Athletics News

GW Men's Rowing Becomes First GW Students to Graduate in Class of 2013

Senior Anthony Paladino addresses the crowd and his fellow graduates at the Special Commencement Ceremony for GW Men's Rowing on Tuesday.

May 14, 2013

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It has been the backdrop for some of the most important moments in American history. Whether serving as the stage for a presidential inauguration or providing a platform for world leaders, the National Mall is one of the most recognizable features of our nation's capital. Graduates of the George Washington University are afforded the unique opportunity of a commencement ceremony on that same stage. It is unlike any graduation ceremony in the world.

Now, imagine giving up that opportunity.

For five student-athletes on the George Washington men's rowing team, the choice to walk across the commencement stage or lead their team in the championships was an easy one.

Instead of joining the remaining graduating student-athletes of the Class of 2013 on the National Mall on Sunday, the quintet will be on Lake Quinsigamond in Worcester, Mass. competing in their conference championship event, the EARC Sprints.

As a result, a Special Commencement ceremony was held on Tuesday afternoon at the Betts Theater in George Washington's Marvin Center. It marks the second event in commencement week for the rowers following Monday's Senior Honors Luncheon at the Charles E. Smith Center.

It is generally understood that by virtue of competing in a spring-semester sport there is a chance that post-season play could prevent a team from attending commencement. This year, it is the men's rowing team that finds itself with a scheduled commitment.

The ceremony, complete with caps and gowns and remarks from President Steven Knapp and Provost Steve Lerman, mirrored the uniqueness of the traditional ceremony, yet on a more intimate scale.

The commencement was specifically for the five rowers - Anthony Paladino, Eric Herrera, Sean Fago, Sam Goldberg and Adam Bair. The seniors were joined by a relatively smaller crowd consisting of family, teammates, athletic administration and friends, but the event received the same pomp and circumstance that the main stream ceremony normally has.

The ceremony began with a procession into Betts Theater, led by Professor of Special Education and Disability Studies Michael Castleberry. After the candidates entered the theater, a beautiful rendition of the Star Spangled Banner was performed by Quinette Jeffries, B.A. '13.

Castleberry welcomed the family, friends and supporters of the rowers before introducing Provost and Executive Vice President for Academic Affairs Dr. Steven Lerman.

The Provost explained that the main pillars of athletic competition - life skills, teamwork, work ethic, personal accountability, honesty and leadership - will stay with the graduates for the rest of their lives.

He spoke of the transitional moment the student-athletes were experiencing and how even though they are receiving their undergraduate degrees, the graduates will never cease learning. Education will continue every day for the rest of their lives.

Head Coach Mark Davis praised the quintet for their unwavering commitment to the sport and to their teammates. He described the sport of rowing as the leading visible example of success and failure and pushed the graduates to always look back on their experiences as a student-athlete to find strength and courage when dealing with the inevitable adversities that life will bring.

Anthony Paladino, named the GW men's rowing Most Valuable Player at the 2nd Annual Georgey Awards, praised his fellow graduates for honoring the commitment they made to each other as freshmen. The Pittsburgh, Pa. native explained how being a student-athlete at GW is a blessing and how he has learned the true meaning of hard work, dedication and perseverance. Paladino also sent a moving message to his underclassmen teammates, encouraging them to let their positive outlook on life define who they are in the future, both at GW and well beyond leaving the university.

Dr. Steven Knapp welcomed the quintet to the lifelong and worldwide community of George Washington University Alumni before leading the Charge to the Graduates. Knapp called for the quintet 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 quintet to move their tassels as they officially became graduates of the George Washington University.

It wasn't on the grand stage of the National Mall, but the private ceremony with family and closest friends was truly an "Only at GW" moment for five special student-athletes.