TTU Spring Graduates Encouraged to Match Successes of Past Generations

Before Rear Admiral Vinson E. Smith gave Tennessee Tech University’s 999 spring graduates his charge for the future, he made sure they took a moment to appreciate the tremendous contributions made by their parents’ and grandparents’ generations.

Smith, a native of Carthage and a TTU alumnus who commands the U.S. Naval Forces, Southern Command, shared stunning statistics about the accomplishments of those generations during the past six decades.

“Because of their ingenuity, the science fiction of their youth is the reality you grew up with,” Smith told the graduating class. “Their hard work and sacrifice increased your life expectancy by almost 50 years and because of them, none of you fear large epidemics of polio, smallpox, scarlet fever and others.”

Emphasizing the two generations’ willingness to fight for freedom, Smith pointed out that the grisly war against Hitler and fascism and the Cold War against the Soviet Union had been won by many parents and grandparents of today’s graduating class.

“Today, we are engaged in yet another war, the global war on terror,” said Smith. “This will be your war to win. Again, our way of life hangs in the balance.”

Smith encouraged graduates to think like a group from the 1970s who, many right out of college, worked at Palo Alto Research Center. The group, which included a young Bill Gates, came up with extraordinary accomplishments in a span of five years. They created an editor that evolved into every world processing program we use today, networks for connecting personal computers, laser printers, a method for transferring large data files over computers, and a new computer language.

“I believe you will live in what will become known as the knowledge management age,” Smith told graduates. “When I ‘googled’ Tennessee Technological University, I got more than 20,000 hits. By the same token, those 20,000 hits demonstrate the system’s weakness — it still doesn’t do a spectacular job of separating the wheat from the chaff.

“The man, woman or group who comes up with an efficient and cost-effective way of doing this is going to be your generation’s next Bill Gates,” Smith said.

Smith, a 1974 TTU agriculture graduate, continues a distinguished military career. His awards include the Legion of Merit, Bronze Star, Defense Meritorious Service Medal, Meritorious Service Medal with two gold stars, and the Navy Commendation Medal.
Prior to commencement, the university ROTC Battalion held its spring commissioning ceremonies. Students who earned their commissions as second lieutenant along with their bachelor’s degrees were David J. Coffey, Christopher N. Hise, Jonathan P. Hitchcock, Janek C. Kaslikowski and Christopher D. Webb.

During commencement, more than 130 students received master’s degrees, 77 earned the Specialist in Education degree, and three received doctorates of philosophy.
Students graduating this term hail from 73 Tennessee counties, 21 other states, and 12 foreign countries. Degrees awarded represent 43 undergraduate and 21 graduate-level fields of study.