As I sat among family and friends in the Phi Beta Kappa Hall auditorium on that sunny May afternoon, I couldn’t help but think this would probably be the last time we would be on the campus of The College of William & Mary.
But it wasn’t about us. It was about Julie.
After four years of hard work and study, Julia Carmen Rodil walked across the stage and received her diploma for the degree of Bachelor of Science in Psychological Sciences, with a minor in Public Health. Thanks to Uncle Dem, her name was heard throughout the entire auditorium.
Julie is a “middle” child. And though there are a lot of thoughts about the effects of being in the middle of birth order, those of us who are “middles,” or middle-like, have similar experiences. Our milestones are usually not the firsts to be experienced by our families, nor will they be the last. Some might be tempted to view the accomplishments of the “middles” as less exciting. But those who think that way are totally wrong.
There’s nothing “less exciting” about Julie. Most of us have our “Julie-moments” that we can share. Like Auntie Reetie’s (what Julie called “Auntie Ruthie”) account of how Julie told them, “Don’t bother me” when she was eating. And how tickled Uncle Zee was when Julie stuck to him at church to make sure he didn’t forget to take her home with us. Or Auntie Sally’s recollection of how, after she playfully kissed Julie, Julie surprised her with an emotional outburst. And Kuya John John’s, and especially Kuya Jeremy’s, favorite story of how Julie dipped her pigtails in chicken soup to try to straighten her hair. (I confirmed the details of that last story with Miriam. And, I need to add that these stories were about the preschooler Julie – just to be clear.)
No. There’s no overlooking Julie.
In the fall after her successful completion of the International Baccalaureate program at Princess Anne High School, Julie started college life at William & Mary. That first semester was not easy. We had lost our beloved Mama Fe, Julie’s buddy, earlier that year. And “life” brought on some difficult experiences. But Kristin was there, and the sisters had each other for support for the next two years.
After a rough start, Julie dug in and began to flourish. One year she was involved in the college’s TED talks – a lecture series used to share ideas on topics involving Technology, Entertainment and Design. She also joined the campus Christian group and gave of her time to the Pineapple Kids program, a tutoring and mentoring program for kids in the community.
As she entered her third year, she was on her own. But she continued to expand her horizon. She became a research assistant (I believe for two professors). And she continued to volunteer her time for community service. But most importantly, she grew in her spiritual life as well. At one AOY retreat she gave a general-sessions talk based on a book that truly inspired her, Love Does.Then she volunteered to be the main organizer for the next AOY retreat.
One of the traditions at William & Mary is for the senior students to ring the bell at the Wren Building after their final class. When Julie rang the bell, it marked the ending of four years of studies. But what Julie learned was far beyond any school text book. The beginning of her instructions started in her home with the Biblical and moral values taught by her mom and dad. It continued with her lunches with her beloved Mama Fe during her senior year in high school. And, because of the prompting of Yahweh’s Spirit, Julie sought after avenues to increase her knowledge through those Yahweh placed in her path. Julie learned her lessons well.
Yahweh used Julie’s time at William & Mary, the good times as well as the bad, to help her develop a stronger relationship with Him and to give her a heart of service to those in need. Then He made the way for her to use the academic knowledge she acquired to further her education in the master’s program in the Psychology Department at Old Dominion University. It is quite apparent that He has great plans for the newest alumni of William &Mary.
Six years ago, the Rodil family started their story at William & Mary. They were able to stroll through the Sunken Gardens and embrace the history of the time-honored college. Miriam and Donald beamed with pride as their firstborn received her diploma at the historic Wren Building two years ago. We were privileged to witness that milestone for their family.
As I watched the ceremony in the Phi Beta Kappa Hall, I knew that we were witnesses to another milestone—the final chapter of the Rodils’ story at this institute of education that took such great care of this wonderful family. William & Mary did right by them.
Thank you, Miriam and Donald, for allowing all of us to be a part of your journey through the honored grounds of William & Mary for the past six years. Those days of moving in and packing out are now part of your history. Congratulations on the success of “Julie A’Carmen.”
Julie, you’ve made us all proud. Your perseverance is truly inspiring. ODU is blessed to have a student of your caliber. May Yahweh continue to lift you up higher and higher.
To the Rodil family, we all look forward to your sequel.