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Governor, Admiral Address Graduates at ODU's December Commencement Ceremonies

Old Dominion University graduates received words of wisdom from two inspiring speakers during commencement exercises Saturday, Dec. 18.

Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell and retired U.S. Navy Adm. William J. Fallon addressed more than 1,100 graduates at ODU's 113th commencement ceremonies, held at the Ted Constant Convocation Center. They spoke of character, integrity and responsibilities the new graduates will face.

McDonnell spoke at the 9 a.m. ceremony to graduates of the Frank Batten College of Engineering and Technology, Darden College of Education and College of Sciences. Fallon, who received an honorary doctorate of science, addressed graduates of the College of Arts and Letters, College of Business and Public Administration and College of Health Sciences at the 2 p.m. ceremony.

"America is the land of opportunities, not guarantees," McDonnell told graduates at the morning ceremony. The governor said that big dreams are recognized through hard work and stellar values.

"Live each day, life passes too quickly," he said. Recognizing the service of ODU graduate Kyle Middleton '08, who was recently killed in Afghanistan, McDonnell underscored the price of service at home and abroad. "Every day people are giving their best. Be great, serve one another."

In his closing remarks, McDonnell said, "You will have more opportunities than you can imagine. Hard work, integrity and divine providence will help you make your mark on Virginia and the world."

The 71st governor of the commonwealth of Virginia, McDonnell has spent his career in public service. He served as a Virginia Beach prosecutor beginning in 1989 and was elected to the Virginia House of Delegates in 1991, where he served 14 years representing Virginia Beach. In 2005, McDonnell was elected the 44th attorney general of Virginia.

At the afternoon ceremony, Fallon told the graduates, "You're particularly blessed with this educational opportunity and your experience here at Old Dominion. Use these gifts to make a difference in the world. Get fired up. Let's get to work, living your life with enthusiasm and passion, and let's get some results."

Noting the increasing importance of international affairs to the country's future, he stressed the need for a broad understanding of people, history and cultures, saying that today's graduates will be depended upon for their knowledge and understanding of critical issues. "Let's stop looking for others to do what needs to be done," he said.

Fallon also offered the following advice: "As you leave here, no matter what your chosen path in life, keep in mind the importance of values and high standards, and doing the right thing, even when it may not be popular, and even when no one is looking."

In closing, he offered some final thoughts on success and happiness. Among them:

"Act with honor, dignity and grace."

"Do something and take nothing in return. I think you'll find you like it."

Fallon, a 1982 graduate of ODU's master's program in international studies, retired from the U.S. Navy in 2008 after a distinguished 40-year career of military and strategic leadership. He led U.S. and allied forces in eight separate commands and played a leadership role in military and diplomatic matters at the highest levels of government. Currently CEO of the cyber-security firm NeuralIQ, Fallon is also a partner in Tilwell Petroleum LLC.

During the ceremonies, the university awarded honorary degrees to Katherine Johnson, a pioneer of the American space movement, and retired Landmark Media executive Bruce Bradley. Johnson received an honorary doctorate of science at the morning ceremony and Bradley received an honorary doctorate of humane letters in the afternoon.

Six graduates were recognized as Alumni Association Outstanding College Scholars. English major Heather Wood, a December graduate who had a 4.0 cumulative GPA in the College of Arts and Letters, was named the overall Outstanding University Scholar.

The other Outstanding College Scholars are:

• Business ad Public Administration - Manuela Johnson, international business, 3.97, August graduate

• Education - Elizabeth Bickel, human services 4.0, December graduate

• Engineering and Technology - Michael Dominice, computer engineering, 3.91, December graduate

• Health Sciences - Brandi Trounce, nursing, 4.0, August graduate

• Sciences - Tracy Thornton, ocean and earth sciences, 4.0, December graduate.

Both commencement ceremonies were video streamed live and can be accessed starting Sunday, Dec. 19, from the university's home page at www.odu.edu.

This article was posted on: December 18, 2010

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Old Dominion University is an equal opportunity, affirmative action institution.