It took nearly an hour for about 6,000 University of Virginia graduates to "walk the Lawn" during commencement Sunday, marching along the grassy pathway through the heart of campus past tens of thousands of relatives and friends.
It was a parade of black gowns and lush hoods, colored flags and helium balloons, high-fives and hugs, cheering and laughing.
But as soon everyone was seated, the massive crowd quieted for a moment of silence to remember four members of the Class of 2010 who did not live to see graduation -- including Yeardley Love, a lacrosse player who was killed three weeks ago, just before final exams began.
Her ex-boyfriend, fellow senior and lacrosse player George Huguely, was arrested and charged with murder. He also would have likely graduated Sunday, but has withdrawn from the university. Members of the men's lacrosse team were unable to attend because they are competing this weekend.
Love's name was listed in the commencement program, and she was posthumously awarded a bachelor's degree in politics and government. A scholarship fund set up in her name has grown to more than $350,000.
Many of the graduates wore small white ribbons on their gowns to raise awareness of violence against women. Despite predictions of pouring rain and an early morning drizzle, the clouds parted just as the ceremony began.
Students sat in the hot sun and listened to advice from U.Va. President John T. Casteen III, who received three degrees from the school and served as president for 20 years.
Casteen, who retires this summer, pushed students to use their education to make a difference in the world. He warned them that "the world to which you go is flawed and, in some cases, corrupt."
"The challenge, of course, is for you to use what you have learned here in the role of agent for good," he said. "You have presented yourselves today well prepared to accept that challenge."