December Commencement Records Two “Firsts”

Two memorable “firsts” occurred during Old Dominion’s Dec. 15 commencement exercises. The date marked the first time that graduation was held in the new Ted Constant Convocation Center, an event that was preceded by the first “virtual graduation” ceremony of its kind within Navy education for about two dozen nuclear officers receiving master’s of engineering management (M.E.M.) degrees.

More than 2,000 students were eligible to receive their degrees at the main commencement program, which featured an address by Washington Post managing editor Steve Coll. Also during the ceremony, the university presented an honorary doctorate to Landmark Communications founder Frank Batten, Old Dominion’s first Board of Visitors rector. His financial support to the university has earned him the distinction as the institution’s most significant and enduring contributor.

Earlier in the day, just across the street at the Gornto TELETECHNET Center, President Roseann Runte conferred degrees upon eight Navy officers (see photo at right) who were present inside the television studio as well as 16 other officers located across the country, from San Diego to Newport, R.I., and several points in between.

“The M.E.M. program for Navy officers was designed so that personnel could earn degrees at any time in any place,” said Runte. “Likewise, our graduation for this program enables naval officers, their families and colleagues to take part, wherever they may be, in this most significant occasion in their lives.”

The commanding officer of the USS Roosevelt, which was at sea at the time, also was linked to the event. He offered congratulations to three of the officer-graduates who had started the unique, distance learning master’s program while stationed aboard the aircraft carrier.

The two-way audio and video broadcast of the ceremony, which featured university faculty and administrators in full academic regalia, was accomplished via satellite. The remote-site graduates appeared on in-studio television monitors and fully participated in the entire program.