May 07, 2022
By Joe Garvey, Jonah Grinkewitz and Amber Kennedy
Old Dominion University held its 136th Commencement Exercises May 6 and 7 in Chartway Arena at the Ted Constant Convocation Center. Over the two days, nearly 3,000 students were awarded bachelor’s, master’s and doctoral degrees during four ceremonies, each featuring its own speaker, including award-winning actress Angela Bassett.
At each ceremony, Provost Austin Agho recognized the 754 distance-learning graduates, earning 423 bachelor’s degrees, 269 master’s degrees and 62 doctoral degrees.
Bassett, who was awarded an honorary Doctor of Humane Letters (honoris causa), told graduates of the College of Arts & Letters during the first ceremony on Friday afternoon that they have earned degrees from “an institution where young women and men have been nurtured and prepared to become strong and resilient leaders.”
She urged graduates to embrace leadership, and the challenges it can bring.
“When I speak to graduates, I often compare the road to leadership and legacy to learning to walk in your own shoes, rather than trying to fill someone else’s,” Bassett said. “And I say this because when we buy a new pair, it takes some time for those shoes to feel like they’re truly ours. By this, I want you to be comfortable with being uncomfortable as you enter into this new chapter. I want you to be thoughtful with making decisions about these next steps on your journey.”
She encouraged them to be unafraid about taking risks.
“As you go out into the world today as graduates, always remember this: The great poet Nikki Giovanni once said: ‘I really don’t think life is about the I-could-have-beens. Life is only about the I- I don’t mind the failure. But I can’t imagine that I’d forgive myself if I didn’t try.”‘
She said she believes the graduates are “designed for greatness.”
“Monarchs, you didn’t come this far to come this far,” she said. “You came this far to excel. You came this far to soar to heights that you, your parents, your grandparents, your ancestors sacrificed and prayed for you to reach.”
“Oh, when the world tells you no, and they will, you’ll remember that no is not a passport to failure but it’s a gateway to infinite possibilities that you haven’t considered or thought of yet. When the world says you’ re not good enough, remember that you have been nurtured for success within an academic university of a long line of alums who have contributed to changing the world. Carry this. to push forward and to claim your place at the table of purpose and prosperity. Even in the face of life’s certain uncertainty and adversity.”