There was much to celebrate on Saturday for 242 individuals who received degrees during Tusculum College's spring commencement ceremony.
Sixty-two students earned Bachelor of Science degrees and 135 earned Bachelor of Arts degrees. In addition, 45 earned Master of Arts degrees.
Walking with this spring's graduates were 14 representatives of the Tusculum College Class of 1962 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. Nancy B. Moody, president of Tusculum College.
HONORARY DEGREE GIVEN
Also receiving an Honorary Doctorate of Humane Letters was Leonard Riggio, chairman of Barnes and Noble, Inc.
Beginning with a single college bookstore in 1965, Riggio built one of the largest enterprises in the history of American retail. He is widely known as a visionary in the bookselling industry and as a brilliant marketer and entrepreneur.
Riggio devotes himself as well to many philanthropic initiatives, having served on nearly two dozen not-for-profit boards.
Since Hurricane Katrina in 2005, he has been building homes for families who lost their homes in New Orleans.
The new graduates were addressed by Moody, who recognized the commencement ceremony as "an occasion of celebration and completion.
"Each of you have made sacrifices, adjustments and also made tough decisions along the way. You have worked hard and have earned the right to walk across this stage. This is a testament to your own efforts and to your persistence. Today is your reward," Moody said.
Kirstie Gust, a business administration major with a concentration in accounting and management from Rutledge, addressed the crowd as a representative of the residential college program.
She told the group to "find your passion in life, whether your career, your children, your faith, or a combination. Be willing to sacrifice for it, knowing that the end product will be worth it.
"Return your passion to the community. And, finally, advise others in how to make it all possible."
Amy Kirk of Athens, spoke on behalf of the college's Graduate and Professional Studies education program. Kirk talked of her journey to completing her degree.
"Years from now, I will not remember the assignments or the grades I received on certain tests, but I will recall all the wonderful people I have had the opportunity to meet and how I was a part of their journey and they were a part of mine," she said.
Mark Taylor of Strawberry Plains spoke on behalf of the Graduate and Professional Studies bachelor degree program in Organizational Management.
He told his fellow graduates, "From the beginning, I had a clear road map to follow and ample assistance to overcome any obstacles I encountered along the way. I credit Tusculum's Graduate and Professional Studies program with providing the framework I needed as a working professional to pursue my college degree."
Melissa Frazier of Knoxville spoke on behalf of the bachelor degree program in Business Administration. She spoke of the difficult decision to return to school as an adult learner.
"Life is not always easy and at times its downright difficult, and all that we really want to do is throw in the towel and call it quits."
However, she said, with the support of others, she and the other graduates had stayed the course.
"Just like running in a marathon, we have people along our path cheering us on. Friends, family members and professors all shouting, good job, keep going, you're almost there, you can do this."
Representing the masters program was Rebecca Hunley, of Dandridge. Hunley encouraged her fellow graduates to keep on learning.
"Learning should never really cease to happen, but be a continuum of building ideas and thoughts," Hunley said.
"Take what you've learned in your classes and think beyond your classroom or workplace, your school and consider how you can impact the next generation globally using the resources that are within you and share them," she added.
Also speaking was Mark Stokes, director of religious life, church and community relations. Stokes presented a sermon titled, "Are We Closer Than We Were?"
He compared life's journey to that of a trip, where the question is often asked, "Are we there yet?" Noting, in all of life's variety of physical and spiritual journeys, the better question is "are we closer than we were?"
In addition to the presentation of the undergraduate and graduate degrees, two faculty awards were presented.
Receiving the Teaching Excellence and Campus Leadership award for the Residential College was Wayne Thomas, chair of the Department of Fine Arts and associate professor of English.
Receiving the award for the Graduate and Professional Studies program was Dr. Geir Bergvin, associate professor of marketing and the director of the Center for Global Studies.