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Family Weekend 2017

President Sullivan speaks at Fall Convocation 2017.

Photo by Dan Addison.

November 7, 2017

From Friday to Sunday, students, faculty, staff, and family gathered to celebrate Family Weekend 2017.  Family Weekend provides an opportunity for students and their families to visit with each other, share in meaningful University experiences and traditions, and celebrate significant milestones in student life. 

One of the hallmark events of UVA’s Family Weekend is Fall Convocation.  Fall Convocation has been held since the earliest days of the University, and has always been a time to honor the outstanding achievements of individual community members.  Today, it serves two purposes: it recognizes those third-year students who have earned Intermediate Honors, and it pays tribute to the recipients of the Thomas Jefferson Awards, the University’s highest honor. 

The Thomas Jefferson Awards are given to members of the University community who have exemplified in character, work, and influence the principles and ideals of Jefferson, and who have advanced the objectives for which he founded the University.  This year, the awards were presented to Former School of Law Dean John Jeffries and Dr. Karen S. Rheuban, director of UVA’s Center for Telehealth.  Intermediate Honors are presented to the top 20 percent of undergraduate students who have earned at least 60 credits of course work at the University by the end of their second year of study.  These awards are bestowed in the five undergraduate schools with first- and second-year students – Architecture, Arts and Sciences, Engineering and Applied Science, the School of Nursing, and the School of Education.  439 students received Intermediate Honors.  You can learn more about the history of Fall Convocation and these honors here.

This year, Professor Lisa Russ Spaar served as the keynote speaker for Fall Convocation.  Ms. Spaar is the Horace W. Goldsmith Distinguished Professor of English and Creative Writing.  This year marked the 41st anniversary of her own Intermediate Honors ceremony at UVA.  She is a double Hoo, earning a BA in 1978 and an MFA in 1982.  She spoke to students about the importance of finding and using their voice – from both a poetic standpoint and a practical one – to improve the world and make good use of the degrees they will earn next year.  “Whether you become an accountant, a health care worker, a religious leader, an activist, a librarian, a chef, a doula, a politician, a diplomat, a lawyer, an art historian, a landscaper, a chemist, a nuclear engineer, a painter, a “lily of the field,” or even (don’t panic, parents!) a novelist or poet – your real vocation – your calling – is your human voice.  Your human voice, in all the myriad ways in which you have and will wield it, is your calling, your sounded self.”

Family Weekend also plays host to the Third Year Ceremony, at which third year students receive their class rings.  The event also includes a keynote speaker and musical performances by students, and is a celebration of students reaching the halfway point in their undergraduate studies. 

A number of other events during Family Weekend bring Grounds to life.  The weekend features concerts by many of the University’s departmental and student-run musical ensembles, free lectures, open classes, athletic events including a Football game against Georgia Tech, meals for families like the Dome Room dinners, CultureFest, the 4th Year 5K, drill and dance competitions, tours and ceremonies, and more.  More information about the activities of Family Weekend can be found online.

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