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UVa’s Final Exercises return to the Lawn

The University of Virginia will celebrate the Class of 2022 during a weekend of festivities.

The centerpiece of the celebration — Final Exercises — will be held on the Lawn for the first time since 2019. During the last two years, the university shifted the ceremony online and then to Scott Stadium to allow for social distancing.

For this year, the annual tradition is largely back to its pre-pandemic self. Despite that, university officials said this week that COVID-19 is still a concern.

“We encourage attendees to wear face coverings during indoor events such as valedictory exercises,” deputy spokeswoman Bethany Glover said. “Large crowds are expected for both indoor and outdoor events this weekend, so we ask that attendees be respectful of their surroundings and of others enjoying the festivities.”

Graduation ceremonies will be held over two days this weekend. The College and Graduate School of Arts & Sciences will go first on Saturday. All the other schools will celebrate their graduates Sunday. Both ceremonies will be held on the Lawn, with processions beginning at 10 a.m. In event of severe weather, the ceremonies will be held in the John Paul Jones Arena.

Seating on the Lawn will begin at 7:30 a.m. on a first-come, first-served basis. Guests should be seated by 8:45 a.m. Final exercises should end by noon on both days.

Nearly 8,000 degrees will be conferred this weekend, according to university officials. School and Department Graduation Ceremonies take place throughout the afternoon on Saturday and Sunday following Final Exercises.

The festivities will kick off with Valedictory Exercises at 3 p.m. Friday at John Paul Jones Arena. UVa basketball legend Ralph Sampson will be the event’s featured speaker.

Claudrena Harold, a professor and chairwoman of UVa’s history department, will share her wisdom with the Class of 2022 at Saturday’s ceremony. Harold specializes in African American history, Black cultural politics and labor history. She has taught courses about the history of Black students on Grounds and about the evolution of African American music, according to UVa.

On Sunday, graduates will hear from Dr. Taison Bell, a professor in UVa’s school of medicine and director of the medical intensive care unit at the hospital. During the last two years, he has helped to lead the medical center’s response to COVID-19. Last year, he received the “Rising Star” Outstanding Faculty Award from the State Council of Higher Education for Virginia. According to UVa, the award is the highest honor the state bestows on university faculty.

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