The Collegian
Tuesday, January 31, 2023

Senior speaks about UR experience at award ceremony

Senior Crystal Thornhill gave a speech full of positive advice for the soon-to-graduate class of 2011 Tuesday morning at the School of Arts and Sciences Honors Convocation.

Thornhill first reflected on her past four years to the audience.

She talked about rough times, such as when she battled depression her first year, and also about her most memorable experience here at the University of Richmond with the Virginia Action Alliance for sexual assault and domestic violence.

Thornhill's time volunteering for the VAA organization has given her much to reflect on in her own life. She said that the first time she went to visit a girl in a hospital who was a survivor of rape was unforgettable.

"Her hug was the best I've ever gotten in my life," Thornhill said.

Thornhill talked more about her depression after her speech. She said that the ability to step back and work on her family relationships was important.

The one thing that she realized while coping with depression is that she didn't have to do it all herself. Sharing her progression with those who loved her helped her get better.

"All my successes are my family's successes," she said.

She said that some professors were also very helpful and supportive, including Dr. Paula Lessem, director of Genetics and Cell & Molecular Labs.

She was a cheerleader for Thornhill, she said. Lessem reminded her where she started academically and how far she had come.

Dr. Tinina Cade, associate vice president of Student Development, was supportive as she helped Thornhill by giving her motivation to raise her GPA.

Thornhill said that Dean Juliette Landphair of Westhampton College also pushed her to start talking about her problems.

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Thornhill's speech ended with an address to her fellow senior class. She said that it was strange to talk in front of those who cared about her, but very touching.

Thornhill gave advice to "stay passionate with your academic interests." She is a psychology major and medical humanities and women, gender and sexuality studies double minor.

Thornhill said that she had enjoyed the flexibility that the School of Arts and Sciences had given her to put everything together that she has learned.

To conclude her speech, Thornhill urged the class of 2011 to carry with them the impact they had made at the University of Richmond and to remain compassionate people.

"It was the best way I could have said thank you," Thornhill said.

Fellow students and faculty in the Canon Memorial Chapel heard her thank them as the School of Arts and Sciences honored students for achievements with honors.

Contact reporter Valerie Jama at

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