Speaker Harwell, Millard Oakley to address Tennessee Tech graduates

More than 1,300 students are preparing to graduate from Tennessee Tech University on Saturday, May 11, at the Hooper Eblen Center.

Graduates of the Colleges of Agricultural & Human Sciences, Arts and Sciences, Engineering, and Interdisciplinary Studies will have a 9:30 a.m. commencement ceremony. At 2 p.m., graduates of the Colleges of Business and Education will have their ceremony.

Both ceremonies will be livestreamed at www.tntech.edu/web/live.

Beth Harwell, speaker of the Tennessee House of Representatives, will address graduates and guests during the morning ceremony.

Representing State House District 56, which includes part of Davidson County, Harwell is the first female speaker in Tennessee. She was the prime sponsor of the state’s public charter school law and is an advocate for tougher sexual abuse laws, victims’ rights, welfare reform, children’s issues and education.

She has received the Guardian of Small Business Award twice from the National Federation of Independent Businesses, and she was the Junior Leagues of Tennessee’s 2012 Legislator of the Year.

Harwell has a bachelor’s degree from Lipscomb University and a doctoral degree from Vanderbilt University, and she has served on the faculty of Lipscomb and Belmont University.

Millard Oakley will address the afternoon ceremony. A 1947 graduate of Livingston Academy High School, Oakley attended TTU and earned a bachelor of laws degree from Cumberland University School of Law in 1951.

Oakley served four terms in the Tennessee General Assembly, with one term at the Constitutional Convention. He is a former member of the Tennessee Board of Regents, and he serves on the Tennessee Tech Foundation. From 1971 to 1973, Oakley was general counsel for the U.S. House of Representatives Select Committee on Small Business. From 1975 to 1979 he served as the state commissioner of insurance and commerce; he had jurisdiction over state savings and loans, securities and other regulatory matters.

He is the namesake of TTU’s Millard Oakley STEM Center, which has reached thousands of students, educators and visitors through its hands-on programs in science, technology, engineering and mathematics since opening in 2010. The public library in Overton County bears his name as the Millard Oakley Public Library, and The Millard and J.J. Oakley Administration Building at Volunteer State Community College is named for him and his wife. He is the principal shareholder of the First National Bank of Tennessee and serves on its board of directors.