Newest Tennessee Tech grads told to “never give up”

thumb gradgirlAn education at Tennessee Tech University can be for everyone, according to TTU President Bob Bell, who cited the broad age range of TTU’s newest graduates during commencement on Saturday.

About 765 students, born from 1939 to 1992, received degrees. Graduates represented 69 Tennessee counties, 32 states and 17 other countries. Degrees were granted in 37 areas of undergraduate study and 21 areas of graduate study.

There are now more than 72,000 TTU alumni. Among them is Cookeville veterinarian Steve Copeland, who delivered Saturday’s commencement address.

Copeland received a bachelor’s degree from TTU in 1965, the year TTU was first designated as a university. He received his doctorate of veterinary medicine from Auburn University and established his practice, Copeland Veterinary Hospital in Cookeville, in 1970.

With 41 years in veterinary practice, Copeland also serves as a regent on the Tennessee Board of Regents, representing the 6th Congressional district.

Copeland’s professional path had an early stumbling block. His first application to Auburn’s then highly selective veterinary program was rejected.

“Failure and the humiliation of rejection hurt. It can often times trigger anger, envy, jealousy, self-pity and many other negative emotions,” Copeland said during his address Saturday. “But it can also challenge one’s deepest sense of value.

“The real mark of character comes from not how you react to success, but rather how you react to failure.”

Copeland said the “presumed failure” of that initial rejection became a positive adventure. “You have to get tough and move on, and I did.”

With encouragement from a mentor and a year working with a federal farm agency, he was accepted into Auburn’s veterinary school.

“There will be people who knock you down in life and trash your dreams, but never give up. Associate only with those individuals you most want to emulate. Do what you love to do, and allow no one to change that,” said Copeland.

As is customary during commencement, Bell recognized groups of outstanding students. Five students completed a bachelor's degree with a 4.0 grade point average. Recognized with the W.A. Howard award and graduating summa cum laude were business majors Courtney LeeAnn Dyer and Christopher Michael Simons; education majors Riley Marie Brewer and Martha Dianne Christopher; and engineering major Micah Joel Till.

Till also graduated in cursu honorum, an honor that comes with taking at least 22 hours of honors courses and graduating with a grade point average or 3.5 or higher. Five other students who received that honor were engineering major Stephen Lanse Lindberg; education major Lloyd Bevan Harris; arts and sciences majors Kathleen Marie Broderick and Sara Jane Whisnant; and human ecology major Joan Lissan Anthony.

Bell also acknowledged the retirement of four TTU faculty, including Jim Rose, an associate engineering professor who served as Macebearer during the commencement processional. Other retiring faculty are Sue Bailey, professor and director of the School of Human Ecology; Carl Ventrice, engineering professor; and Henrianne Willard, biology professor.

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