George Mason honors nearly 11,000 at Spring 2024 Commencement ceremony


George Mason University’s 2024 graduating class—the first whose members can say they earned a degree from a consensus top 50 public university in the country—was honored Thursday morning in front of an energized crowd at EagleBank Arena on the Fairfax Campus. The ceremony was also livestreamed.

The university celebrated nearly 11,000 degree and certificate earners, from 114 countries and 50 states, a significant number of whom filled every chair on the floor and spilled into the arena seating.

Some of the most enthusiastic celebrators of the newest George Mason graduates were the oldest George Mason graduates—several “Golden Patriots” who earned their degrees 50 or more years ago.

Guest speaker Barbara Humpton, CEO of Siemens USA, encouraged the graduates to remain optimistic even in times of uncertainty and to avoid trying to map out career moves too far in advance. She shared a personal story about working at a company for 27 years but being passed over for a CEO position because she was not considered executive material.

That setback inspired her to volunteer to take on new and challenging roles. She encouraged the graduates to “raise your hand” when opportunities arise that align with their sense of purpose.

“To be an optimist is to see the world as it is, identifying problems, and searching for ground truth,” Humpton said. “It’s about believing that you have what it takes to persevere, to find solutions amid difficulty, to recognize that your worst day might actually lead to your best.”

Vice Rector Jon M. Peterson presented Humpton with an honorary doctor of humane letters.

George Mason President Gregory Washington addresses the Spring 2024 Commencement crowd from the stage at EagleBank Arena
George Mason President Gregory Washington addresses the Spring 2024 Commencement crowd from the stage at EagleBank Arena. Photo by Ron Aira/George Mason University

George Mason President Gregory Washington acknowledged the global events that have informed the experiences of the 2024 graduates, and noted that as graduates of Virginia’s largest and most diverse public university, they have a strong foundation for tackling these and other global challenges.

“I hope that your George Mason education has prepared you to separate fact from fiction. To discern without demonizing. To listen as passionately as you speak—even when your heart races and your ears burn.

“Who better to bear the weight of lifting us out of our downward spiral than you—future leaders who these past few years have lived, learned, and engaged in one of the most diverse environments you will find,” he said.

As he does at each graduation ceremony, Washington asked the first-generation graduates to stand, and then asked the community college transfers who are graduating to stand. Both requests elicited a swell of rising green gowns and rounds of applause. About 1 in 4 George Mason graduates is first generation.

One of them was student speaker Zayd Hamid, a public administration major and Honors College student from Manassas Park, Virginia. He pointed out that graduates who started at the university in 2020 have gone from completing a Mason health check every day during the pandemic to completing their hard-earned degrees.

One of the more active students at the university, Hamid gave special shoutouts to Mason Lobbies, Mason Recreation, Patriot Leaders, supportive Mason alumni he has encountered, and Pell Grant recipients who like him needed federal financial support to achieve their academic goals. Hamid has lobbied for student financial aid on Capitol Hill and is ready to join with his fellow Mason alumni in tackling other major issues.

“Leading with authenticity is the only way that we know how to lead,” Hamid said. “It’s up to our generation to solve the grand challenges facing humanity. We are the only ones who can.”

Alumni Association President Christine Landoll, BS Accounting ’89 and MS Taxation ’92, welcomed the newest alums and encouraged them to remain engaged with the university and to remember they are among an influential group of 235,000 George Mason alumni worldwide and across industries and communities.

“Leverage this incredible network and connect and continue your Mason story,” Landoll said. “Please take your Mason pride with you wherever you go.”

A woman in regalia with a rainbow stole and a man in regalia are standing up in the crowd at Spring 2024 Commencement
New graduates celebrate at the end of Spring 2024 Commencement. Photo by Ron Aira/George Mason University