Tennessee Tech class of 2021 celebrates commencement

COOKEVILLE – Tennessee Tech University celebrated its fall commencement ceremonies on Friday, Dec. 17, in the Hooper Eblen Center. 

“You are native Cookevillians and adopted residents,” said Tech President Philip Oldham. “Either way, this will always be your home. You belong to this community and campus. You cared for those suffering and in need, and you put your lives on hold to serve others.

“When you were asked to adapt, you did. When you were told to be patient, you were. When you were encouraged to finish strong, you did. When the pandemic changed your world, you changed me with what you did – you showed me the strength of youth in action.” 

More than 800 degrees were awarded to women and men who came to Tech from 71 counties throughout Tennessee, 15 states and 13 other countries. Those earning undergraduate degrees represent 38 fields of study, and those receiving graduate degrees represent 28 fields of study.

The birth dates of students from the class of 2021 ranged from 1955 to 2001, evidence that an education at Tech can be for everyone, regardless of age.  

“As Tech’s stature and reputation grow, so does the value of your degree,” said Oldham. “In just a few minutes, you will have a degree from one of the top ranked universities in the nation, and a university that gives you the highest average starting salary among public universities in Tennessee.”

Oldham continued, “Here’s the bottom line, and what I want you to take away from today. You are set to get a great return on investment because you have what the world wants and desperately needs: talent plus tenacity. You have clearly demonstrated those high value characteristics that are embodied within the degree you receive today. You are and forever will be bold, fearless and confident Golden Eagles.”

Retired professor Wayne Leimer was honored to serve as the official macebearer for both ceremonies. Leimer recently retired from teaching in 2021 after 50 years of service. He taught in the department of Earth sciences in the College of Arts and Sciences. The fall commencement ceremonies also featured several addresses to the graduates including remarks from Tennessee Tech Board of Trustee member Tom Jones and student member Hannah Willis, as well as remarks by the new Vice President for Student Affairs Cynthia Polk-Johnson.

A special address was given by one of the graduating class’s own – senior communications student Morgan Lee.

Lee said, “I think it’s safe to say that we have had a very unique and challenging college experience, and no one can sum it up better than someone who went through it with you all. It is an absolute honor to sit beside the 2021 December graduates today. This class has exhibited the Tennessee Tech values of being bold, fearless, confident and kind like no other.

“We entered our time at Tech boldly with ambition and promise for an amazing future,” she continued. “We entered a global pandemic and all of the precautions that come with it fearlessly. We continued to treat each other with such kindness as we all adapted to our new lives. And now, we enter a new chapter in each of our lives with the confidence that our time at Tennessee Tech has prepared us for any of life’s obstacles.”

Tech also recognized five students commissioned to serve in the armed forces as second lieutenants: Alan Burns, Sarah Crawford, Tucker Griffith, Joshua Walkup and Harmon Wattenbarger.

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