In 1984, incoming freshman Roderick Young could not wait to start his experience at George Mason. “I went to the student transition program,” he said, “a program that allowed sixty students to come for the summer and take a couple of classes.” During a spring weekend for incoming freshman, he learned about the program and leapt at the opportunity to launch his education as quickly as possible. “I had so much fun that weekend, I thought, ‘I’ve got to get up here!’ I graduated from high school and the next week, I was at Mason.”
Now that former freshman is the Honorable Roderick C. Young, BA Speech Communication ’89, MA English ’94, a United States District Court Judge for the Eastern District of Virginia who returned to Mason virtually to speak to graduating students as part of the College of Humanities and Social Sciences’ two Mini Ceremonies on May 11.
Prior to his elevation to the District Court, Young served as a United States Magistrate Judge on the same court. His distinguished legal career has been one marked by public service: as an assistant public defender in Portsmouth, Virginia, a prosecutor in Richmond, a Senior Assistant Commonwealth’s Attorney, an Assistant US Attorney for the Eastern District of Virginia, a Special Assistant US Attorney for the District of Columbia, and as an adjunct professor at William & Mary Law School. He was nominated for his present position by former president Donald Trump on the recommendation of Virginia Senators Tim Kaine and Mark Warner. In a rare display of non-partisanship, Young’s nomination was confirmed by the United States Senate on a 93-2 vote in September 2020.
He has been recognized by the College of Humanities and Social Sciences as the 2021 recipient of its Distinguished Alumni Award, as part of the university’s Celebration of Distinction.
Young spoke to the graduates about his experiences at Mason, including his membership in Omega Psi Phi Fraternity, his work as a resident advisor and service as a member of the Student Court of General Sessions. “I made lifelong friends at Mason that I am still in contact with,” he said. “There are experiences outside the classroom that are very important that help you grow.”
Asked for counsel for those starting their educational journey, Young stresses the importance of integrity and diligence in their work. “I always tell students - whether they’re in fifth grade or in their second year in college - to just do the best that you can do in school with your grades because you never know where you’re going to end up. When I was at Mason, I wasn’t totally sold on the fact that I was going to be a lawyer. It was something that I was definitely thinking about and was considering… [and] if I hadn’t had a certain grade point average, law school would have been cut off to me.”
To the 2020 and 2021 graduates, he encouraged them to “take a few moments to cherish all that you have experienced during your time at Mason,” and to “give your parents and loved ones a big hug because that’s all they want … all they want is a hug to let them know that you appreciated everything that they’ve done for you.”
May 17, 2021