Athletics News

GW Student-Athletes Kick off Commencement Week

Baseball seniors Luke Stuab (L) and Aaron Weisberg, along with eight classmates from baseball and men's rowing, received their diplomas in a Special Commencement ceremony on Tuesday afternoon.

May 13, 2014

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In what has become a yearly tradition due to the extended spring seasons of competing athletic teams, the George Washington University staged a Special Commencement ceremony at the Dorothy Betts Marvin Theater at the Marvin Center on Tuesday afternoon.

The ceremony was held to formally recognize 10 student-athletes from the men's rowing and baseball programs who are unable to join their classmates on the National Mall this weekend due to scheduled competitions.

The men's rowing team will be competing at their conference championship, the EARC Sprints on Lake Quinsigamond on Sunday in Worcester, Massachusetts, while the baseball team will be wrapping up its regular-season schedule at Saint Bonaventure this weekend in Olean, New York.

Trofym Anderson, Kasey Colander, Matt Grieshaber and James Stafford from men's rowing, along with Owen Beightol, Taylor Lambke, Craig Lejeune, Colin Milon, Luke Staub and Aaron Weisberg from baseball, received all of the pomp and circumstance normally reserved for the official commencement ceremony that is held on the National Mall in the shadows of the Washington Monument and U.S. Capitol.

Surrounded by family, teammates, athletic administrators and friends, the event mirrored the sentimental and historic qualities of a traditional commencement exercise, but on a much more intimate scale.

The ceremony began with a procession into Betts Theater, led by University Marshall Charles Garris Jr., Provost Steven Lerman and President Dr. Steven Knapp.

Once inside the theater, the Star Spangled Banner was performed by Lillian Dawit, B.A. '14.

After opening remarks from Garris, Provost Lerman took to the podium to welcome and congratulate the student-athletes and their families.

Provost Lerman identified that the main attributes of being a student-athlete - life skills, teamwork, worth ethic, personal accountability, honesty and leadership - will stay with these young men for the rest of their lives.

Men's rowing head coach Mark Davis was introduced by Lerman and had heartfelt words for his exiting seniors. With a hint of emotion in his voice, Davis thanked the quartet for taking a chance on George Washington University and on himself as a head coach.

"Thank you for your hard work and dedication to the program and for helping us achieve the success that we have attained," said Coach Davis. "Most importantly, thank you for allowing me to be a part of your lives. I have enjoyed getting to know you, working with you and watching you mature over the past four years. It has been a pleasure and I know I will look back on this time very fondly."

Davis cited the incredible work ethic of the graduating class and how they can use their experiences of battling through adversity or tough conditions, both on and off the water, in navigating the years ahead. "I hope you can draw from these past four years and think about the strength that it took to get through," he said.

Davis then introduced second-year baseball head coach Gregg Ritchie '86. Speaking from experience as a George Washington graduate, Ritchie echoed Lerman's remarks in that what is learned on the baseball diamond and on the Potomac River will stay with the graduates for eternity.

"I want to point out how lucky you all are," said Coach Ritchie. "In addition to the prestigious academics supporting your diplomas, you have also acquired bonus knowledge. You have learned team dedication, team spirit, team character, competition within your team and competition for your team. And you learned the attitude and effort it takes to achieve excellence by way of the realization of your potential. Don't think that these are not life lessons. They definitely are."

Ritchie then introduced student speaker Colin Milon, who is earning his bachelor's degree in political science.

Milon praised the men's rowing team for their unprecedented run of success this season, including victories in 21 consecutive races and gold-medal performances at the George Washington Invitational and the Southern Intercollegiate Rowing Association Championships.

Speaking of both the oarsmen and baseball players, Milon said "this group of seniors has truly had a tremendous impact on this university, both athletically and academically."

"This class of leaders has laid the foundation for our programs to continue to build off of," explained Milon. "The Athletic Department will use the platform we have created to reach a new level of national prominence and achievement. Championships will be won and leaders will be born. As professional or Olympic athletes, mechanical engineers, federal consultants, real estate analysts and politicians. We will continue to go out and make history as proud alumni of the George Washington University.

Outside of athletic, academic and professional achievements, Milon explained the thing he most looks forward to moving forward is continuing the lifelong friendships he has established among his teammates.

"I will forever cherish the memories I have made with these friends and I look forward to the decades of milestones, happiness and brotherhood remaining ahead of us," said Milon.

Following Milon's remarks, Dr. Steven Knapp welcomed the graduates to the worldwide community of George Washington University Alumni. He then lead the Charge to the Graduates, calling for the 10 young men to keep alive the spirit, creativity and the commitment to service that have defined them as undergraduates and to use the knowledge and experience gained over the past four years to make the world a better place.

Knapp then conferred the student-athletes to move their tassels as they officially became graduates of the George Washington University.

Diplomas in hand, the 10 student-athletes now turn their attention to finishing what they started four years ago. Bringing home championships to Foggy Bottom, and adding to the bank of memories they will hold on to for the rest of their lives.