Miss America to VCU graduates: ‘You are stronger, you are wiser … as a result of the challenges you have faced’
George Copeland Jr. | 12/16/2021, 6 p.m.
The sound of trumpets, horns and drums filled Virginia Commonwealth University’s Siegel Center last Saturday morning as the university held its fall 2021 commencement ceremony.
The two-hour ceremony was the first held in person since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic and honored May and December graduates from 2020 and 2021. With roughly 3,000 total graduates in the summer and fall 2021 semesters alone, the event brought together not just a large assortment of students, but also parents, friends and families to celebrate the occasion.
Graduates were lauded by speakers for their perseverance and flexibility to weather the many changes that came with learning during the pandemic.
“You showed the world your unmatched resilience and tenacity, as well as your advocacy, courage and care for each other,” VCU President Michael Rao told graduates. “You are modeling what it means to be caring, compassionate and loving people.”
Dr. Rao was joined by faculty from across VCU’s many schools, who all celebrated the work of the students and the families that supported them during this time. But it was commencement speaker Camille Schrier, a VCU School of Pharmacy student and Miss America 2019, who touched on the student perspective.
Like other VCU students, Ms. Schrier has been greatly impacted by the coronavirus. She was crowned Miss America in December 2019, only to continue serving in the role when COVID-19 canceled the next year’s competition.
Serving as both Miss America and a student during the pandemic spurred a “natural evolution” in her goals, Ms. Schrier told graduates.
“You are stronger, you are wiser, you are more innovative and exceptionally adaptable as a result of the challenges you have faced,” she said. “And our world needs Rams like you now more than ever.”