Commencement 2008 : Keynote Speaker

Va. Senator John H. Chichester to speak at 39th UVa-Wise Commencement May 17

John ChichesterVirginia Senator John H. Chichester will deliver the keynote address during the 39th Commencement at The University of Virginia’s College at Wise on Saturday, May 17.

The Class of 2008 currently includes 321 students, making this the largest graduating class in the College’s history. The public is invited to attend the Commencement ceremony, which begins at 11 a.m. at Carl Smith Stadium. The outdoor ceremony will proceed rain or shine.

“Senator John Chichester is a champion for education in the Commonwealth and the nation, and we are honored that he will be our featured speaker for this year’s Commencement Exercises,” said UVa-Wise Chancellor David J. Prior.

After taking office in December 1978 (having won a special election), Sen. Chichester served in the Virginia Senate for 29 years. He went on to be elected to seven consecutive terms in the Senate. At the time of his retirement in January 2008, Sen. Chichester was the longest-serving Republican in the Virginia Senate and the senior member of his party. He also served as the Senate’s President pro tempore, a position he held from 2000 to 2008.

While serving in the Senate, Sen. Chichester focused much of his attention on public education and higher education. As chairman of the Senate Finance Committee’s Subcommittee on Education, he worked to develop policies and secure funding for the advancement and development of Virginia public schools, colleges and universities.

In the 1990s, Sen. Chichester served as chairman of the Commission for the Future of Higher Education in Virginia. More recently, he served as co-chairman of the Joint Subcommittee Studying Public Funding of Higher Education in Virginia and Chairman of the Joint Subcommittee on Administrative and Financial Relationships in Higher Education.

From 2000 to 2008, Sen. Chichester served as chairman of the Senate Finance Committee and as co-chair of the committee for the four years preceding that time. He worked closely with the Governor and budget leaders in the House of Delegates to develop the Commonwealth’s biennial budget.

Sen. Chichester has received widespread recognition for his distinguished service to the Commonwealth and has been honored by organizations in Virginia and throughout the nation. Most notably, he was selected as one of Governing Magazine’s Public Officials of the Year in 2004. In 2005, he received the prestigious Excellence in State Legislative Leadership Award from the National Conference of State Legislatures and the State Legislative Leaders Foundation.

Sen. Chichester participated in regional and national organizations with his colleagues throughout the nation. He is past chairman of both the Southern Legislative Conference and the Council of State Governments, and he served on the Board of Directors of the State Legislative Leaders Foundation and the Senate Presidents’ Forum. Sen. Chichester was also a gubernatorial appointee to the Southern Regional Education Board and a member of the National Conference of State Legislatures’ Blue Ribbon Commission on Higher Education.

Outside of the Senate, Sen. Chichester has been active in business and his local community. He served on the Board of Directors of the Northern Neck Insurance Company, and he is a member and past president of the Fredericksburg Rotary Club. He was a member of the Board of Directors of the National Bank of Fredericksburg from 1984 to 2007, serving as the Board’s chairman from 2003 to 2007. Sen. Chichester is currently Chairman of the Board of Virginia Partners Bank, a community bank that is being organized to serve the Fredericksburg area.

A native of Stafford County, Sen. Chichester is married to Karen Williams Chichester and has one daughter, Holly Chichester. The Senator and his wife reside in Reedville but continue to spend much of their time in the Fredericksburg area.

Two members of the Class of 2008 also will address their fellow graduates during the ceremony. Donovan L. Mabe of Appalachia will deliver the “Moment of Reflection,” and Sarah N. Hamilton of St. Paul will deliver the “Challenge to the Graduates.”

For more information about Commencement 2007, contact the Office of College Relations at 276-328-0130 or visit