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Living a life of quality, not quantity.

It was obvious, from the early season snowfall to the dancing lights on the campus Christmas tree, that Friday, December 8, 2017 was going to be a special day. As the 84 graduates lined up outside, their family, friends and supporters filled the seats of Townsend Auditorium with an excitement and anticipation unique to a winter commencement ceremony.

“The winter commencement at TWU is always special. Given the number of graduates, we are able to house December graduation ceremonies in Townsend auditorium. The venue is decorated for Christmas, our traditional candlelight ceremony is blended into the program, and all of this combines to make this commencement an intimate, family event,” says Vice President for Academic Affairs Dr. Grant Willhite.

This year’s event was also special as President Dr. Harley Knowles presented commencement speaker and longtime beloved TWU professor, Rev. Dr. Sam Roberts and his wife, with The Samuel R. and Stella M. Roberts Chair of Philosophy and Religion endowment. This endowment will be awarded to a faculty member based upon their exceptional contributions as both a teacher and leader, demonstrating a commitment to the future of their field and the future of Tennessee Wesleyan.

Following the presentation of the endowment, Rev. Dr. Roberts addressed the graduates, commending them on finishing the race and winning the prize. Throughout his address, Roberts spoke of the transcending power the TWU community has. Using stories from his time at Tennessee Wesleyan he shared how one community can come together – share love, care and compassion and change the way we look at life. Speaking of life and education, both are full of quantitative assessments, and as these graduates head into the workforce they will find that fact will remain. However, he added “if all your life consists of is quantitative assessments, you’ve missed the boat. You’ll miss what could be the greatest day of your life.” Ending his address, Roberts encouraged the graduates, “qualitatively, you can look at a community – even perhaps this community – and you can look at your life, and death, and see much more than what’s physical and quantitative. I hope and pray that you will. That you will live a life fulfilled, not unfulfilled. That you will think about the quality of your life, and not just its quantity.”

As degrees were conferred and families cheered, the thought, “this is the greatest day of my life,” was certainly running through many minds. This seemed to be the case as Dr. Whillhite called out Laticia Sabiti’s name. Laticia’s family, who travelled from the Democratic Republic of Congo, stood and cheered loudly, dancing and waving their republic’s flag with such joy and pride that the entire auditorium began applauding.

Athens Area Chamber of Commerce Award recipient, Stephen Bryant gathered with his parents, wife and young daughter following the recessional. Stephen’s wife remarked how unbelievably proud of him she is and continued to say that his dedication to complete this degree knowing that it will open new doors to be able to always support their family meant so much to her. To Stephen, earning his degree from Tennessee Wesleyan was a blessing and the completion of a nine-year journey. He’s proud to share his alumnus status with others that he’s grown to love and will carry those connections with him the rest of his life.

So – yes – Friday, December 8, 2017 was a special day filled with bulldog pride. It was not because of the snow or the twinkling Christmas lights, but because of the feeling that only a winter commencement can bring – where families join their loved ones to celebrate a milestone on their journey to living a fulfilled life.

For media information, contact
Katherine Davis