NORFOLK, Va. (WAVY) — Old Dominion University held its 136th Commencement Exercise on Mother’s Day weekend in Chartway Arena at the Ted Constant Convocation Center.

Nearly 3,000 students were awarded bachelor’s, master’s and doctoral degrees during four ceremonies, each featuring its own speaker, including award-winning actress Angela Bassett.

Bassett was awarded an honorary Doctor of Humane Letters (honoris causa). She urged graduates to embrace leadership, and the challenges it can bring.

She encouraged them to be unafraid about taking risks.

“As you go out into the world today as graduates, always remember this: The great poet Nikki Giovanni once said: ‘I really don’t think life is about the I-could-have-beens. Life is only about the I-tried-to-do. I don’t mind the failure. But I can’t imagine that I’d forgive myself if I didn’t try.’”

“Monarchs, you didn’t come this far to come this far,” she said. “You came this far to excel. You came this far to soar to heights that you, your parents, your grandparents, your ancestors sacrificed and prayed for you to reach.”

Other speakers were:

  • Sachin Shetty, executive director of the Center for Secure and Intelligent Critical Systems at ODU’s Virginia Modeling, Analysis and Simulation Center (VMASC), spoke at the advanced degree ceremony.
  • ODU President Brian O. Hemphill, Ph.D., offered congratulatory remarks at the Strome College of Business and Darden College of Education and Professional Studies undergraduate ceremony.
  • Howard P. Kern, president and chief executive officer of Sentara Healthcare, spoke at the undergraduate ceremony for the Frank Batten College of Engineering and Technology, the College of Health Sciences, the College of Sciences and the School of Cybersecurity.