Among the memorabilia in the College Archives are numerous graduation programs, films, speeches and other items showcasing this very special day of celebration.
One of the most interesting of these is a graduation program belonging to Leroy Summerfield Edwards, Class of 1859. Graduation at that time was a multi-day event, and each student was required to make a lengthy speech; Leroy’s speech, Literary Dietetics, is also available in the College Archives. The jubilation of their college graduation ceremony and the hopeful futures the students in the Class of 1859 expected during those June days of 1859 would later be squelched by the Civil War. Leroy annotated his program indicating the tragic wartime fates of several of his classmates. Of the 19 graduates listed, 4 are labeled “killed” and 2 labeled “dead” and “died.” Those listed as killed died from battle wounds, while the two listed as dead and died were Leroy’s closest friends, who died a year apart of disease. An additional graduate has “lost right arm at Strasburg” next to his name. Leroy himself would be wounded, recover and go back to the war, be captured and spend nearly a year in two prison camps, including the famous Elmira, NY camp know as “Helmira.” He was paroled and returned to Virginia in time to flee Richmond with the Confederate army and surrender at Appomattox Courthouse.
The survivors of the Class of 1859 would become educators, ministers, lawyers, judges, legislators, and even college presidents, including Dr. William G. Starr, the 9th president of R-MC (1899-1902).