Darden Graduation 2014: Listen

19 May 2014

By Matt Charles

More than 3,000 people from around the globe gathered at the University of Virginia Darden School of Business on Sunday, 18 May, for the School’s 58th Commencement Exercises.

Darden Dean Robert F. Bruner presided over the ceremony. In his remarks to the graduates, he said that “listening seems to be a failing art,” referring to the number of colleges and universities that over the past weeks rescinded invitations to commencement speakers. “You might disagree with a speaker, but it won’t hurt you to listen,” said Bruner.

Bruner urged the graduating Class of 2014 to look outside of what is familiar, absorb others’ points of view and “find what deeply resonates.”

Among the more than 400 graduates was Stephanie Scuderi, who delivered remarks on behalf of the Global MBA for Executives class.

Scuderi remembered back to Darden orientation 22 months ago: “August 2012 was the last time we were all together as one group — the full-time MBAs, the Executive MBAs and the Global Executive MBAs,” said Scuderi. “Countless hours of distance classes, hundreds of hours of classes in windowless conference rooms around the world. And yet, we never let it slow us down. Darden has given us the tools to go the distance. The distance run is now up to us.”

MBA for Executives graduate and student speaker Alfred “Gus” Nicoll then proposed a new tradition — the Darden coin, based on the military practice of minting challenge coins that embody service and teamwork. “It begins here today, with us, on this stage. I hold in my hand a magical coin, a golden ticket, a passport to the future. It contains no intrinsic value, yet it is priceless,” said Nicoll. “Where will your Darden coin take you? What will your eyes see? What will your hands touch? What will your heart feel? What will your mind imagine? Whom will you serve? How will you honor the past while creating the future?”

Brandon Guichard, elected speaker of the full-time MBA program issued three challenges to his classmates, framed by Darden values: find your passion, always be grateful and live your life in the service of others.

“Whether we become business executives or community leaders, the 400 of us have the capacity to affect millions of lives and we can build a better world for our children and for every future generation as long as we continue to challenge each other to live as servant leaders,” said Guichard.

The Class of 2014 honored two Darden professors by electing them faculty marshals, who granted degrees and awards and led the procession down the Lawn. They were Gregory B. Fairchild, E. Thayer Bigelow, Associate Professor of Business Administration, and Bidhan L. Parmar, Assistant Professor in Business Administration.

The students also elected James G. Clawson, Johnson & Higgins Professor of Business Administration, and Robert E. Spekman, Tayloe Murphy Professor of Business Administration, to serve as honorary faculty marshals.

Finals weekend for Darden graduates was a three-day event. On Friday night, they gathered with families and friends at a reception in Darden’s Wilkinson Courtyard.

On Saturday, they listened to Super Bowl champion Peyton Manning, who delivered the 2014 Valedictory Address. Manning, whose wife, Ashley, is 1997 graduate of the UVA McIntire School of Commerce, urged the Class of 2014 to take bold actions in making the world a better place. “Shake it up,” said Manning. “You have the power to influence change in so many ways that have never existed before. Make kindness a priority, not a blurred line. You are the generation that can put ethics and values back en vogue.”

On Sunday morning, the graduates participated in the University of Virginia’s 185th Final Exercises on the Lawn, presided over by President Teresa A. Sullivan.

Ray Mabus delivered the keynote address. Mabus is U.S. Secretary of the Navy, former governor of Mississippi and ambassador to Saudi Arabia. Speaking of U.S. Armed Forces members, Mabus said, “They are doing for others. They are doing something beyond themselves. Some of them are sitting with you today, students who have come back to school through the GI Bill and Yellow Ribbon Program. Will you join them? Will you serve — one of the hallmarks of this great university. There are many ways to serve your country other than risking your life. It’s the service that matters. It’s the service to others and to those in need around the world. Do something outside of yourself.”

President Sullivan conferred degrees on Darden’s doctoral and MBA candidates. “You have committed yourselves to the University values of honor, service, diversity, leadership and accountability to self and peers,” said Sullivan. “Today, you have lived what you have learned, and tomorrow, you take the knowledge and tools that will enable you to lead in the world.”

During Final Exercises, President Sullivan recognized Darden Professor Fairchild and the six other new alumni members of the Raven Society — the oldest and one of UVA’s most prestigious honorary societies that sponsors scholarships and fellowships in recognition of academic and scholarly excellence.

Towards the conclusion of the ceremony, President Sullivan announced the class gift and noted that the Darden School of Business Class of 2014 achieved 99 percent participation — the highest of all colleges at UVA

To watch UVA’s Final Exercises, visit the University of Virginia’s major events archive.

About the University of Virginia Darden School of Business

The University of Virginia Darden School of Business delivers the world’s best business education experience to prepare entrepreneurial, global and responsible leaders through its MBA, Ph.D., MSBA and Executive Education programs. Darden’s top-ranked faculty is renowned for teaching excellence and advances practical business knowledge through research. Darden was established in 1955 at the University of Virginia, a top public university founded by Thomas Jefferson in 1819 in Charlottesville, Virginia.


Press Contact

Sophie Zunz
Director of Media Relations
Darden School of Business
University of Virginia