'A time to celebrate you'

Dean Aguirre's message to the Class of 2020


SUMMARY: Dean Robert Aguirre has a message for College of Arts and Letters graduating seniors: "This is a time to celebrate you, all you have become, and all that lies before you."

Although we would have preferred to see you in your purple gowns on campus, my faculty and I are thrilled to share with you this important event in your life and the life of our university. It is a time when the JMU family–faculty, staff, students, families, and alumni–come together to celebrate the accomplishments of our graduating students and to reflect on what it means to join the company of educated people. 

As Arts and Letters graduates, you have completed a course of rigorous study that has prepared you well for the challenges of the present and the future. Whatever your major, you have honed skills that are in high demand in our workforce and a bedrock for lives of meaning and purpose. These include the ability to understand a wide variety of information, to sift truth from falsehood, to express yourself clearly and forcibly, to see events in historical and cultural contexts, to work well with others, and to practice empathy and compassion. More than ever, employers count these as superpowers.

You can be confident that your JMU education serves as a solid foundation not only for your first job, but for careers to come, some of which may involve work in fields that have yet to be invented. I know I speak for the faculty in saying we are proud of all that you have become during your time here. The American writer Henry David Thoreau said of his time at Walden Pond that he “grew in those seasons like corn in the night.” We know this has been true for you as well.

We also know that you have acquired here another hallmark of a JMU education: an ethic of service. You have volunteered in your communities, helped others less fortunate, and educated yourselves about the great needs in your local surround and the world beyond. With great privilege also comes added responsibility, and you have embraced this call to action with creativity and resolve. We know from our alumni that this burden to be a force for positive change persists beyond JMU, and we look forward to seeing your great accomplishments in years to come.

This is a time to celebrate you, all you have become, and all that lies before you. Congratulations!

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Published: Friday, April 24, 2020

Last Updated: Friday, January 29, 2021

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