Tennessee Wesleyan graduates 83 at college's first winter commencement

Posted on: December 8, 2012

Tennessee Wesleyan College celebrated its first winter commencement, graduating 83 students at Friday's ceremony in Townsend Memorial Hall.

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Tennessee Wesleyan College celebrated its first winter commencement, graduating 83 students at Friday's ceremony in Townsend Memorial Hall. Family and friends of the students and the college gathered together to honor the new Tennessee Wesleyan graduates receiving their degrees and to hear commencement speaker Dr. James Dawson, a former TWC president currently serving as president of Lincoln Memorial University, share his encouragement and wisdom with the graduating class.

"This is a celebration of the achievements of our new graduates," said Dr. Harley Knowles, TWC president. "In our 155th year of service as an educational leader in Southeast Tennessee, we are celebrating our first winter commencement. This is a milestone for the college as well as a milestone for our new graduates."

Friday's graduates joined a TWC alumni association of more than 6,000 members.

"We are standing on the campus of an absolutely beautiful and historic college," said Anne Montgomery, TWC chair of the alumni board and director of the Athens evening program. "The real significance of this college is you, the students, alumni, faculty and staff. The bond you have made with your friends and colleagues here should be honored, remembered and preserved."

Dawson's commencement speech echoed Montgomery's encouragement for preserving the relationships made at Tennessee Wesleyan.

"You're joining a network of alumni who all share a common bond," said Dawson, who served as president of Tennessee Wesleyan from 1995 until 2002. "Each of you now bears a responsibility to enhance the reputation of TWC. You will be leaving this place prepared to make your mark and prepared to make the name of Tennessee Wesleyan better known."

Dawson challenged the new Tennessee Wesleyan graduates to go out into the world and serve the reputation of their alma mater well.

"This diploma, which is an indication of your success, it's just a piece of paper," said Dawson. "It's up to you to bring definition and purpose to your degree. Your opportunities are expanding. Your vision for the future is growing each day. Tennessee Wesleyan College has prepared you to be productive citizens in the communities that you will call home. It has prepared you to be leaders for the future. You should face the challenges ahead with a renewed faith in the value of the degree you are receiving and the doors that will open for you because of your education."

Dawson also emphasized the impact higher education and a lifelong commitment to learning can have on young graduates.

“In the end, it is my belief, that education is more about your excitement for learning than it is about the grandest buildings and finest technology available,” Dawson said. “Faculty members that create an academic environment that fosters the engagement of students are those who truly excite you to learn. You've had that experience here. You're better for that and you will continue to learn because someone ignited that flame in you. You will be a lifelong learner not because it is required of you but because it is essential to make you feel complete.”

A sense of urgency was the one item, other than a diploma, that Dawson hoped his listeners left commencement with that evening.

“I hope you have a sense that you have achieved a milestone in your life,” said Dawson. “Tonight is a point in your life's journey that will always have meaning for you and your family. It's an occasion for celebration and a time to examine your plans for the future. It should also be a call to action. I know you'll leave here with a sense of satisfaction about what you have achieved but I hope you also leave here with a sense of urgency about what you can do now to make a difference.

“Give back to your alma mater. Give into yourself and into your world. Give your great ideas, your many talents, your unyielding energy, to make this society and our world more productive, more compassionate and a place that reflects what you believe in, what you have learned and the differences this institution has made in your life.”

The last bit of wisdom Dawson left the new graduates was borrowed from author Mark Twain.

"It was he who said always work like you don't need money, fall in love like you've never been hurt, dance like nobodies watching and live life like it's heaven on earth,” said Dawson. “I can think of no better way to challenge you to live your lives as you depart from Tennessee Wesleyan College.”



Athens Area Chamber of Commerce Awards:  Kevin Bishop and Fran Rose

Management Excellence Award: Kevin Bishop

Pi Lambda Theta Award:  Tina Owens and Debbie Manus

Jeffery L. Barnes Memorial Award:  Allison Bridges