COOKEVILLE – Tennessee Tech University graduated its largest class in the history with two commencement ceremonies inside the Eblen Center on Saturday.

Degrees were awarded to approximately 1,520 from 79 counties in Tennessee, 34 states and 28 other countries. Those earning undergraduate degrees represented 40 fields of study, while those receiving graduate degrees represented 23.

“These graduates leave us today with new knowledge, new skills and, we hope, confidence in their role as professional, practical and productive citizens,” President Phil Oldham said. “Our duty is fulfilled in them – they are bold, fearless and confident.

“You are a part of something larger than yourself – a community of scholars, both faculty and students, linked by a common purpose to create and learn and share,” Oldham said.

Dr. Barbara Fleming, a 1971 graduate of Tennessee Tech and a current member of the new board of trustees, served as keynote speaker for commencement services.

Dr. Barbara Fleming served as the keynote speaker for both services. A 1971 Tech graduate, Fleming practiced at Walter Reed Army Medical Center for many years before serving as the chief quality officer of the Veterans Health Administration. She earned the Surgeon General’s Distinguished Service Medal for Contributions to the Health of the Nation, the highest award given by the Surgeon General.

A current member of Tech’s board of trustees, Fleming used T-shirts to illustrate her points to graduates.

“This might be the first Tech commencement T-shirt talk. Let’s start with a motto that I love which I found on a T-shirt: ‘Don’t wish for it, work for it,’” Fleming said. “There will be times in life when you are frustrated with the way things are going at home, in your career, in your church or community, even in the world. So, remember the quote from Mahatma Gandhi on a T-shirt: ‘Be the change that you wish to see in the world.’”

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