Before the senior class walked down the National Mall, 10 seniors on the crew team graduated in a special ceremony in the Jack Morton Auditorium Thursday afternoon.
The team competed in the Eastern Sprints race on Sunday and missed Commencement. To compensate, the University organized a special ceremony for the graduates and their families.
University Marshal Jill Kasle and University President Steven Knapp led the event, which included the same processions and regalia of a traditional Commencement.
“You epitomize the best of what it means to be a student-athlete at GW,” Knapp told the graduates.
He noted the many titles and awards the crew team has won over the years and the dedication it took to achieve them.
“As we gather to celebrate your accomplishments both in the classroom and on the water, I applaud your hard work and perseverance,” Knapp said.
Two of the graduates, Elizabeth Cavanaugh and Peter Magee, delivered speeches to their fellow teammates, families and friends in attendance. They spoke about the tight bonds of the team’s members, who they said they consider family.
“We will never again be part of a unit this tight, and I will look back on this part of my team as my best friends at GW,” Cavanaugh said.
Crew team graduates said they were thrilled to have their own personalized Commencement ceremony.
“I loved Knapp’s speech because it was dedicated to rowing,” graduate Angela Wunderli said after the event.
Wunderli said that she was glad GW took the time to organize a special ceremony for the crew graduates who would otherwise miss Commencement, while other colleges participating in Sunday’s race with graduation conflicts were not hosting similar sendoffs.
Carolyn Esman, who came to see her daughter Emily graduate, said the ceremony was special because it was “small, very intimate and very personal.”
“I’m surprised they did this,” Esman said. “They made such a nice ceremony for a handful of kids.”
Graduate Joe DeLeo said the crew commencement was an appropriate way to end the year.
“(Graduation is) a culmination of four years of hard work,” DeLeo said. “It is fitting that we end our collegiate experience with a special ceremony for the rowing team.”
Most of the graduates said they were not upset about missing the University-wide Commencement on the Mall Sunday and were thrilled about graduating before their fellow classmates.
Wunderli said, “It was a race to graduate, and we won.”