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UVa-Wise confers degrees and holds its first ROTC commissioning

William Wampler, Jr., a former state senator, urged nearly 300 graduates of The University of Virginia’s College at Wise to work hard and to be relevant to the success of the organization they work for so their skills will be recognized accordingly.

“Simply put, be the best at whatever you do,” Wampler, director of New College Institute, told the UVa-Wise Class of 2012. “When it comes to work ethic or working hard, you and you alone control your destiny. It’s up to you.”

Wampler, who served as senior lecturer at UVa-Wise, told the Class of 2012 a little about his role in successful legislation that changed the college’s name from Clinch Valley College to The University of Virginia’s College at Wise in 1998.

“It was nothing short of a Herculean effort by many to get these bills passed,” Wampler said.

The College’s relationship with the University of Virginia is stronger today than ever before, and students from across Virginia are enrolling and graduating from UVa-Wise in record numbers, he said.

“Today marks the day of your life when you, perhaps, feel the way my four-times great grandfather must have felt when he settled here in Wise so many years ago,” Wampler said. “Uncertain about what the future holds but excited about the opportunities and putting what you have learned to work while making a difference.”

UVa-Wise held its Commencement 2012 ceremony on Saturday, May 19 at the Lawn by the Lake. The hundreds attending cheered as the College celebrated its first ROTC commissioning ceremony when Cadet Michael Dustin Bailey received his Bachelor of Science in Nursing and left the stage as Second Lieutenant Bailey.

Those attending listened quietly and gave their full attention to Bailey, his family and the officers and enlisted soldiers as they took the stage for the official ceremony. He took his oath and stood strong as his parents, Mike and Karen Bailey, placed rank bars on their son’s shoulders.

In time-honored tradition, Lieutenant Bailey, 23, was ready for his first salute. Sgt. Thomas Scholl, a non-commissioned officer who instilled the proper military way into the ROTC cadets, walked swiftly toward Bailey and gave him a crisp salute. In exchange, Lt. Bailey presented Sgt. Scholl with a silver dollar as respect for the training and mentoring he received from Scholl.

Often during Commencement, speakers paused to reflect on the legacy of the late David J. Prior, the College’s seventh chancellor. Mr. Prior passed away suddenly during his seventh year as head of the only branch of the University of Virginia.

Marvin Gilliam, a member of the University of Virginia Board of Visitors, brought greetings from Teresa Sullivan, president of the University.

‘The true measure of any college is the people who enroll in classes, work hard, expand their horizons and leave the school a more complete person,” Gilliam said. “This has long been a tradition of this college and I know that you graduates will continue this story of success.”

Marcia Gilliam, chair of the UVa-Wise Board, said the Class of 2012 was likely thinking about the reasons they chose to attend college in Wise.

“As you are now poised to graduate, I’m betting that your time at UVa-Wise has helped you realize that those were not just reasons to come to college, but remain reasons to move forward into your new lives,” she said. “If you realize that, then our College has done its job. As you keep moving toward what is next, remember to learn more, to love more, to do more and to be more.”

Ashlee Washburn, president of the Student Government Association, said the Class of 2012 has matured as UVa-Wise has matured.

“I want our Class of 2012 to never stop learning and don’t be afraid to go off the plans you make for yourself,” Washburn said. “Sometimes the best things in life are not planned.

Nayab Chowhan, the Class of 2012 honorary student speaker, said they were often asked as children what they wanted to be when they grew up and where did they want to attend college.

“Now it will be ‘what are you going to do with the rest of your life? So next week, when your parents come down to the basement to ask you this, here is what you say,” Chowhan said. “I’m going to live it. Life is not something to be planned or waited on. It’s happening right now and we are the stars.”

PHOTOS BY TIM COX