Tusculum College’s commencement ceremonies on Saturday were highlighted by the conferring of an honorary doctoral degree upon Dr. Angelo Volpe, a college trustee who served last summer as acting president of Tusculum College.
Additionally, Tusculum’s first-ever Civic Leadership Award was presented to Dr. Edward Kormondy, a 1950 Tusculum College alumnus and trustee who also was an acting president in 2007.
During the second of the day’s two commencement ceremonies, the college’s graduating class also welcomed a dozen special guests: members of the “Golden Pioneer Class,” meaning Tusculum graduates of 50 years ago, the Class of 1958. Clad in robes of yellow, the honored class sat together with the class of 2008 and were applauded when introduced individually during the ceremony.
Volpe’s honorary doctorate, a Doctor of Science degree, was presented by Dr. Kormondy, who heads the committee of the Board of Trustees that oversees honorary degrees and is vice chairman of the board. The decision to grant the honor to Volpe was made by unanimous vote of the trustees in their last meeting in February.
Though best known for his presidency for several years at Tennessee Technological University in Cookeville, Dr. Volpe had a distinguished academic career prior to that.
In the 1980s, Dr. Volpe, a New York native, was vice chancellor for academic affairs and professor of chemistry at East Carolina University. He has also been dean of the College of Arts and Sciences at East Carolina and a teacher of chemistry at East Carolina and the Stevens Institute of Technology in New Jersey.
He received his doctorate from the University of Maryland and was a research chemist in the U.S. Naval Ordnance Laboratory in the 1960s. He is active in professional organizations and is extensively published in scholarly journals.
He and his wife, Jennette, who was present for Saturday’s ceremony, live in Cookeville. The Tennessee Tech library is named in their honor as the Angelo and Jennette Volpe Library and Media Center.
After his retirement from Tennessee Tech, where he taught chemistry in addition to serving as president, Dr. Volpe joined the Tusculum College Board of Trustees in 2005. His initial interest in Tusculum College rose from his association with Dr. Tom Garland, who headed the Tennessee State Board of Regents at the time Dr. Volpe was hired as president of Tennessee Tech.
Today Dr. Volpe holds the title of president emeritus of Tennessee Tech and still maintains an office on the campus.
Volpe did not address the commencement crowd directly during the ceremony, but afterward privately expressed his appreciation for the honor.
Receiving the college’s first Civic Leadership Award, recognizing him for his own work as an acting president of Tusculum College in 2007. Dr. Kormondy, along with Dr. Volpe, stepped in to act as Tusculum College’s top executives last year when the presidential office became empty, each devoting weeks of time to the task and and often working in consultation with one another.
Kormondy, who already held an honorary Doctor of Science degree from Tusculum College dating to 1997, was given the new Civic Achievement Award as a surprise. He did not address the crowd, but was visibly moved to tears by the honor.
Kormondy lives in Los Angeles. After his undergraduate years at Tusculum, Kormondy earned a master’s degree and doctoral degree, both in zoology, from the University of Michigan. He also served professionally at that university as well as at Oberlin College, the University of Pittsburgh, The Evergreen State College, the University of Southern Maine, and California State University-Los Angeles in various capacities including dean, provost, and vice president for academic affairs.
In the latter portion of his career he was chancellor and professor of biology at the University of Hawaii at Hilo and at the University of Hawaii-West Oahu. After retirement, he served as interim president of the University of West Los Angeles School of Law.
In 2000 his outstanding service to the University of Hawaii system was recognized when the Board of Regents named him chancellor emeritus.
A skillful writer and communicator, Kormondy has written and edited numerous biology textbooks and publications. He has played important roles in several professional organizations, including service as vice president of the Southern California Academy of Sciences from 1995 to 1997, president of the National Association of Biology Teachers in 1981, and secretary of the Ecological Society of America from 1976 to 1978.
In 1978, Kormondy represented the U.S. State Department on a mission to Poland and Hungary to examine environmental education. He has studied higher education in China during five extensive visits, the most recent concerned with education of China’s 56 minority nationalities. He has served as a consultant in the life sciences to some 30 institutions, including the Universidad Simone Bolivar in Venezuela. He also has been involved in civic, scientific, and arts-supporting organizations in his home communities through the years.
Student speakers, representing each of the degree programs, addressed their fellow graduates at their respective students. Speaking in the morning ceremony were Jason Surlas from the Bachelor of Science in Organizational Management program and Vivian Gibbons from the Master of Arts in Education program.
Surlas, of Knoxville, spoke of his experiences as an adult learner, returning to the classroom after years in a career and having begun a family. It was a challenging task to juggle each of his responsibilities, he said, but noted that anything worthwhile requires hard work and dedication.
He said that the Tusculum Graduate and Professional Studies approach — a night of class once a week and another night to meet with a study group — seemed overwhelming at first, but Surlas found the program ideal for adult learners.
He described the Tusculum program as a door of opportunity for him, and challenged his fellow graduates to recognize such doors of opportunity that their own educational path will create, trust God, and go through those doors.
Vivian Gibbons, of Greeneville, shared her three rules of life for achievers. She told her fellow graduates that they were achievers because they had pursued a goal and persevered until it was completed.
Her first rule is “take care of yourself,” not merely in a physical way but also in terms of spiritual and emotional health. Her second rule is to “take care of others,” which includes working to make the world a better place to live in for all. The third rule is to “take care of your spiritual life,” believing in something larger than oneself.
The speakers in the afternoon ceremony were Regina Cole, representing the Bachelor of Arts in Education program, and Tamara Wynn, representing the Residential College program.
Cole recounted her path to her degree, from volunteering in her children’s school to being a substitute teacher, and from there to returning to school herself. Cole said she was encouraged along the way by others to pursue her desire to become a teacher, and she urged those at the ceremony to encourage adults that they may know who want to continue to education to reach for their goal. It is “never too late to listen to your heart,” she said.
Tamara Wynn said she had thought back to the person she was when she came to Tusculum. That person was very protective of her identity and was sure she would be the same person four years later, but just more knowledgeable academically. However, Wynn said, she is very different person now, a person who has grown through support from faculty and her friends.
Dr. Stephen Weisz, the campus minister, delivered the baccalaureate sermon, “The Lord is Your Shepherd.”
“Today, you may feel as you earn your degree, have a job, or a promise of a job that you don’t need a shepherd.” But real happiness is found not from monetary or social success, but from a relationship with God, said Weisz. “If the Lord is your shepherd, you will have a meaningful life,” he said.
GOLDEN PIONEERS WELCOMED
Members of the Class of 1958, this year’s “Golden Pioneer Class,” attended both the afternoon commencement ceremony and a preceding luncheon held in their honor on the terrace of the Library at Tusculum College.
In attendance Saturday were Bill Carroll, Bill Davis, Donald Eckelhofer, Norman Hankins, Ben Hankins, “Tippy” Dell’Aquila Corliss, Kathleen Schwartz, Karol Schneckenberg Light, Lyle Ray Smith, Perry C. Crabtree, Margi Maracle Hartman, John Strange and Billy Hutton Horne.
Tusculum College conferred just over 300 academic degrees during the two ceremonies. Though in recent years the college has conducted only one ceremony each commencement day, this weekend two ceremonies were done in order to better accommodate the large crowds that typically attend.
Both ceremonies saw the Pioneer Arena substantially filled, mostly by families and friends of graduates.