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Former Rockingham County Schools superintendent to deliver Bridgewater commencement

Bridgewater College graduate high five
Photo courtesy Bridgewater College

A former superintendent of Rockingham County Schools and a Bridgewater College trustee will serve as the college’s commencement and baccalaureate speakers for 2024.

Dr. Oskar Scheikl, a former Rockingham County Schools superintendent, will provide the commencement address on Saturday, May 4, 2024 at 10 a.m. on the Campus Mall for approximately 285 undergraduate students and 35 master’s students.

Scheikl will deliver a speech entitled “Self and Service” to the new graduates.

The Reverend Wilfred E. Nolen ’63, a Bridgewater College trustee, will provide the baccalaureate speech at 6 p.m. on Friday, May 3, 2024, in Cole Hall. Nolen, a retired administrator in the Church of the Brethren, will deliver a speech entitled “Washing Feet: A Symbol.”

Scheikl retired as superintendent of Rockingham County Schools in June 2023 after nearly 30 years of service in public education.

“Education has always been a passion of mine,” Scheikl, who began his career teaching social studies at Broadway High School in 1995, said.

After five years in teaching, Scheikl moved into the RCPS District Technology Department, first managing district and student data and then as director of Information Management. He was appointed superintendent in 2017. During his six-year tenure as head of the 25-school system, Scheikl developed programs to support student mental and behavioral health and created new project-based learning opportunities for students. He also led 11,800 students and 2,500 employees through the CCOVID-19 pandemic, which he describes as the greatest challenge of his professional career.

Earlier this year, Rockingham County Schools gained national attention when the school board voted to temporarily remove 57 books, mostly covering LGBTQIA and race-related themes, from school libraries. Scheikl said he sees this as indicative of larger culture wars in American society but expressed great confidence in the next generation in navigating these challenges.

“I have tremendous faith in this generation,” he said. “It is the most open-minded, inclusive group that I have seen. And I believe that they will do great things.”

Scheikl grew up in Austria and moved to the United States in 1992. He later became a U.S. citizen, earned a bachelor’s in history and a master’s in computer science from JMU, as well as a Ph.D. in education from UVA.

Not long after his retirement, Scheikl returned to public education and currently serves as Data Systems Coordinator for Harrisonburg City Schools and adjunct instructor at JMU. Scheikl and his wife, Denell, have four children and live outside of Harrisonburg. In his free time, Scheikl enjoys traveling with his family, coaching soccer and skydiving.

Nolen came to Bridgewater College in 1959 from Bassett, Va., a small town known primarily for furniture-making and textiles. Although his parents had little formal education, they believed in its value, and he, along with a number of other Bassett young people in the Church of the Brethren (COB), came to Bridgewater College to further their education.

In addition to his studies, Nolen worked numerous jobs on campus throughout college, was part of the Church of the Brethren youth leadership, played the piano and organ, sang in choral ensembles, and ran track and cross country. He graduated from Bridgewater in 1963 with a bachelor’s in music.

Upon graduation, he went to the Chicago area, where he studied music performance and choral conducting at the American Conservatory of Music and completed a master of divinity from Bethany Theological Seminary (then located in Oak Brook, Ill.). As an administrator of church programs, Nolen has always taken seriously the call to service, along with valuing and respecting others, no matter their background or differences.

“We are all part of the great brotherhood/sisterhood of the world,” he says. “Our differences should not keep us from seeing the unity in our common humanity.”

For 43 years, Nolen served in various roles in the Church of the Brethren’s Elgin, Ill., headquarters. In 1983, he joined the COB Pension Board, eventually serving as the founding president of the board’s successor organizations, the Brethren Benefit Trust (now Eder Financial) and the Brethren Foundation.

In 1993, Nolen received the College’s Outstanding Service Award and has served on the College’s Board of Trustees since 1993. Nolen and his wife Joyce established The Rev. Wilfred E. and Dr. Joyce A. Nolen Fund for Music at Bridgewater College in 2008, and in 2023, they named The Rev. Wilfred E. and Dr. Joyce A. Nolen School of Business and Professional Studies at the College.

Coeducational since its founding in 1880, Bridgewater College is a private, four-year liberal arts college located in the Central Shenandoah Valley of Virginia. Bridgewater College is home to approximately 1,450 students with more than 60 undergraduate majors and minors and four graduate programs housed within three distinct schools.

Rebecca Barnabi

Rebecca Barnabi

Rebecca J. Barnabi is the national editor of Augusta Free Press. A graduate of the University of Mary Washington, she began her journalism career at The Fredericksburg Free-Lance Star. In 2013, she was awarded first place for feature writing in the Maryland, Delaware, District of Columbia Awards Program, and was honored by the Virginia School Boards Association’s 2019 Media Honor Roll Program for her coverage of Waynesboro Schools. Her background in newspapers includes writing about features, local government, education and the arts.