| Professor Loganathan’s wife Usha being escorted to the dais to receive an award in his honour at Virginia Tech. (Reuters)
Blacksburg (Virginia), May 12 (AP): Virginia Tech’s engineering school remembered with tears its three professors and 11 students slain by a gunman last month and cheered wounded student Kevin Sterne, who limped across the stage with a crutch today to receive his diploma.
Sterne, shown in a now-famous photograph from the April 16 rampage being carried by rescue workers with a tourniquet around his wounded leg, got a standing ovation and loud cheers as he grinned and accepted his degree in electrical engineering.
Earlier in the ceremony, engineering dean Richard Benson was overwhelmed with emotion as he spoke about the slain. “Forgive me,” Benson said quietly, his voice breaking, as he paused to collect himself after speaking about Professor Kevin Granata, who was shot in a hallway as he tried to save students during the rampage that took 33 lives.
Another slain professor, Dr Liviu Librescu, a Holocaust survivor, was remembered by the dean for his “profound courage” in blocking the classroom door so his students who escape out of the windows. He was shot to death by the gunman, who also took his own life.
The third slain professor, G. V. Loganathan, received an excellence in teaching award accepted by his wife Usha.
The ceremony continued the theme of striking a balance between celebration and sorrow that began with a university commencement event last night. Individual colleges and departments handed out diplomas at ceremonies today.
At the engineering event, one student’s mortarboard read, “This 2 shall pass”, while another student’s playfully said: “4 HIRE.”
At yesterday’s graduation ceremony, the 32 Tech students and faculty killed on April 16 were recalled as achievers who forever bonded a community and provided a reminder that life is precious. “In the words of Dr Martin Luther King: ‘They entered the stage of history just a few years ago, and in the brief years that they were privileged to act on this mortal stage, they played their parts exceedingly well,’” Virginia Tech president Charles Steger told 3,600 graduating seniors and a crowd of nearly 30,000 friends and family.
They loved horseback riding and tennis. They were musicians and dancers. They were kind and compassionate, talented and unique, Steger said. They were Hokies.
Those killed were remembered throughout the ceremony in emotional speeches, their faces pictured on a huge screen at Lane Stadium. Class rings were handed out to the families of many of the slain students.
Less than a month ago, gunman Seung-Hui Cho wrought devastation on this campus with a hail of bullets. While Steger acknowledged the emotional wounds may never heal, he urged the graduates to move forward and celebrate life. “Please know that moving on — moving on is not the same as forgetting,” he said.