[disclaimer: this letter contains many nostalgic tributes and cliche Longwood statements, so do not read if you’re one of those people that keep asking Davis: “so how many times are you going to mention Midnight Breakfast in your commencement speech?”]
My dear dear Longwood,
There really is no way for me to truly thank you for the four life-changing years I have had here. In August of 2012, I drove 3 1/2 hours down Route 15 to Farmville, Virginia and moved into my little dorm room in Wheeler Hall. I had these predetermined thoughts of what college was supposed to be like – ya know, classes with a lot of strangers, endless food in the dining hall, warm days laying out in the grass. However, I soon found out that those pictures found on #whylongwood advertisements could never have prepared me for the once-in-a-lifetime experiences I have had here.
I’m thankful for your red bricks. Wherever I look, wherever I walk, I see your beautiful red bricks on the paths under my feet and in the walls of the buildings surrounding me. I catch myself showing up to class late because I’m distracted by how beautiful this campus is. I can feel the history that was built here – the Civil War at the north end of campus, the Civil Rights Movement at the south end, and the 177 years of tradition in between.
I’m thankful for my best friends. Four years here has brought many people into my life, and I couldn’t be more happy to be leaving this place with the friends I have in my life. Each year brought new challenges, but each challenge brought new people along with them – people who share the same ideals and values as I do. We build ourselves off of the term “citizen leadership,” and not a day goes by without me witnessing that leadership firsthand. We may be a small campus, but because of this, we are a family. There may be people here who drive me nuts, but we are held together by a blue-and-white string, and because of that, I know they will always have my back. The family I found here has seen me through my lowest lows, but have helped me discover my true potential and the path that my life is just now beginning on. I wouldn’t be the leader or the person I am today if it weren’t for the people I have met here.
I’m thankful for the professors. It’s not often you find a college where your professors become your best friends, where your professors will spend hours of their free time over coffee, over mimosas, over El Patron or Charley’s just to talk to you and make sure everything is as it should be. Here at Longwood, calling up a professor and asking them to do an independent study with you just so you can graduate on time is not frowned upon, because they want to see us succeed and go out of their way to do it. My professors have taken me on field trips to Richmond, to Jamestown and Yorktown, to teach me about what we are learning in new and different ways. Our professors are the reasons why there are so many opportunities here, and why I was able to take classes and spend time in Spain, in Portugal, in Yellowstone National Park and the Grand Tetons. Professors love us, support us, joke around with us, and call us if we don’t show up to class to get us out of bed so we will come.
While you may be “small,” Longwood, your organizations and classes are unlike any other. No matter who you are and what you are involved in, there is a home for you. No one ever believes me when I say I took classes that involved rock climbing, canoeing, belaying and facilitating ropes courses, astronomy, water aerobics, creative dramatics, you name it. My world view was widened because of the classes I was able to take here, and I became the strong-willed, confident person I am today because of the organizations I was involved in.
When I first fell in love with you, Longwood, I fell in love with your historically-rich traditions. I fell in love with Chi Walks, with Color Wars, with Oktoberfest and Spring Weekend. I hate mud but I love the idea of Oozeball, I don’t like french toast sticks and scrambled eggs but I love the idea of Late Night Breakfast (except remember when it used to be called Midnight Breakfast because it was actually at midnight?). I fell in love with the painting on the sidewalks, with klowns and spirit leaders, with the puppies on the lawn and with convocation caps decorated three feet high. But most of all? I fell in love with the fact that you were built off of these traditions. That Longwood was never afraid to do things other universities strayed from – from the Farmville Four to professors dressed as superheroes to constantly finding reasons to gather around a bonfire – some to tell ghost stories, others to reveal secret societies. We treasure fabric found on the ground and construction paper cut into a 7 and ashes in a jar. These may seem crazy to an outsider, but to us, we hold them near to our heart because these things are home.
I’m thankful for the tiny little town that is Farmville. With its beautiful Main Street filled with cute little stores and my favorite coffee shop in the world (sometimes I think I pay Uptown employee’s salaries on my own, I’m there so much), you can’t help but feel at ease walking downtown. Wander in a few other directions and you find my favorite lake and my favorite creek, both places that have brought me a lot of comfort and serenity here. When I need to escape, I escape outside and I always have a place to go. I never imagined I would love a “tiny little town” like Farmville as much as I do now.
I’m thankful for the things here that drive me nuts. The fences around half-built buildings, the mound of dirt in the middle of campus, the sub-par food in the dining hall, the lack of a football team. It is because of these things that I don’t like that I’ve come to realize how blessed I am by this school. The things that bother me don’t stop me from truly loving this place – because there is nothing like Longwood.
On Saturday, May 14, 2016, I will walk across Wheeler Mall and graduate from this incredible university. I will step on a black crown for the last time as a Longwood student, and just like that, this chapter in my life will come to a close. While the chapter may be closing, that does not mean the chapter will be forgotten. I am who I am because of what Longwood has given me.
Thank you Longwood, for building the person that is standing here today. My dear Longwood, thank you for pushing me and challenging me and for changing the way I look at the world. Thank you for every tiny little moment that has happened in this triangle of a beautiful campus, for every person that has crossed my path, for every class I’ve taken and meeting I’ve attended. I know I say I fell in love with you many years ago, but the truth is: I fall more and more in love with you every single day.
Longwood, I could never repay you for all that you’ve done for me (and I mean that, I really am a broke twenty-something so if you could wait a few years before you start calling me and asking me for donations to “repay” you, that would be great, thx). Thank you for being you, Longwood. You truly changed my life, and each of these tears shed, I shed for you. I’m going to miss you, and maybe, just maybe, you might miss me too.
Forever blue and white,
Emily Gallihugh, Class of 2016