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'Take Risks While You Can'

FARMVILLE – Fuqua School held its commencement exercises on May 25 on the lawn of the upper school. The evening began at 6 o'clock with rising senior and SCA President, Emmalee Klein, ringing the bell twelve times to announce the class of 2012. As the audience stood, the seniors took their last walk together, showing a range of emotions from smiles to tears.

Susan Carden, Middle/Upper School Dean, opened commencement with prayer and welcomed everyone. She told the seniors, “This is your moment, Seniors. You're about to hear me say several things for the last time: Did you shave this morning? How short is that skirt? And take off that hat. From this night on, you'll hear me say, 'It's so good to see you! Welcome back!'”

The class of 29 included 20 honor graduates including two salutatorians and two valedictorians. The first to speak was Co-Salutatorian, Aurelie Foster, who reminded her classmates, “Be eternally grateful for this indescribable closeness and support system with our peers we have developed over the past years, and use it to locate the strength you will need in the upcoming years to achieve your goals.”

Kyle Hodges, Co-Salutatorian, continued with, “Each one of you is going to do something spectacular with your life. There are 29 “ripples of hope” ready to graduate and embark on their journey tonight. Make your ripple be one to remember and one that changes the world.”

Co-Valedictorian, Torey Jackson, challenged her classmates, “To my senior class: seize the passions of your heart and the fires of your soul and channel them into something that you yourself feel is important or meaningful.”

Mary Kyner, Co-Valedictorian, followed with a lesson for all by sharing, “As we gather together today for the last time as a class, I want you to remember a very important lesson that my dad taught me: you are in charge of your own life… So I challenge you all to choose to see the best in a situation. Don't wallow in your mistakes; learn from them. Don't get upset when something goes wrong; find the humor in the situation. And as Mrs. Vick taught us, bring a positive attitude to whatever you do.”

Fuqua School President Ruth S. Murphy shared her memories of the seniors and remarked what a close-knit class they truly are. “As individuals, our seniors have demonstrated exceptional talents. From Brandon Ah's appointment to the Naval Academy to Charles Williams' full athletic scholarship to Liberty University, their individual accomplishments have made us all proud. And as a group – as a class of 29 students – they have been offered collectively over 2 million dollars in academic college scholarships. Our graduates will be attending an impressive array of colleges and universities, such as the College of William and Mary, Hampden-Sydney College, High Point University, the University of Virginia, and Virginia Tech. And one very special student, Pietro, will be returning to Italy. I want to say to you – our class of 2012 – Fuqua School is far better because you were here. We will really miss you.”

In keeping with its tradition of inviting outstanding alumni to speak at graduation, Karen Booth Adams '87, Prince Edward Academy, was selected as this year's speaker. Karen is a native of Farmville and is the daughter of Mr. and Mrs. Thomas Booth. She graduated from the University of Virginia in 1990 and resides in Richmond with her husband and two children.

Adams serves as CEO of Hot Technology Holdings, a group of entrepreneurs and investors who have launched 10 successful businesses since 1993. Her diverse ventures have been in software, internet strategy and technology consulting, online retail, financial consulting, legal and e-discovery services, and social media marketing. Karen is a passionate advocate and frequent speaker on the topic of entrepreneurship, and has been featured in many national publications, including USA Today, the Washington Post, People Magazine, and Entrepreneur Magazine. She currently serves on the boards of The Community Foundation, University of Richmond's Robins School Executive Advisory Council, the Richmond Technology Council, Governor McDonnell's Advisory Council on Revenue Estimates, and the World Pediatric Project.

Adams shared her words of wisdom and encouraged the class of 2012 to explore their career choice not just with college classes. She stressed the need to actually find someone in that career to intern with or volunteer. “Find out if this is what you really want to do before spending your college years pursuing it.” Her message continued, “Take risks while you can.” She conveyed how her life changed dramatically with one phone call to her Dad. She was not happy in a job after college and had been offered an opportunity to help start a new business. During the call home, her dad asked her what was the worst thing that could happen. She replied through tears that she would have to move back home if she failed. Her Dad responded that wouldn't be the end of the world and told her to take the risk. Karen advised parents to encourage their children to take risks, but have a safety net just in case.

The presentation of diplomas by Ruth S. Murphy and Sandra F. Moss, Vice-Chair, Rural Education Foundation Board of Directors, followed.

The Class of 2012 marched out as graduates with huge smiles and just a few tears. The audience then moved to the Gilmer Gym to close the ceremony with reflections. Senior Class President, Tatum Davis, gave the class history then said, “As we set sail on the rest of our journey, we must keep making a positive impact on the lives of others. Live your life to the very fullest. Congratulations, Class of 2012. I could not have asked for a better class with which to grow, cherish, and carry my Falcon pride. Good luck with the rest of your lives and all your many accomplishments to come.”