College celebrates Class of 2019 commencement

Energy was high across campus in mid-May as Virginia Tech recognized its spring 2019 graduates.

In addition to University Commencement in Lane Stadium, the veterinary college held ceremonies for its Doctor of Veterinary Medicine (DVM) program, Master of Public Health (MPH) program, and Biomedical and Veterinary Sciences (BMVS) M.S. and Ph.D. programs.

2019 MPH graduation class
Graduating MPH students

On Thursday, May 16, the college's MPH and BMVS students participated in the Virginia Tech Graduate School Commencement in Cassell Coliseum. Earlier that day, the veterinary college hosted families, friends, and other invited guests at a ceremony and reception for MPH graduates and a ceremony and reception for BMVS graduates.

2019 BMVS reception for graduating students
Reception for graduating BMVS students

Following University Commencement on May 17, the college hosted a reception for graduating DVM students, which was immediately followed by the DVM program's 36th Commencement.

Held for the fourth consecutive year at the Moss Arts Center's Anne and Ellen Fife Theatre, the ceremony opened with a welcome from the college's interim dean, Dr. Gregory B. Daniel, followed by remarks from the commencement speaker, Dr. D. Phillip Sponenberg, professor of pathology and genetics in the Department of Biomedical Sciences and Pathobiology and an internationally recognized expert in rare breeds conservation.

"Is it a graduation or a commencement?" Sponenberg asked upon reaching the podium. "An end or a beginning? Let's assume it's dessert and go for both."

2019 DVM Commencement
Graduating DVM students at the college's 36th Commencement

In his address, Sponenberg urged students to practice kindness—an act, he said, that "is free to give and precious to receive," one that "fills voids that otherwise might defeat us all."

Sponenberg continued: "Tonight, we on this stage are holding a door open for you and are delighted to be able to do it. Go through that door onto the next adventure, whatever that is, wherever that takes you. … Eventually, in some future day, you'll be with someone and the opportunity will come for you to hold a door open for them. Take advantage of that opportunity. It is one of the most rewarding there is."

Prior to the hooding ceremony, Dr. Elizabeth "Libby" Majette, Class of 2019 valedictorian, received the Richard B. Talbot Award, an accolade named in honor of the college's founding dean and granted to the student with the highest academic standing in the graduating class.

Majette, a graduate of the small animal track, will be relocating to New Jersey for a position with HousePaws Mobile Veterinary Service, a companion animal practice that, along with its in-house facility for appointments and surgeries, has a fleet of veterinarians who make house calls.

Led by Dr. Kelly Gottschalk, president of the Virginia Veterinary Medical Association, the students took their veterinarian's oath and were formally welcomed into the profession by Dr. Elizabeth Cottrell, president-elect of the Maryland Veterinary Medical Association. In addition, the new graduates were welcomed into the VMCVM Alumni Society by Dr. Steven T. Shipley.

Presenting the class gift to the college were class president Dr. Tyler Lawnichak and vice president Dr. Carolyn Oehrig. In her presentation of the gift—a dog run to be used by the college's teaching dogs—Oehrig expressed gratitude for assistance from the Class of 2020, the Virginia Tech Office of Sustainability, and the Virginia Tech Department of Building Construction, which made the project part of the curriculum for its bio-inclusive building design class and its sustainability and materials course. The run is expected to be completed next spring.

After closing remarks from Dean Daniel, music was performed by Professor Emerita of Biomedical Sciences and Pathobiology Dr. Marion F. Ehrich on piano—marking her 34th DVM commencement performance—Professor of Biomedical Sciences and Pathobiology Dr. Thomas E. Cecere on violin, and Dr. Caitlin Elaine Mason (DVM '19) on cello.

Watch the ceremony for the special music, the speeches, and even some Dr. Seuss-style poetry written and performed by the college's 2019 Outstanding Graduating Student Andrea Oliver.