Skip to main content

Commencement activities conclude with conferring of degrees

It was a busy week on Tennessee Wesleyan’s main campus in Athens and at the nursing department it Knoxville. As most students wrapped up the academic year with final exams and saying, “see you next year,” 158 students prepared to close the chapter on their years at TWU.

The University scheduled traditional events for graduating seniors throughout the week. The 46 nursing graduates were welcomed to the nursing profession during the pinning ceremony in Knoxville where the faculty also spent time blessing the hands to guide and heal as the new grads head into the field. Earlier in the day, the nursing family gathered for lunch and listened to Ms. Dianna Vermilyea present the last lecture.

Last Lecture tradition

The last lecture has been a commencement-week tradition on the main campus that was extended to TWU-Fort Sanders Nursing this year. Last lecture professors are selected by the senior class and provide one last encouraging lecture to the students as they anticipate graduation and the next chapter of their lives. Main campus seniors selected Dr. Sean Hayden, philosophy professor, to address them at the senior brunch on Friday morning.


Graduates, families, faculty and staff gathered in Townsend Auditorium Friday night for the Baccalaureate service where Rev. David Graybeal addressed the crowd. Speaking to the seniors, he encouraged them to take the name of Tennessee Wesleyan wherever they go– playing on the title of the old hymn, Take the name of Jesus with you. Rev. Graybeal urged students to take the lessons of service and learning they learned while at Wesleyan into the world and be the next great generation.

The big day

Then came the day these seniors had been anxiously awaiting all week. Four years of lectures, relationship building, service hours and studying has led to this day – where they would walk across the stage and receive their degrees. Along with the conferring of the degrees, students, faculty and community members were recognized for their commitment to Tennessee Wesleyan.

  • Athens Area Chamber of Commerce Awards: Shena Woodards and Petar Bukarica
  • The Townsend Awards: Kasey Combs and Todd Cox
  • Deane G. Hall Award: Dr. Marius Bahnean
  • Lockmiller Teacher of the Year Award: Dr. Augustin Bocco
  • Harry Steadman Award: Rev. Charla Sherbakoff
  • Mary Mildred Sullivan Awards: Makenzie Tucker and Beth Jackson
  • Algernon Sydney Sullivan Awards: Cody Esparza and Bryan Jackson

This year’s commencement speaker was T. Lamont Price, director of TNInvestco, a part of the Tennessee Department of Economic and Community Development. Wanting to keep his address practical to the lives of the graduates, Mr. Price urged the grads to remember the gift of community where they can serve, but also be served and mentored themselves. He also encouraged them to remember the values they’ve been taught by their parents, and the lessons they learned while at Wesleyan. Mr. Price ended his speech with Psalm 90:17, May the favor of the Lord our God rest on us; establish the work of our hands for us – yes, establish the work of our hands.

The class of 2018 also selected to hear from fellow graduate Kasey Combs. Kasey spoke of the friendships made, discoveries made in the classroom and the future they have all been awaiting. Finally, the 158 graduates were welcomed to the TWU Alumni Association by Erica Peden, ’14, president of the association.

As the new alumni exited Nocatula Gardens, a mixture of emotions could be felt across the campus. As we say goodbye to the class of 2018, we know this is just the beginning of the next phase. The entire Bulldog community can’t wait to see what happens next!