COOKEVILLE – More than 1,500 graduates celebrated receiving degrees on Friday at Tennessee Tech University’s Spring Commencement ceremonies, plus heard encouragement and congratulations from a major league baseball player, a cancer survivor and a student leader.
Former Tech baseball player Ethan Roberts of Sparta, who made his major league pitching debut for the Chicago Cubs just a few weeks ago, sent a video message.
“At Tech, they let me fulfill my dream,” Roberts said. “Everyone was always welcoming and helpful. And you have people along the way who ultimately mold you into who you are. It was a blessing to be at Tennessee Tech.”
Cesar Espinoza, a nursing graduate, talked about his perspective having overcome a serious health issue.
“Getting here has not been a simple task,” Espinoza said. “How we face this adversity is what defines who we are. Wherever we land, wherever we set our roots, we can fly like eagles.”
Braden Hammer, a graduating biochemistry and molecular biology major, represented the Trailblazers, student ambassadors who give personal tours and make prospective students feel welcome.
“We learned to be bold in the face of uncertainty, and fearless when the world has given every reason to be afraid,” Hammer said. “We’ve learned to walk confidently into our futures, and perhaps most importantly, we’ve learned that kindness has the power to change lives.”
President Phil Oldham told graduates they have exactly what the world wants.
“You are set to get a great return on investment because you have what the world wants and desperately needs: talent plus tenacity,” Oldham said. “You have clearly demonstrated those high value characteristics.”
Gov. Bill Lee spoke to graduates at the university’s afternoon ceremony as his family also celebrated a student earning a degree.
“Tennessee is very proud of you,” Lee said. “You are earning a degree at one of the finest higher education institutions in America, in the greatest state in the country. The people who live in this state are very proud of you and I am very proud of you as well.”
Degrees were awarded to 1,543 graduates who came to Tennessee Tech from 80 counties throughout Tennessee, 22 states and 20 other countries. They represented 43 undergraduate fields of study and 31 graduate fields of study.