In his Finale keynote address, retiring Jepson School of Leadership Studies professor Gary L. McDowell challenged new Jepson graduates to live out their ambitions as they go out into the world.

“Most of all, you will learn to give proper vent to your ambition to succeed in actually making a difference,” said McDowell, whose own career has included not only studying leadership but also practicing leadership in public life. “For ambition properly understood — that is to say ambition properly tempered and tamed — is not a vice but a virtue.”

McDowell pointed to Abraham Lincoln to show how ambition, when paired with moral leadership, can lead to great accomplishments.

“Lincoln’s true legacy is a legacy of leadership,” said McDowell. “He believed…with the right words, powerfully put, one could always change the hearts and minds of the people in fundamental ways.”

McDowell chronicled Lincoln’s journey to become the 16th president of the United States and then to lead the country through what would be its “fiery trial.” He noted that the new graduates in the Class of 2018 were embarking on the next leg of their own journeys.

“We expect great things from you,” said McDowell.

In her opening remarks, Jepson Dean Sandra J. Peart shared that the Class of 2018 graduates will head to positions at organizations such as The Hershey Company, Diversified Search, Vanguard, Teach for America, Cigna, Yelp, Americorps, and Booz Allen Hamilton.

“You will go on to post-graduate studies in law at the University of Richmond, interior design at the Pratt Institute, behavioral decision sciences at the University of Pennsylvania, and international politics at Trinity College,” said Peart.

Peart also said that with 73 majors and 11 minors, the Class of 2018 was one of Jepson’s largest graduating classes ever.

“By way of comparison, we had 37 Jepson majors and 18 minors in 2008,” said Peart, observing how Jepson’s graduating class size had nearly doubled in the 10-year timeframe.

During the ceremony, Dana Rafferty, ’18, was recognized as the recipient of The Fredric M. Jablin Award for Undergraduate Research. Patrick Hughes, ’18, and Jacob Litt, ’18, both received The James MacGregor Burns Award, and Litt was also recognized as the School’s recipient for The Clarence J. Gray Achievement Award for Excellence in Scholarship and Leadership.

 “As you gather here this weekend to take your leave of this splendid place, we trust that you will never forget Jepson, and we can assure you that Jepson will never forget you,” concluded McDowell.

Watch the 2018 Finale ceremony