More than 275 individuals received degrees during Tusculum College’s spring commencement ceremony on Saturday, May 11, including the presentation of an honorary doctorate to businessman and friend of the college, Don Raber.
Eighty-two students earned Bachelor of Science degrees and 155 earned Bachelor of Arts degrees. In addition 38 graduates earned Master of Arts degrees.
The new graduates were addressed by Tusculum President Nancy B. Moody, who recognized the commencement ceremony as “an occasion of celebration and completion.” Adding, “Each of you has made sacrifices, adjustments and also made tough decisions along the way. You have worked hard, and you have given something of yourself to earn the right to walk across this stage. This is a testament to your own efforts and to your persistence. Today is your reward.”
She told the group, “Thank you for allowing Tusculum College to be a part of your life. Wherever you go, whatever you do, you will always be a part of Tusculum College.”
Walking with this spring’s graduates were 17 representatives of the Tusculum College Class of 1963 who are celebrating their 50th anniversary year. Representatives walked in the procession, clothed in golden caps and gowns and were recognized during the ceremony by Dr. Moody.
The Golden Pioneers, along with the Class of 2013, presented a check to Dr. Moody for $1,125.39 as a gift to the college.
Receiving an Honorary Doctorate of Humane Letters was Raber, who is a member of the Tusculum College Board of Trustees. He has brought to the board many strengths, chief among them a lifetime of experience in banking, investment and finance. He has served effectively as chair of the Business Committee, as a member of the Executive Committee, the Audit, Finance, Investment and Buildings Committee, the Institutional Advancement Committee and as Foundation Investment Advisor. He is a recipient of the Tusculum College Distinguished Service Award, the highest honor bestowed by the college.
His devotion to education, shown through service to Tusculum and other colleges and universities, is rooted in his days in the U.S. Navy. As he served aboard the USS Aldebaran AF-10 in 1962 during the Cuban blockade, and a year later on the USS Preserver ARS-8, he noticed that junior officers were college-educated. After his military service, he enrolled at Hofstra University in Hempstead, New York, where he earned a BBA. He later earned an MBA from Marshall University and completed specialized programs at Northwestern University and the University of Tennessee.
He started his financial career as a management trainee for the Jamaica Savings Bank and joined an options trading firm on Wall Street. From there he launched a distinguished career in finance and banking, culminating with the founding of Aldebaran Financial in 1991. He has also taught at several colleges and universities and has established scholarships at Tusculum College and other institutions.
According to President Moody, “Don has lived a life that adheres to the tenants of the Tusculum College mission. He has strived for success in his personal life, while never forgetting his sense of community.”
Participating in the degree conferral was Raber’s son, Peter W. Raber, vice president of operations and chief compliance officer for Aldebaran Financial.
Four student speakers addressed the graduates, including Andy Goellner, a triple major, studying business management, accounting and sport management from Denver, Colo., who represented the Residential College.
Goellner provided advice about future achievement. “Do it scared,” he said. “It doesn’t matter. If you’re scared that probably means you are doing something that is really worthwhile. So even you if are scared get out and do it anyway, you will feel so much better for having stepped out of your comfort zone.”
Also speaking at the morning ceremony was Alexander Smith, a graduate from the master’s program. Smith is from Greeneville and completed his bachelor’s degree at Tusculum College in 2010.
“Each of us can think of a teacher or professor who pushed us to learn more, to work harder and to achieve our goals,” Smith told the audience. “Many of those people are here in the audience today. Their excellent leadership taught us many essential elements for success in the profession of teaching. Just a few of those elements include, remaining calm despite uncertainty, greeting each day with a fresh perspective but to remember lessons learned each day and admitting mistakes and moving on.”
In the afternoon ceremony, speakers were Stephanie Trent, an education major from Washburn, and Elba Marshall, a business major from Knoxville.
Trent talked about the difficult decision to return to school later in life.
“For many years I had come up with excuses to ignore what my heart and mind were trying to tell me. In reality, I was afraid that I would not be able to meet the challenges this change in my life would bring, and that I would let my family down in the process.”
She added, “As I watched my children grow older, I knew that I had to be a better role model for them. I wanted them to see that no matter what obstacles you think are standing in your way, it is possible to succeed if you do your best and never give up. If I wanted to convince them to follow their dreams, I knew I had to face my own fears and insecurities and put myself on a path to make my own dreams come true.”
Marshall said, “When I first decided to pursue my college degree, I thought I was doing it to get the proverbial ticket to success. What I discovered was that it turned out to be so much more than that. It became a place where my beliefs were challenged, my desire for learning was nurtured and my life was forever changed.”
Mark Stokes, director of religious life, church and community relations at Tusculum College, presented a sermon titled, “Seize the Day.”
“We must take advantage of every opportunity that comes our way to fulfill our purpose in life,” he told the crowd. “Forget the past, face the present and live life as it comes. We need to seize the day and live every moment of our lives with purpose.”
Receiving the Teaching Excellence and Campus Leadership award for the Residential College was Heather Patterson, chair of the English Department and assistant professor of English. Receiving the award for the Graduate and Professional Studies program was Dr. DiAnn Casteel, professor of education, and Dr. Betsy Loveday, assistant professor of education.