Among them was the second youngest graduate in the history of Tennessee Tech. Mindy Reynolds, 17, of Cookeville earned her college degree majoring in Spanish just 10 days shy of accepting her high school diploma. She and the other graduates join the ranks of more than 44,000 Tennessee Tech alumni.
June Scobee Rodgers, head of the Challenger Center for Space Science Education and widow of Space Shuttle Challenger commander Dick Scobee, along with her husband, Lt. Gen. T. Donnell Rodgers, former director of the U.S. Defense Communications Agency and 1957 graduate of Tennessee Tech, spoke to the graduates about how to be successful in life.
Mrs. Rodgers gave the graduates the same advice she gave her daughter when she graduated from college, telling them to mind their 'P's' and 'Q's' by having priorities, being positive, passionate and persistent while surrounding themselves with people they believe in, recognizing the power of prayer, and praising those who encourage them. The only "Q" she could think of, she said, was "quote your mother often."
"Rather than the end, the word 'commencement' means to begin," she told the near-capacity crowd of graduates and their families and friends. "Have a vision, a mission, and accept the challenges before you. Look to the stars, dream and reach for your mission."
Taking the stage after his wife, Donnell Rodgers remarked at how fortunate the graduates were to earn their degrees from Tennessee Tech. With their degrees, he said, comes one of the most important priorities in life -- ability. He urged the graduates to believe in themselves and trust their own instincts. But most of all, he stressed the importance of character.
"Have a set of values, integrity and honor in your lives," he said. "Soon you'll be making decisions that will affect the lives of so many others around you. Live your lives and conduct your affairs so that you can be free to make those decisions based on your training, instruction, integrity and honor Ñ the most important characteristics you possess."
Some 38 undergraduate and 14 graduate fields of study were represented during the ceremony. Graduates hailed from 10 foreign countries, 20 states including Tennessee and 81 Tennessee counties. One doctoral degree was awarded, and two graduates also earned commissions as second lieutenants in the U.S. Army.Also honored during the ceremony were the university's three Outstanding Faculty Awards recipients. Dan Fesler, associate professor of accounting and business law, and Brian O'Connor, associate professor of mathematics, accepted the Outstanding Faculty Awards for Teaching. Jeffery Roberts, associate professor of history, received the Outstanding Faculty Award for Professional Service.