ODU Confers More Than 2,600 Degrees During its 2024 Spring Commencement Exercises

Capt. Janet H. Days, commanding officer for Naval Station Norfolk and Lawrence "Larry" Weinstein, Eminent Scholar and physics professor, gave remarks.

Norfolk, VA, May 04, 2024 (GLOBE NEWSWIRE) -- Four years after the height of the COVID-19 pandemic, a resilient cohort of students, adorned in caps and gowns, claimed their well-deserved undergraduate and graduate degrees during Old Dominion University's 140th Commencement exercises.

Their journey, marked by adapting to online classes, forging connections through virtual platforms and transitioning from screens to real-life interactions, serves as a testament to the power of perseverance and grit.

In a culminating moment, on May 3 and 4, the University conferred 2,008 undergraduate and 687 graduate degrees to students in two commencement ceremonies.

On May 4, undergraduate degrees were presented in an outdoor ceremony at Kornblau Field in S.B. Ballard Stadium to students from the College of Arts and Letters, the Strome College of Business, the Darden College of Education and Professional Studies, the Batten College of Engineering and Technology, the College of Health Sciences, the College of Sciences, the School of Cybersecurity and the School of Nursing.

The keynote speaker, Capt. Janet H. Days ’99, commanding officer for Naval Station Norfolk — the first Black woman to hold the position — not only praised the graduates for their hard work and dedication but implored them to, “in Monarch fashion,” show their appreciation for everyone who had helped them “get here today.”

“This is a team sport,” she said.

Two honorary doctorate of humane letters degrees were also conferred during the ceremony. ODU President Brian O. Hemphill, Ph.D., awarded one to Capt. Days, making her a double alumnus of the University, and another to Del. Barry Knight, who has represented the 98th district in the Virginia General Assembly since 2009, making him an official alumnus of ODU.

During the advanced degree ceremony, held on May 3 at Chartway Arena, education specialist, master’s and doctoral degrees were awarded. Lawrence “Larry” Weinstein, Eminent Scholar and professor in ODU’s Physics Department, was the featured speaker.

During Saturday’s commencement ceremony, President Hemphill charged graduates to represent the University with pride.

“As a proud Monarch graduate, you should remain committed to the principles of public service and engagement,” Hemphill said.

“As a proud graduate, you should share your pride in ODU and encourage others to do the same. 

“And as a proud graduate, you should continue the relationship with the University as an active and engaged alumni. 

“And as a proud graduate, you should do what you can to put an ODU education within reach of the talented prospective students. 

“And finally, as a proud graduate, you should uphold the ODU commitment to lifelong learning and personal growth.”

Undergraduate Ceremony

Capt. Days, a graduate of the Strome College of Business and the University’s Naval ROTC enlisted commissioning program, reflected on her time as an ODU graduate and imparted lessons she had learned on her journey since then.

“Exactly 25 years ago, almost to the day, I graduated from this University,” she said. “I had no idea in 1999, that I would one day make history, and everyone here today has the potential to be a part of a historic moment.”

“You never know where your decisions today will lead you but remain encouraged and confident that there is a plan.”

Days reminded graduates that while their paths forward may not be linear, it is how they attack challenges that sets the trajectory for their futures.

“With life comes ups and downs, laughter, joy and sorrow,” Days said. “It’s how we navigate those storms, make course changes, pay attention to what direction the wind is blowing and use the tools you have learned here at Old Dominion University that chart your course.”

Days reflected on all she had learned and the challenges she faced in her pursuit of a military career during a time when women were not allowed to serve — comparing her journey to the process of securely anchoring a ship.

“The vessel should bind easily in bad weather, providing ample scope for chain issues,” she said. “There will be times in your journey when it is necessary to reevaluate the landscape, adjust and recalibrate. Like the precision associated with anchoring a warship, take the time to redefine.”

Days emphasized the importance of collaboration, saying that “anchoring a warship takes an entire team” and “a team begins with relationships.” She encouraged graduates to lean on the connections they have forged throughout college, because they are lifelong.

She illustrated that “while even the most astute mariner is a master of his craft, no rule states that you have to have it all figured out.” She urged graduates to have someone they can trust and always call for help and know that one day they may be called upon to return the favor. “Asking for help is not a sign of weakness,” she said.

While we must learn to lean on others, Days stressed that self-sufficiency is equally important. “One of the reasons we have the greatest Navy in the world is that it’s self-sustainable,” she said. “It’s our ability to replenish fuel and stores while we are at sea that allows us to deploy all are over the world.”

Days concluded with an important message about self-care. “Before techniques of underway replenishment were developed, ships that ran low on supplies had to return to port,” she said. “No matter what you do, you must find the space and time to recharge your batteries.”

She told graduates to “look at your neighbor and say, ‘Self-care is not selfish.’”

At the end of her remarks, Days shared tips for success, including put the mission first, be thoughtful of the climate you create, know that you can have it all but not all at the same time, and finally, “remember who you are and why you do what you do.”

Advanced Degree Ceremony

Weinstein, a physics professor and Eminent Scholar at Old Dominion, continued the longstanding tradition of having a faculty member serve as speaker at the advanced degree ceremony on Friday night.

“Why did you do this?” he asked the soon-to-be graduates, decked out in their caps and gowns. Besides better employment opportunities, two other reasons stand out. The first, he said, is the ability to teach oneself.

“I hope your teachers have brought you to the point where we are no longer needed and you can now learn on your own,” he said, adding that a rapidly changing society makes “lifelong learning a crucial skill.”

Quoting an early 20th century Oxford professor of moral and metaphysical philosophy, he said the second reason is more subtle, namely the ability to detect “BS.”

“So how do we detect BS?” Weinstein asked. “A historian would check dates and events.  A philosopher would use logic. I’m a scientist, so I use numbers. If a story quotes numbers, do they give a reputable source? Do they compare their numbers to a sensible standard?”   

He emphasized the importance of critical thinking, whether that’s in the consumption of news or in the estimation of people but he acknowledged that doing so takes work. It’s much easier to put people in boxes, he said. “But we are each far more complex than any simple box.”

“Go and use your hard-won education to follow your dreams, to put bread on your tables, to keep learning and, most importantly, to think for yourselves.”

A livestream of both commencement ceremonies is available online. 


Old Dominion University, located in Norfolk, is Virginia's forward-focused public doctoral research university with more than 23,000 students, a top R1 research ranking, rigorous academics, an energetic residential community and initiatives that contribute $2.6 billion annually to Virginia's economy. Learn more at odu.edu.


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