Schrum Challenges Graduating Seniors to Write Their Own Epitaph

Posted by Rachael Wilbur
Speaking to more than 200 graduates Saturday morning, May 11, 21st E&H President Jake Schrum encouraged students to title their own life and take charge of defining their life.

“You may have noticed that the title of my address today is “Untitled.” The reason is that I am convinced that each and every one of you is capable of writing your own narrative for the life you choose to live,” President Jake Schrum said as he addressed the crowd attending the 2019 Emory & Henry Commencement Ceremony. Schrum spoke about wondering what he would want on his tombstone, and implored the graduating seniors to do the same. “What you do with the rest of your life will indeed, be your epitaph. You are responsible for putting a title on your own life.”  He imparted a new word upon the graduates that he created: empurage.

“There are words that sound like this, but I assure you, EMPURAGE is not a real word. Empurage is the combination of parts of three words that define exemplary character traits, Empathy, Purpose, and Courage. As you leave Emory & Henry today, these are three character traits I wish for each of you.”

Schrum has served as E&H’s 21st president since August 2013. During his tenure, his accomplishments include the opening of the McGlothlin Center for the Arts, the opening of the School of Health Sciences in Marion, Va., the acquisition of the Virginia Intermont Equine Center, the refurbishing of the Village housing, and the beginning of many fundraising programs for scholarships. Provost John Wells will take over as the 22nd president on July 1, 2019.

Also speaking to the 2019 Commencement crowd was senior Philosophy and Political Science major Austin Falin from Big Stone Gap, Va. who gave the senior oration, reflecting on his time at the College and calling on all of his fellow graduates to “make your degree valuable to someone other than yourself.”

“I’m proud of each of you today not because you’ve done something worth anything to the world, but because all the hard work and dedication you’ve put in over four years has prepared you for the ability to do so. Today is only a day worth rejoicing if we take action in a world that desperately needs it, and I cannot wait to see what action all of you take.”

Falin plans to join the officer candidacy program for the United States Marine Corps following graduation.

Giving the Master’s Oration was student Kaitlyn Booher of Marion, Va., who received her Masters of Education. “I entitled my commencement speech “Back to Basics”. The Urban Dictionary, not an incredibly scholarly source but nonetheless, defines the phrase “back to basics” as a “return to previously held values of decency” and suggests that “people are becoming too concerned with new theories” instead of “concentrating on simple and fundamental ideas”, which is the core of all true human decency,” Booher said of her speech. “All of us are about to leave here today to either further our education or to jumpstart our career. I want to challenge you all and leave you all with one thought, and that is to never place your career over the fundamentals of decency. This is the time to smile, wave, and to thank those that are here to support you and those that have supported you along this journey.” Booher plans to teach fourth grade at Meadowview Elementary this coming fall.

Special awards were given to five undergraduate students. They include Nathan Alexander Neisius of Powhatan, Va., who received the Byars Medal in Science; Amanda Marie Whitlow of Floyd, Va., who won the Eleanor Gibson Via Science Award; Kauhlil Marcelus King of Madison, Al., who won the Senior Service Award; Rachel Nicole Smoot of Riner, Va., who received the Snavely Senior Scholarship Prize; and Kaelee Mae Belleto of Lake Orion, Mi. and Jared Austin Tuck of Austinville, Va., who were both voted by the faculty to win the Outstanding Senior Award.

In this Class of 2019, there are 216 graduates with 25% coming from out of state/ country. 145 students received a bachelor of arts degree, six received a bachelor of fine arts degree, 52 received a bachelor of science degree, and 13 received masters degrees. 16 students graduated summa cum laude, 35 students graduated magna cum laude, and 27 students graduated cum laude.

Where are they going next?:

  • Hayden Hale - Virginia Tech, veterinary school
  • Logan Forster - University of Utah, nuclear engineering
  • Dalton Richardson - Candler School of Theology
  • Austin Falin - United States Marine Corps, officer candidate program
  • President Jake Schrum speaks during commencement.
    President Jake Schrum speaks during commencement.
Empurage is the combination of parts of three words that define exemplary character traits, Empathy, Purpose, and Courage. As you leave Emory & Henry today, these are three character traits I wish for each of you.
-Jake B. Schrum

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