Life is a symphony and each graduate has an important part to play, Gov. Glenn Youngkin told graduates today at Virginia Commonwealth University’s May commencement ceremony.

“From today going forward, each of you will be composing your symphony. You will be performing in your symphony. And you will be conducting your symphony,” Youngkin said. “As you compose your symphony, you get to choose the movements. You get to choose the pace, how bold, how soft, how complex, how elegantly simple.”

“You will dictate what you compose. I encourage you to see opportunities for addition and multiplication, not subtraction and division. Seek out both/and moments, instead of either/or moments,” he said. “We need each of you, your talents, dreams, aspirations, your contributions that certainly will make tomorrow better than today.”

The ceremony, which was held at the Greater Richmond Convention Center, honored VCU’s approximately 4,700 spring graduates, including more than 3,000 earning undergraduate degrees. More than 930 graduates earned master’s, approximately 380 earned first-professional degrees and around 300 are newly minted Ph.D.s. The students come from all over the U.S. but also beyond, with international grads representing 40 countries. The university also hosts an assortment of in-person graduation ceremonies at the department, school and college levels.

Governor Glenn Youngkin speaking at the podium during VCU's graduation ceremony.
Gov. Glenn Youngkin addresses VCU’s graduates during the universitywide commencement ceremony. (Tom Kojcsich, Enterprise Marketing and Communications)

Youngkin, who received an honorary doctorate of humane letters at the ceremony, told the grads that: “The world needs your music. You, all of you, will be the symphony. Make it a masterpiece.”

VCU President Michael Rao, Ph.D., told the graduates that they were role models for all other students who follow them.

“You’re leaders who have moved the culture of this institution even more toward innovation and creativity,” Rao said. “You’ll leave here today as motivated leaders, as professionals, living incredible lives. I’m so excited for your future, and to see what you do in this world with what you’ve learned and the degrees that you earned here.”

R. Todd Stravitz, M.D., co-founder of the Stravitz-Sanyal Institute for Liver Disease and Metabolic Health, received the Edward A. Wayne Medal at the ceremony. The award honors individuals who have made outstanding contributions or provided exemplary services to VCU. Stravitz served on the faculty of the VCU School of Medicine from 1993 to 2020 and is an active member of the VCU Liver Transplant Program.

Arun J. Sanyal, M.D., co-founder and director of the Stravitz-Sanyal Institute for Liver Disease and Metabolic Health, received the Presidential Medallion at the event. The Presidential Medallion honors members of the university community for extraordinary achievement in learning and commitment to the mission of VCU. A faculty member of the VCU School of Medicine since 1989, Sanyal is internationally known for his work in the development of therapeutics for liver disease.

In addition, Xavier Lewis and Niyomi Shah received the Board of Visitors Award, which recognizes the achievements of outstanding undergraduate students who represent the distinctive attributes of a VCU student. The recipients receive a one-year scholarship in the amount equal to in-state tuition and fees.