More than 300 individuals received degrees during Tusculum College’s spring commencement ceremonies on Saturday, May 10, including the presentation of an honorary doctorate to former Navy commander and alumnus Capt. Samuel L. Doak.
Ninety-eight students earned Bachelor of Science degrees and 152 earned Bachelor of Arts degrees. In addition, 19 graduates earned Master of Arts degrees in education, 14 earned Master of Business Administration degrees and 27 earned Master of Arts in Teaching degrees.
The new graduates were addressed by Tusculum President Nancy B. Moody, who congratulated them on their accomplishment. “Each of you made sacrifices, made adjustments and made some tough decisions along the way,” she said. “You have worked hard and you have given something of yourself to earn the right to sit in that chair this morning and to walk across this stage.”
The graduates were addressed during the morning ceremony by U.S Rep. Phil Roe (R-1), who challenged the graduates to keep learning all their lives. With the tremendous pace of change in the world, graduates have to be adapt rapidly to challenges, he continued.
Roe shared three secrets of career success with the graduates. “Number one, show up on time,” he said. “Number two, give your best effort every single day, and number three, be a team player.” For success in their personal lives, Roe advised the graduates to put God first in their lives, put family second, their careers third and fourth, give back to the community. Roe was introduced by respected local businessman and philanthropist Dr. Scott M. Niswonger, who is a 1987 graduate of Tusculum and received an honorary degree from the college in 2006.
Receiving an honorary doctorate of public service was Capt. Doak, who is a 1949 alumnus of the college and has served a valued and influential member of the Board of Trustees for 21 years. “Through service, leadership and lifelong support of the College, Capt. Doak exemplifies the Civic Art values that Tusculum College has promoted for 220 years,” said Dr. Moody in conferring the degree.
Doak, a direct descendent of the founders of the college, distinguished himself during his 30-year career in the Navy, and has contributed his time to building the local community through such activities as teaching senior citizen driving courses. He is an active and dedicated member of Greeneville Cumberland Presbyterian Church and as a regular attendee of First Presbyterian Church of Greeneville. He has also served his Alma Mater as director of alumni affairs.
He and his wife, Emily, are frequently seen supporting art programs, athletic events, lecture programs and other outreach programs of the college. “Sam and Emily have been generous contributors to Tusculum College throughout their lives, supporting the growth, expansion and mission of the College at the highest levels,” Dr. Moody said. “These gifts have impacted the lives of thousands of students who lead better lives today because of the generosity of these two Pioneers who have blazed the trail that others might follow and have the opportunity for a college education. “
Walking with this spring’s graduates were 13 representatives of the Tusculum College Class of 1964 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 2014, presented a check to Dr. Moody for $3,128 as a gift to the college.
Four student speakers addressed the graduates, including Ashley Sarmiento, a double major in math and math education who represented her fellow bachelor degree graduates in the morning ceremony. She challenged her fellow graduates to be unforgettable. “It is our turn to give back to others, share our wisdom, show our love and leave a mark on others’ lives,” said Sarmeinto, who is from Dayton, Ohio. She encouraged her fellow graduates to always thank those who have made a significant impact in their lives and to “go with purpose to leave an unforgettable impact on others like Tusculum College has done for us.”
Selected to speak on behalf of the students earning master’s degrees during the morning ceremony was Suzanne Richey, who earned a graduate degree in education with a concentration in organizational training and education. Richey, who lives in Greeneville, expressed appreciation to her parents, who are also Tusculum alumni, as well as her teachers during her formative years and Tusculum professors who nurtured her love of learning and challenged her to reach goals she thought unattainable.
Congratulating her fellow graduates, Richey encouraged them to “Keep learning. Keep evaluating what you know. Keep your mind open to new ideas and diverse opinions. Read what you disagree with and understand why you disagree. Learn from anyone who will mentor you. And most importantly, keep sharing what you know and what you think with others.”
Speakers at the afternoon Tusculum College commencement service were Shalee Tipton of Maryville and Danielle Warren of Knoxville. Tipton is graduating with a bachelor science degree in organizational management. Warren is graduating with a bachelor’s degree in business administration.
The first college graduate in her family, Tipton spoke about the support she has had from family, friends, co-workers, faculty and her fellow classmates. As a student at Tusculum, she said she has learned that she can accomplish her goals and that determination is the key to success.
As she has thought of graduation, Tipton said she has contemplated the meaning prosperity. While many think of that word in financial terms, she said, “I do believe that the best definition of prosperity is to thrive or flourish and my wish for each of my fellow graduates is that you leave this journey feeling prepared and energized for the next phase of your life.”
Warren recalled her educational journey began almost four years ago as she was invited to a Tusculum commencement by a close friend who was earning a degree and watching the graduates earn their degrees inspired to begin the process to achieve her own educational aspirations.
“One of the most valuable lessons that I will take with me from my time at Tusculum is the power of teamwork,” Warren said. “I have always been fiercely independent, so learning to rely on others was challenging at first. . . . If it had not been for the patience and support of my family and friends; the dedication and mentorship of the faculty and staff; and of course, my fabulous learning team, I would not be standing before you today.”
The afternoon ceremony featured a sermon by Tusculum Chaplain Mark Stokes in which he challenged the graduates to make a positive impact in the world around them. Noting the example of Tabitha in the Bible, who made clothes for needy widows, Stokes said she was placed by God in a place and time in which her skills were needed by others in her community. Stokes challenged the graduates to allow God to guide them to the place where their skills and talents can make the lives of others better. “Can you make a positive impact?” he asked the graduates. “With God’s help, I am willing to believe you can.”
Receiving the Teaching Excellence and Campus Leadership award for the Residential College was Dr. Bill Garris, associate professor of psychology who has led the college’s Quality Enhancement Program initiative. Receiving the award for the Graduate and Professional Studies program was Dr. Peggy Goodson-Rochelle, assistant professor of education.