipients graduating in August and December. VCU President Michael Rao, Ph.D., told the gathered new graduates “you have made VCU an even better place to live, learn, create and innovate.”

“You are a graduating class of scholars with beautifully diverse backgrounds,” Rao said. “Some of you are the first in your family to graduate from a university. You are a multigenerational class achieving the dream of so many by receiving a world-class education. … Some of you came to VCU knowing exactly what you wanted to study and pursue in life. Some of you were unsure. But every single one of you persisted. And, here we are today celebrating your tenacity, desire to achieve and your tremendous success.”

Coleman 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 Darlene B. and George P. Emerson Jr. and to Laura B. and Harold E. Greer Jr., Ph.D.

The Emersons are two of the VCU Massey Cancer Center’s most active supporters. The couple founded the Highlands-Massey Classic, a golf tournament that is one of Massey’s largest annual fundraisers, in 2006. The Emersons have also generously supported the schools of Business and Medicine, VCU Health and VCU Athletics.

The Greers have demonstrated steadfast support of VCU since 1968 when Harold was hired as VCU’s first professor of Latin American history. Laura taught at both John Tyler Community College and the VCU School of Business during her career. In 2012, the couple endowed a scholarship for an outstanding undergraduate history major who has completed two courses in Latin American history. Last year, they pledged $1 million to create a distinguished professorship in Latin American history. 

The Presidential Medallion, established in 1984 to honor outstanding contributions of members of the university community, was awarded posthumously to Jan Chlebowski, Ph.D., a professor in the Department of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology and the School of Medicine’s associate dean for graduate education. Chlebowski, who taught at VCU for 39 years, died on March 10 at the age of 74.

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.