William Coleman addresses record class at Roanoke College Commencement exercises

SALEM, Va.-William T. Coleman Jr., former clerk for the U.S. Court of Appeals and the first African-American to serve as a clerk to the U.S. Supreme Court, was the keynote speaker at Roanoke College's commencement ceremony where a record 439 graduates received degrees.

"People each are a diamond in the rough, add character and you have a jewel," Coleman said, sharing some of his own father's wisdom. "You are our future. ... The Roman Empire had a great ride. It also had a great fall. And you are the ones that will make the difference and keep that from happening."

"We've come a long way," Coleman said, "but I want to urge and assure you, we haven't reached the end. Each generation is given a challenge." Among this generation's challenges, he included the situation in the Middle East, public schools and problems with respect to race. "Another challenge is that we still have great work to do."

The Class of 2009 hails from 25 states and one foreign country. Caitlin Patricia O'Callaghan, a double major in biology and biochemistry from Altavista, Va. was Valedictorian. Gianna Alexzandra Voccola, a psychology major, earned the honor of Salutatorian. Voccola is from Saunderstown, R.I. Both O'Callaghan and Voccola are members of the Alpha Chi national academic honor society.

Also among the graduates was the youngest person to earn a degree from Roanoke in recent history. Lucy Morrow, of Shawsville, began at Roanoke when she was just 14 years old. She graduated magna cum laude today with a degree in sociology. Morrow is a member of the Phi Beta Kappa National Honor Society, as well as Alpha Chi.

John S. Shannon, a member of Roanoke's class of 1952, was an honorary degree recipient during today's ceremony. Shannon rose through the ranks of Norfolk Southern Corporation's law department and retired as its executive vice president of law. He was his class's valedictorian, earning a degree in economics before continuing his education at the University of Virginia's law school. A former member of the College's board of trustees and a Roanoke College Medalist, Shannon was honored with the honorary doctor of commerce.

A retiring faculty member, Dr. C. William Hill, also was honored during the ceremony. Hill retires from the public affairs department after 40 years. He served many years as the Henry H. and Trudye Fowler Professor and the director of the campus's Henry H. Fowler Public Policy Program.

A baccalaureate ceremony was held Friday, May 1 with Rev. Paul Henrickson, Roanoke's Timothy L. Pickle Dean of the Chapel, as the featured speaker.

Roanoke College, an independent, co-educational, four-year liberal arts college in Salem, Virginia, combines firsthand learning with valuable personal connections in a classic, undergraduate setting. Roanoke prepares students for their futures through its commitment to providing a true classic college experience. Roanoke is one of just 276 colleges nationwide with a chapter of Phi Beta Kappa, the nation's oldest and most prestigious honor society. The Princeton Review names Roanoke as one of the "best in the Southeast."

For additional information, call the Roanoke College Public Relations Office at (540) 375-2282.


Coleman also recommended several books for the graduates to read:

The Age of Turbulence: Adventures in a New World by Alan Greenspan (Paperback - Sep 9, 2008), particularly chapter 8.

John Maynard Keynes / The General Theory of Employment, Interest and Money

John Maynard Keynes: 1883-1946: Economist, Philosopher, Statesman by Robert Skidelsky (Paperback - Aug 30, 2005)

The Summer of 1787: The Men Who Invented the Constitution (The Simon & Schuster America Collection) by David O. Stewart (Paperback - May 20, 2008)

A Matter of Justice: Eisenhower and the Beginning of the Civil Rights Revolution by David. A. Nichols (Paperback - Sep 23, 2008)

Released: May 2, 2009
Contact Name: Public Relations
Contact Phone: (540) 375-2282
Contact Email: gereaux@roanoke.edu