ATHENS — Everyone has the power to positively change someone else's life, said Tennessee Wesleyan College commencement keynote speaker Bill Kilbride at the college's 157th commencement.
Following your passions and using your abilities to positively change other people's lives were the key messages shared by Kilbride, president of Mohawk Home and chief sustainability officer of Mohawk Industries. He also conveyed to the new graduates how being an alum of Tennessee Wesleyan can impact their lives.
"This college invested in my future," said Kilbride. "It wasn't just about getting me through graduation, it was about the rest of my life, and my gratitude to TWC will be for the rest of my life."
TWC's celebration of its 157th commencement spanned three days and three events. The festivities started with a Thursday evening nurse pinning ceremony, followed by Friday's baccalaureate service and Saturday's commencement. With 197 students graduating, this year's commencement celebration was the highlight of the 2013-14 academic year.
The following local students graduated at the commencement ceremony:
- Autumn Hill of Cleveland, with a bachelor of arts;
- Kattia Ruiz Valencia of Choloma, Cortes, Honduras by way of Cleveland, with a bachelor of arts;
- Marykatelyn Smith of Cleveland, with a bachelor of arts;
- Daelyn Swafford of Cleveland, with a bachelor of arts;
- Lynnette Barton of Cleveland, with a bachelor of science;
- Katie Carr of Cleveland, with a bachelor of science;
- Heather Carver of Cleveland, with a bachelor of science;
- Kimberly Cole of Cleveland, with a bachelor of science;
- Caitlan Collins of Benton, with a bachelor of science;
- Courtney Gobble of Cleveland, with a bachelor of science;
- Sara Greene of Decatur, with a bachelor of science;
- Nathan Harmon of Decatur, with a bachelor of science;
- Amberlyn Keihl of Charleston, with a bachelor of science;
- Kristina Melhorn of Decatur, with a bachelor of science;
- Kayla Nelson of Decatur, with a bachelor of science; and
- Shelbie Whitmire of Cleveland, with a bachelor of science.
Receiving their pins at a Thursday evening service at Cokesbury United Methodist Church in Knoxville, 65 nursing students graduating with their bachelor of science in nursing from Tennessee Wesleyan's Fort Sanders Nursing Department were cheered on by proud family members and friends.
"Tennessee Wesleyan has a reputation of being the best and most experience-based nursing program in the region," said Shannon Nelson, the TWC nursing class president who gave the student address at the ceremony. "Over the past three years of studies and clinicals, I have realized that being a graduate of TWC and having that TWC pin carries a lot more weight than I ever imagined."
Following the nurse pinning ceremony, all 197 new graduates gathered together in Athens, at Friday's baccalaureate service in TWC's Townsend Auditorium to enjoy fellowship and words of assurance and affirmation from special guest speakers. The Rev. Dr. Stella Roberts shared a sermon with the students, their family and friends and the TWC faculty and staff who were in attendance.
"Remember to love one another," said Roberts, director of connectional ministries for the United Methodist Church. "The world will be at least a little better. The greatest gift of all, above all, is to love all."
Saturday's 157th commencement was held in Athens, on the college's Wesley Commons Lawn, and was a celebration of the academic achievements of its 2014 graduates. In addition to Bill Kilbride's keynote address, Sydney Varajon, a new 2014 summa cum laude TWC graduate, also gave a student address.
"Tennessee Wesleyan is a place where stories are interwoven, where lives intersect," said Varajon. "Rather than an institution where people have numbers and not names, Wesleyan is a community that emphasizes qualitative instead of mere quantitative existence. Professors and peers alike encourage us to ask questions, to explore ideas and to grow into ourselves.
"At Wesleyan we have not been taught what to think but how to think, not what to see but how to see. There exists a remarkable bond between TWC faculty, staff and students. As we leave this campus, it is my hope that we will go boldly, but gently. We go into the world now with a rich Wesleyan heritage, a tradition of light and truth. More importantly, we have a legacy of love and as heirs of such, we have the responsibility to share it."
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