MURFREESBORO, Tenn. -- Launching careers and juggling new responsibilities will be a wonderful challenge, Smyrna Mayor Mary Esther Reed told new Middle Tennessee State University on Saturday, but carving out time for community service is critical too.
“You are leaving this beautiful campus of higher education equipped with the necessary skills to participate in life. You do not have to take a sideline to anyone,” Reed said to the newly minted fellow MTSU alumni at the morning commencement ceremony for fall 2013 at the Murphy Center in Murfreesboro.
“You have the background to make a difference,” she said. “MTSU has prepared you for that. Find something you’re passionate about, something you love, something that will further your philosophy of life. When you find that something, jump in, get involved, step up and take a leadership role.”
Reed, who earned her bachelor’s degree in early childhood education from MTSU as well as a master’s and an education specialist’s degree, started her career as a teacher. She has served on the Smyrna Town Council since 2003 and became the town’s first female mayor in August.
“I want you to know that your hometown and your university needs community-minded MTSU graduates to become involved in decision-making that makes an impact on the quality of life for your community,” she said.
Fellow alumnus Bill Ketron, who represents the 13th District in the Tennessee General Assembly, also encouraged the new graduates to commit to their communities, but he reminded them to always “remember where you came from” as well.
Saying that he was “going to do something that’s never been done at graduation here,” Ketron told students at the afternoon ceremony to “stand up, put your phones down in your seats, and give it up for everybody who’s been a part of your lives, for everybody that loves you.”
The resulting ear-splitting applause and cheers from the new graduates on the floor of Hale Arena echoed around Murphy Center and was returned by their loved ones in the stands, who waved back and applauded too.
MTSU President Sidney A. McPhee asked the new graduates to continue the tradition of excellence exemplified by the 100,000-plus MTSU alumni they’re joining around the world.
“You may feel that your long journey is over, but we … see it as just a comma in your story,” he said. “Today is just the beginning of greater things to come. We look forward to seeing the far-reaching impact of what you've learned in your studies.”
The top of one graduate’s mortarboard, where clear sequins spelled out “UT CoP ’18,” provided a glimpse of her future. Accepted to the University of Tennessee College of Pharmacy, biochemistry major Sara Adams of Manchester, Tenn., will begin classes next fall in Memphis.
“It really hasn’t hit me yet that today is the actual day,” said Adams, who graduated cum laude and became a certified pharmacy technician in August. “Ultimately, what it means is what it means to my mom.”
Among the many nontraditional students graduating was 25-year-old Brandon Myles, a liberal studies major from Pulaski, Tenn.
Myles earned his associate’s degree three years ago from Northwest Mississippi Community College, where he played quarterback on the football team. An injury and two subsequent surgeries changed his perspective and his academic future, and he transferred to MTSU two years ago.
Myles said he plans either to continue in the parks and recreation field or enhance his education by earning an information technology certification at a local technology center.
“In fact, I’d like to combine both if I can,” Myles said. “What you put into it is what you get out of it.”
MTSU presented 1,977 students – 1,655 undergraduates and 322 graduate students – with degrees in two ceremonies today.
Students from the College of Graduate Studies, Basic and Applied Sciences, Jennings A. Jones College of Business and the College of Education received their degrees in the morning ceremony.
Students in the College of Behavioral and Health Sciences, College of Liberal Arts, College of Mass Communication and the University College received their degrees in the afternoon celebration.