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Dr. William R. Harvey Hampton University

In his 44 years as president of Hampton University, Dr. William R. Harvey gave countless speeches as he built the university into a powerhouse: Over the decades, he opened 30 new buildings, established 92 new programs, and inspired countless graduates as they stepped toward the future.

Yet his speech on Sunday evening, May 21, at Norfolk Academy's Vespers, was different: His granddaughter, Gabby, is a member of the Class of 2023, and so he spoke personally to her and all the soon-to-be graduates and their parents with his call to action.

Society is polarized “more than ever before," he said, which has led to an epidemic of incivility that needs to be addressed to combat rampant online bullying, hate crimes, harassment, and a feeling of isolation that affects so many people. It must be done, he said, for the health of the nation. “Those of you who are graduating tomorrow will lead a movement to restore civility in our lives," he said.

To reinforce the intensity of his request, Harvey directly compared the needed civility movement to the Civil Rights Movement, noting that, college students need to be the catalysts and leaders for change, as they were in the key moments of the the fight for civil rights. 

He said there is plenty of work to be accomplished for this group of “conquerors."

“The greatest thing has not been done, the greatest song has not been sung," he said. “There is a job for you in every single occupation known to mankind. It is your job to make things happen."

In dealing with their professional and public work as citizens, he did not overlook the quieter parts of a life well lived. “My desire for my grandchild and for all of you," he said, “is that you have rich, satisfying personal lives filled with love, filled with laughter."

Vespers included, as it traditionally does, several musical performances. Seniors Alex Barton (piano), Lee McElligott (violin), and Noah Howell (violin), performed the first movement of Moritz Moszkowski's Suite for Two Violins and Piano. The Upper School Chorus performed The Battle of Jericho and Amazing Grace. Later in the evening, the Senior Academy Singers performed Billy Joel's pop hit, And So It Goes, and Mackenzie Savage '23 sang Joni Mitchell's Both Sides Now.

Senior Class President Lucas Knapp '23 presented the class gift, a painting by former Norfolk Academy art teacher Leonette Adler entitled, “A River Runs Through It." Knapp compared the image to the journey that “takes place in our lives."

He said the Class of 2023 chose this gift to honor Headmaster Dennis Manning on his approaching retirement in June, to thank him for making Norfolk Academy a “second home," and to help him appreciate “how remarkable your life story truly is."


William Harvey speaks at Vespers

Hampton University President Emeritus Dr. William R. Harvey charged the Class of 2023 to lead a movement toward greater civility in society.

Harvey charged the graduates to tackle the world's problems.

Dr. Harvey told the soon-to-be-graduates that there is plenty of work for them to tackle. "The world is waiting for you," he said. "Let's get on with it!"

The Upper School Chorus performed "Amazing Grace" and "The Battle of Jericho."

Seniors Alex Barton (piano), Lee McElligott (violin), and Noah Howell (violin) performed a classical piece.

Mr. Manning studies the painting

The traditional gift from the graduating class was a special surprise in honor of Mr. Manning, who is retiring after 22 years. Class President Lucas Knapp '23 said the painting entitled "A River Runs Through It" represents the journey of life. He noted that the Class wanted to thank Mr. Manning for making NA a second home for them, and they hoped the painting would help him appreciate "how special your life truly is."

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