Countless hours spent studying textbooks, writing papers and doing research came to fruition Saturday for 347 individuals who received degrees during Tusculum College’s winter commencement ceremonies on Saturday.
One hundred and seventy nine earned Bachelor of Science degrees in organizational management during a morning ceremony. During an afternoon ceremony 64 earned Master of Arts degrees in education and 104 received Bachelor of Arts degrees.
The new graduates were issued challenges to excel not only in obtaining material success, but also in seeking to fulfill a higher purpose in their careers and lives by student speakers, the campus chaplain and Interim President Dr. Russell Nichols.
Robin Aiken Proffitt of Campbell County and Mark Strange, a police officer in Gatlinburg, who both earned Bachelor of Science degrees in organizational management (BSOM), were chosen by the faculty as speakers to represent their classmates in the morning ceremony. Proffitt spoke of the importance of teamwork she had learned through her degree program. “I challenge you to be the best you can be, and I have learned through the BSOM program that you can do even more with the help of others.”
Strange recalled how he had promised his parents he would earn a college degree when they allowed him to enter the U.S. Air Force after his high school graduation. After his military career, he returned to his native Newport as a police officer and decided to go back to school, finding success with the help of his family, fellow classmates and professors and staff at Tusculum. He told his fellow graduates, “Let’s not let the door of our education close today. Learning is a never ending journey.”
In the afternoon ceremony, Brody Wells, a native of Tazewell who earned a Bachelor of Arts degree in mathematics education, was chosen to address his fellow classmates. Reading from Ecclesiastes in the Bible, Wells commented that Solomon was the wisest and wealthiest man of his time, and he found his earthly success to be empty but his true fulfillment came from following God. He challenged his fellow graduates to not seek earthly gain, but to find true success in following God – “with God all is good and pleasing.” Speaking on the topic, “It is Better to Be Poor Than Rich,” Dr. Stephen Weisz, campus chaplain and associate professor of religious studies, shared the story of the rich young ruler who came to Christ.
Dr. Weisz said he was not bringing a message against obtaining material wealth because it can be used to help others, rather his was a message of encouragement to seek a higher purpose.
“I want to challenge you to become another (John D.) Rockefeller,” he told the graduates. “The paradox is you can be another Rockefeller without being as wealthy as he was, but you have to put others before yourself as he did.”
Dr. Nichols shared six hopes he had for the graduates. “I hope you will always act ethically and morally in all you do,” he said. “Second, I hope you listen, read and think critically. Third, I hope you will be a life-long learner. Fourth, I hope you will be a responsible citizen in both your local and global community. Fifth, I hope you will live, work and play for a higher purpose than yourself. And, sixth, I hope you will act ethically and morally in all you do. Did I say that before? There must be a reason. If you do good, you will do well.”
Tusculum College, the oldest college in Tennessee and the 28th oldest in the nation, is a civic arts institution committed to developing educated citizens distinguished by academic excellence, public service and qualities of Judeo-Christian character. About twenty-four hundred students are enrolled on the main campus in Greeneville and four off-site locations in East Tennessee. The academic programs for both traditional-aged students and working adults served through the Graduate and Professional Studies program are delivered using focused calendars whereby students enroll in one course at a time.