At Washington and Lee University’s 235th commencement ceremony on Thursday, President William C. Dudley reminded members of the Class of 2022 that no matter what they studied at W&L or where their plans take them next, their liberal arts education prepared them to excel through lifelong learning, leadership, and service to their communities.
“You may not have studied leadership or citizenship,” Dudley said, “But if we’ve done our job and you’ve done yours, you’re ready to make meaningful contributions wherever you go, for the good of you and your families, but also for the benefit of the less fortunate and the communities you live in. By investing in you, W&L has made a long-term investment in the public good.
Asking the university president for the start address is a custom at W&L that dates back to the 1930s.
During his speech, Dudley noted that the first and last year of the Class of 2022 as W&L students serve as bookends to the COVID-19 pandemic, but after penning a speech “what have we Taught Us From COVID,” he quickly decided he didn’t want to focus on the pandemic and tore that project apart.
“I don’t want to talk about COVID,” Dudley said to cheers from the crowd. “I want to think about what’s ‘normal’ here in Washington and Lee.”
Normal at W&L doesn’t mean boring or ordinary, he says. Rather, it means distinguishing oneself through kindness, trust, respect and decency. It also means “paying attention to the gap” between our ideals and our lived reality, and asking, when we fall short of our own standards, how we could do better.
“It’s normal for Washington and Lee to have a clear purpose – clearly expressed in our mission statement – and to hold ourselves accountable – in line with our motto, not a fool from the future, not forgetting the future,” said Dudley. “This combination gives us endurance – 273+ years – but without stasis. We stay true to ourselves, but evolve with the times, doing our best in each era to equip the rising generation of students to lead important lives.
Dudley’s advice to graduates as they prepare to leave campus is to stay curious, keep striving, and work hard to achieve goals and engage with their communities.
“Liberal arts education cannot prepare you in advance for everything you will encounter,” he said. “But it makes you the kind of person who responds well to encounters you are unprepared for. This ability, more than anything else, improves your prospects for a lifetime of learning, success, leadership, service and citizenship.
Read Dudley’s full speech here.
Mackenzie Walter ’22, Secretary of the Executive Committee, spoke on behalf of the Class of 2022. Walter majored in American Politics with a minor in Law, Justice, and Society. On the executive committee, she was the junior class representative and, this year, its secretary, serving as the main communication link between the EC and the university administration.
Walter served as a summer intern and university ambassador in the admissions office, organizing campus tours, interviewing prospective students, and serving on the student panel for virtual admissions events. As a member of Kathekon, she served as an ambassador through the Office of Alumni Engagement, supporting student-alumni relations programs and events. In her senior year, she co-led the senior class gift campaign, gaining support for W&L’s annual fund.
Selected as a S. Cullum Owings Jr. Scholar in 2021, Walter has visited schools across the United States to deliver workshops and presentations that foster the values of honor and integrity in middle and high school students.
This fall, Walter will attend Syracuse University College of Law to pursue his Juris Doctorate.
In his speech Thursday, Walter spoke about the quality and strength of the W&L community.
“Deep-rooted traditions such as the honor system and the speaking tradition have permeated our college experience and had a fundamental impact on our personal values and the people we are today… Over the years and roles that we play in this community has changed, my love and appreciation for this place and its people has only grown.
She then celebrated the many lessons the class of 2022 have learned over the past four years, encouraging her classmates to remember, as they embark on their future paths, to embrace the unknown.
“The lessons we’ve learned in our four years on this campus have equipped us with the skills we’ll need to be successful under any circumstances,” she said. “Ultimately, there’s more than one path to success, and I know each of us will find our own path eventually. Accept what you can’t control and understand that it’s okay not to not understand everything.
At Thursday’s ceremony, W&L awarded diplomas to 444 seniors. In total, the class of 2022 graduated in 51 majors, with 31% of the class having completed more than one major. Fifty-five percent of the class completed at least one minor.
Three students were named class valedictorians: Truman Thomas Chancy, Spencer Martich Kriss, and Trang Thuy “Alyssa” Vu. Each earned a final GPA of 4.0.
Truman Chancy, of Richmond, Va., earned a Bachelor of Music degree. The centerpiece of his honors thesis was his alto saxophone recital this spring, which featured classical and jazz selections.
Since his freshman year at W&L, Chancy has performed with the University Jazz Ensemble and the University Wind Ensemble. In the jazz ensemble, he was the principal saxophonist, a featured soloist and composer, and he received the University Jazz Ensemble Award in 2021 and 2022. In the wind ensemble, Chancy served as the leader of the saxophone section during three years. He won the university’s 2021-2022 Concerto-Aria competition and this spring performed Alexander Glazunov’s “Alto Saxophone Concerto” with the University Wind Ensemble. Selected for the Instrumental Conducting Mentorship Program, Chancy has conducted rehearsals and performances for the University Orchestra and University Wind Ensemble. He was also a member of the University Singers during his junior and senior years.
In 2020, Chancy worked as a researcher at the Stan Kenton Research Center in Staunton, Virginia, where he built a digital database of music collections and created scholarly editions of big band sheet music for study and performance. He also attended several music education conferences during his time at W&L and presented research at the 2021 College Orchestra Directors Association Virtual Symposium.
In addition to his musical contributions and academic accomplishments, Chancy has enjoyed serving as a Community Assistant on the Residential Life staff for the past three years.
Spencer Kriss of Versailles, Kentucky, holds a bachelor’s degree in biochemistry.
Some of his accolades during his undergraduate career include his induction into Phi Beta Kappa, Alpha Epsilon Healthcare Honor Society, Tri-Beta Biological Honor Society, and Phi Eta Sigma, as well as awards such as the James Holt Starling Fellowship and the Gaines scholarship. As a sophomore, Kriss received the One Love Foundation Unsung Hero Award for his published research on pediatric skull fractures. His senior department awards include the Dr. Lindley Spaht Dodson Award in Chemistry or Biochemistry and the James Jinkins Livesay Award, MD Premedical.
Outside of the classroom, Kriss was a Community Assistant on the Residential Life Team. He earned a varsity letter for four years on the men’s lacrosse team and played in all 19 games this season. Head coach Gene McCabe and Kriss’ advisor, Professor Matt Tuchler, both cite his excellent team spirit in the classroom and on the field, his kindness, humility and strong work ethic. Additionally, Kriss is a multiple-time state chess champion, a nationally ranked junior chess player, and an excellent golfer.
Kriss will attend Vanderbilt Medical School in Nashville, Tennessee, this fall.
Alyssa Vu has a bachelor’s degree in computer science and a minor in data science and business analytics.
Originally from Hanoi, Vietnam, Vu completed three software development and data science internships in Vietnam during his undergraduate career. She also worked for several semesters as a teaching assistant and computer peer tutor. His advisor, Professor Sara Sprenkle, credits him with helping students feel welcome and motivated in the lab, always being friendly and eager to help his peers, and providing a role model for how the computer science department prepares its future student assistants.
Vu is a recipient of the Computer Science Department Award, won the James D. Davidson Memorial Fund and James McDowell Fellowships, and was initiated into Phi Beta Kappa last year. She is also a member of the Phi Eta Sigma National Honor Society and Beta Gamma Sigma, and she served as the Student Representative on the Courses and Degrees Committee for the 2019-2020 academic year. She will start working as a software engineer at Microsoft in Atlanta this summer.
This year’s recipient of the Algernon Sydney Sullivan Award, Bri Mondesir of New Haven, Connecticut, was also recognized at the launch ceremony. Mondesir graduated with a degree in Environmental Studies with a minor in Poverty and Human Capability Studies.
As a Bonner Scholar, Mondesir has completed over 1,800 hours of community service and leadership training at W&L. She volunteered at W&L’s Campus Kitchen and became president of its leadership team. She has also served as an intern in the campus kitchen, working with community partner agencies, working in the campus garden, preparing and delivering meals, and planning for the upcoming academic year.
Mondesir has also held leadership positions for many other organizations, including Students for Educational Justice, based in New Haven, Connecticut; Live Healthy Rockbridge Coalition; Community first; and the Student Judicial Council. She has been an active member of the Student Association for Black Unity, Amnesty International, the Tri Beta Biological Honor Society, and the Native American Student Organization. During her second year, she worked as a remote intern for Amartya, an environmental NGO in Buenos Aires, and she studied the impact of environmental issues on low-income communities in Argentina.
As part of a W&L project, Mondesir also assisted the Carilion Clinic in its triennial Community Health Assessment for Rockbridge County, which included conducting focus groups to identify barriers to good health. This project, along with her academic studies, volunteer work, and internship experiences, cemented her interest in public health. Upon graduation, Mondesir will move to Durham, North Carolina where she will work for Spark Point Fundraising as a full-time grant writer. His postgraduate plans include returning to school to pursue a master’s and doctoral degree. in public health.
For more information on the start and class of 2022, please click here.
Click here to learn more about the achievements of the Class of 2022.