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Tennessee Wesleyan University graduates 199 at 160th Spring Commencement

Tennessee Wesleyan University held commencement activities the weekend of May 4-6, with 199 graduates joining the ranks of Bulldog alumni. The celebration began Thursday, May 4 with the Nurse Pinning Ceremony at Cokesbury United Methodist Church in Knoxville. The nursing students received their pins during the ceremony that featured student speaker Virginia Dionne.

On the evening of Friday, May 5, the graduates gathered in Townsend Auditorium in Athens for the baccalaureate service. The Reverend Dr. Vant Hardaway, retired supervisor of safety and equity for the McMinn County School system, was the featured speaker. Hardaway spoke to the graduates about being thankful. He also focused on the scripture reading from Jeremiah 29:11.

“I am not coming to try to give you some key special wisdoms because a lot of times it just takes making a decision,” Hardaway said. “Graduates of the class of 2017, where are you in the midst of that decision? Which step are you on in this, your plan? I have to believe sometimes there is an inspirational and divine plan that someone bigger than all of us has when we see this. Whatever place you are in deciding, get to that point, and don’t quit.”

The 160th commencement ceremony was held on Saturday, May 6 in Nocatula Gardens. The members of the class of 2017 celebrated their academic achievements and received their diplomas. Graduating senior Emily Green was selected by the graduating class to give the student address.

“During our time here, Tennessee Wesleyan has become home, and the people here have become family,” Green said. “For some of us, it started four years ago, awkwardly fumbling around at orientation, trying to find our place on this campus. Some have joined us over the years, coming from many different universities and many corners of the globe, but all of us have become a family these past four years. We found our place. We found our home amongst a variety of student organizations, sporting events and iconic traditions, such as lip sync. All of you and all of these things have made this campus special to me, and hopefully to you.”

The featured speaker at this year’s commencement was Bradley S. Williams, president and CEO of the Holston United Methodist Home for Children. He spoke about the importance of treating others with love and respect.

“When we think about love, we tend to think that the enemy for love is hate, and sometimes that’s true,” Williams said. “I would argue that there are two other archrivals of love that show up consistently and persistently in the workplace, and those are self-centeredness and fear. If we’re going to see the world around us as friends and have a love for them, we’re going to have to see others, see our company, see our mission as getting larger while our sales are getting smaller. And then, we’re going to have to have the courage to go after it, flaws and all, to put ourselves out there in such a way that we’re vulnerable, that we’re authentic, and that we’re committed to the people we’re serving and to the mission we’re serving. I think that’s true for every industry that’s out there.”

In addition to the awarding of diplomas, the spring commencement ceremony featured the presentation of several awards to students and community members.

2017 commencement awards

Athens Area Chamber of Commerce Awards

Mary De La Torre

Zoe Grimes

Cassidy Ruiz

Austin Hayes

The Townsend Award

Amber Lingerfelt

Chase Freeman

The Harry Steadman Award

Margaret Hubble

The Mary Mildred Sullivan Award for a student

Virginia Dionne

The Mary Mildred Sullivan Award for a community member

Lisa Mayfield

The Algernon Sydney Sullivan Award for a student

Todd Cox

The Algernon Sydney Sullivan Award for a community member

Rev. Hendree Harrison