436 students graduate from Roanoke College

Published: May. 6, 2023 at 5:40 PM EDT
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ROANOKE, Va. (WDBJ) - Surrounded by maroon and white confetti, students graduated from Roanoke College Saturday.

“I truly believe this going to be the next greatest generation of Americans,” said Roanoke College President Frank Shushok, Jr.

This year the school had 436 graduates. Newly-inducted Roanoke College President Shushok, Jr. says he’s hopeful for their future.

“These students have been through so much. They’re incredibly resilient,” added Shushok, Jr. “They care deeply about the world that they’re going into, and they want to make sure that their lives matter and count and count for good.”

There were seven valedictorians and one honorary degree recipient – American writer Nikki Giovanni. She recently retired from Virginia Tech after 35 years of being an educator.

“I’ll always be a Hokie, but now, I’ll always be a Maroon. So, I am looking forward to that,” said Giovanni.

Giovanni is known as an early member of the Black Arts Movement and a force for justice. During the ceremony, Giovanni read her poem transitions to the students.

“It’s a change. This is a commencement, but birth is a commencement. And a couple of the, particularly the creative writing students came up and said I really like your poem and it makes you feel really good,” explained Giovanni.

Shushok says they wanted to honor Giovanni’s impact on the world but especially in Southwest Virginia.

“She’s been a voice that has inspired us,” explained Shushok, Jr. “Helped us in moments of sorrow. Encouraged us to see (an) opportunity for the world to be a little more justice and a little more humane.”

Shushok Jr. has one message for the grads.

“Don’t let the hard stuff get you down, let it make you stronger,” said Shushok, Jr.