Washington and Lee Graduates 444 Students at 235th Commencement In his remarks, President Will Dudley urged the Class of 2022 to carry forward the lessons they’ve learned and make a positive impact in their future communities.
At Washington and Lee University’s 235th Commencement ceremony on Thursday, members of the Class of 2022 were reminded by President William C. Dudley that no matter what they studied at W&L or where their plans take them next, their liberal arts education has 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 have done our jobs, and you have done your jobs, you are ready to make significant contributions wherever you go, for the benefit of yourselves and your families, but also for the benefit of those less fortunate and the communities in which you live. By investing in you, W&L has made a long-term investment in the public good.”
Having the university president give the Commencement address is a custom at W&L that dates back to the 1930s.
During his speech, Dudley noted that the Class of 2022’s first and last years as W&L students serve as bookends to the COVID-19 pandemic, but after drafting a “what did we learn from COVID” speech, he quickly decided he didn’t want to focus on the pandemic and tore up that draft.
“I don’t want to talk about COVID,” Dudley said to cheers from the crowd. “I want to reflect on what is ‘normal’ here at Washington and Lee.”
Normal at W&L doesn’t mean boring or ordinary, he said. Rather, it means being distinguished by kindness, trust, respect and decency. It also means “minding the gap” between our ideals and our lived reality, and asking, when we do not live up to our own standards, how we could do better.
“It is normal at Washington and Lee to have clarity of purpose – plainly expressed in our mission statement – and to hold ourselves accountable – in accordance with our motto, non incautus futuri, not unmindful of the future,” Dudley said. “That combination gives us staying power – 273 years and counting – but without stasis. We remain true to ourselves, but we evolve with the times, doing our best in every era to equip the rising generation of students to lead lives of consequence.”
Dudley’s advice to graduates as they prepare to leave campus is to stay curious, keep striving and working hard in pursuit of goals, and engage with their communities.
“Liberal arts education cannot possibly prepare you in advance for everything you will encounter,” he said. “But it makes you the kind of person who responds well to encounters for which you are not prepared. That ability, more than anything else, enhances your prospects for a lifetime of learning, achievement, leadership, service and citizenship.”
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 Junior Class Representative and, this year, its secretary, serving as primary communications liaison between the EC and university administration.
Walter has served as a summer intern and a University Ambassador in the Office of Admissions, conducting 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. During her senior year, she co-directed the Senior Class Gift Campaign, securing support for W&L’s Annual Fund.
Selected as an S. Cullum Owings Jr. Fellow in 2021, Walter visited schools in the U.S. to lead workshops and presentations that foster the values of honor and integrity among middle and secondary school students.
This fall, Walter will attend Syracuse University College of Law to pursue her Juris Doctor degree.
In her speech on Thursday, Walter reflected on the quality and strength of the W&L community.
“Deeply rooted traditions such as the Honor System and the Speaking Tradition have permeated our college experience and have made a fundamental impact on our personal values and the people that we are today… As the years have gone on and the roles that we play in this community have changed, my love and appreciation for this place and its people has only grown.”
She went on to celebrate the many lessons learned by the Class of 2022 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 during our four years on this campus have equipped us with the skills we will need to succeed under any circumstances,” she said. “At the end of the day, there is more than one path to success, and I know each and every one of us will find our way in the end. Accept what you cannot control and understand that it’s okay to not have it all figured out.”
During Thursday’s ceremony, W&L conferred degrees upon 444 seniors. Altogether, the Class of 2022 earned degrees in 51 majors, with 31% of the class completing more than one major. Fifty-five percent of the class completed at least one minor.
Three students were named valedictorians of the class: Truman Thomas Chancy, Spencer Martich Kriss and Trang Thuy “Alyssa” Vu. Each earned a final GPA of 4.0.
Truman Chancy, of Richmond, Virginia, earned a bachelor’s degree in music. The centerpiece of his Senior Honors Thesis was his alto saxophone recital this spring, which featured classical and jazz selections.
Since his first year at W&L, Chancy has performed with the University Jazz Ensemble and the University Wind Ensemble. In the jazz ensemble, he was the lead saxophonist, a featured soloist and a composer, and he received the University Jazz Ensemble Award in 2021 and 2022. In the wind ensemble, Chancy was the saxophone section leader for 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 conducted rehearsals and performances for the University Orchestra and the University Wind Ensemble. He was also a member of the University Singers during his junior and senior years.
In 2020, Chancy worked as a research scholar 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 scores 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 achievements, Chancy has enjoyed serving as a community assistant on the Residential Life staff for the past three years.
Spencer Kriss of Versailles, Kentucky, graduates with a bachelor’s degree in biochemistry.
Some of his accolades during his undergraduate career include being inducted 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 Scholarship and the Gaines Scholarship. As a sophomore, Kriss was awarded 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, M.D. Premedical Award.
Outside the classroom, Kriss was a community assistant on the Residential Life team. He was a four-year varsity letter winner 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 great team spirit in the classroom and on the field, his kindness, humility and strong work ethic. In addition, Kriss is a multiple time state champion in chess, a nationally ranked junior chess player and an excellent golfer.
Kriss will attend Vanderbilt Medical School in Nashville, Tennessee, this fall.
Alyssa Vu earned a bachelor’s degree in computer science and a minor in data science and business analytics.
Originally from Hanoi, Vietnam, Vu held three internships in software development and data science in Vietnam during her undergraduate career. She also worked for multiple semesters as a student teaching assistant and a peer tutor in computer science. Her advisor, Professor Sara Sprenkle, credits her with helping students feel welcome and motivated in lab, always being friendly and eager to help her peers, and providing a 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 Scholarships, and was initiated into Phi Beta Kappa last year. She is also a member of Phi Eta Sigma National Honor Society and Beta Gamma Sigma, and she served as a student representative of the Courses and Degrees Committee for the 2019-2020 academic year. She will start work as a software engineer at Microsoft in Atlanta this summer.
Also recognized during the Commencement ceremony was this year’s recipient of the Algernon Sydney Sullivan Award, Bri Mondesir of New Haven, Connecticut. Mondesir earned a degree in environmental studies with a minor in Poverty and Human Capability Studies.
As a Bonner Scholar, Mondesir completed more than 1,800 hours of community service and leadership training while at W&L. She volunteered at W&L’s Campus Kitchen and became president of its leadership team. She also served as a Campus Kitchen intern, collaborating with community partner agencies, working in the Campus Garden, preparing and delivering meals, and planning for the next academic year.
Mondesir served in leadership roles for many other organizations as well, 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, Tri Beta Biological Honor Society and the Native American Student Organization. During her sophomore 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 Carilion Clinic with its tri-annual community health assessment for Rockbridge County, which included conducting focus groups to identify barriers to good health. This project, as well as her academic studies, volunteer work and internship experiences, have cemented her interest in public health. Following graduation, Mondesir will move to Durham, North Carolina, where she will work for Spark Point Fundraising as a full-time grant writer. Her postgraduate plans include returning to school to pursue a master’s degree and Ph.D. in public health.
For more information about Commencement and the Class of 2022, please click here.
Click here to read more about the accomplishments of the Class of 2022.