Turning the page on an unforgettable chapter


by David Doremus

On a rainy May morning, the College of Business’ graduation ceremony was staged for the first time in the Atlantic Union Bank Center.

SUMMARY: Ceremony celebrates graduates’ perseverance in overcoming obstacles.

Praised for their “grace and resilience” in surmounting adversity of a kind their invited speaker described as “unlike anything in my lifetime,” more than 900 undergraduates crossed the stage to receive their diplomas on May 13, when James Madison University’s College of Business conducted its Spring 2022 commencement exercises.

Among them were 690 who had completed one or more of the CoB's seven undergraduate majors and programs. They were joined by 224 from the Hart School of Hospitality, Sport and Recreation Management.

Almost 100 others who earned graduate degrees from CoB specialty programs were recognized at separate ceremonies around the campus on graduation weekend.

The May 13 event took place at the Atlantic Union Bank Center, JMU’s spacious multi-purpose arena, on a morning when the outdoor venues of past years would have provided scant protection against the steady drizzle.  

In his welcoming remarks, Dean Michael Busing urged graduates to venture forth decisively and confidently, but not at the sacrifice of their personal connections to the faculty members with whom they have been engaged since first arriving at JMU.

"Keep in touch," said Busing, who then reminded graduates of a gesture that has become one of JMU's signature courtesies.

"JMU alumni routinely reach back and open doors for those who come after them," he said. "Continue this culture."

Busing was followed to the podium by JMU President Jonathan Alger, who alluded to the two years of disruptions associated with the COVID-19 pandemic when he said, "…we will never again take for granted the ability to gather and celebrate in person."

After citing some of the college’s most conspicuous accomplishments this past year—including the grand opening of its Learning Complex, which he likened to "a state-of-the-art headquarters for a cutting-edge, collaborative business enterprise"—Alger saluted graduates for having found ways, despite the pandemic, to "partner with each other, your communities and businesses around the world."

Chosen by a vote of the students to bring an inspirational message on an occasion already laden with uplift was James Irving, Keiter Faculty Scholar and associate professor of accounting in the College of Business since 2016. He was last year’s winner of the Dr. Otto C. Brenner Memorial Award, signifying his selection as JMU's "outstanding undergraduate professor."

It was Irving who saluted the graduates’ “grace and resilience” in overcoming challenges more daunting than any he had previously witnessed. He also commended to the graduates four “intangible attributes” he said would be "important for a rewarding and successful post-baccalaureate existence,” listing “gratitude,” “perseverance,” “remaining true to yourself,” and “willingness to pay it forward.”

Irving cautioned that these attributes would require “continual energy and attention,” and that they would “not always repay you in observable ways.”

Taking each in its turn, he urged his listeners to show gratitude by “recognizing the contributions of others at every stage of your post-JMU journey,” and to persevere whenever a “path of least resistance … tempts you.”

Remain true to yourself, Irving said, by seeking work “that provides intrinsic satisfaction,” and don’t delay to “pay forward” the blessings conferred by your own benefactors, knowing that it is possible to make a “significant difference at a pivotal time in someone else’s life.”   

To the delight of his audience, Irving closed his speech in a manner befitting an accounting professor, converting the four attributes into a numerical puzzle that yielded the solution “2022.”

“Heartfelt congratulations to the Class of 2022,” he concluded. “May your JMU pedigree pave the way for a life of happiness and fulfillment.”

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Published: Monday, May 16, 2022

Last Updated: Monday, January 8, 2024

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