Hayes stressed the importance of "the values of honesty and being willing to treat people right" and told the crowd that forming "a network of people early in life who share your values ... is more important than ever for the people who are graduating today."
Such a network would help them "keep [their] values intact ... learn the right skills and make the right moves to keep up with the challenges ahead," said the Alcoa native, noting that today's graduates face a future of career and location changes, unlike those of decades past.
"When you win, take time to celebrate your achievements and those of the people who are important to you," said Hayes. "It's a good way to keep a check on the values you're celebrating."
Hayes, who was appointed to the TVA Board of Directors in 1993 by President Bill Clinton, is a 1962 social science alumnus of Tennessee Tech. As one of just three full-time directors of TVA, Hayes oversees the federal corporation's policy and executive management. He is credited with revolutionizing TVA's economic development services by initiating innovative strategies based on public and private teamwork and industrial development.
About 500 degrees were conferred at the ceremony, bringing the number of Tennessee Tech alumni to more than 42,000. Three students received doctoral degrees, all in mechanical engineering: Jeffrey Xingen Dong, Satya P. Narimetla and Fan Yu.
Beth Jeanette Bible graduated in cursu honorum: and summa cum laude with a bachelor's degree in music therapy. The recognition of in cursu honorum goes only to students enrolled in the Honors Program at Tennessee Tech who maintain at least a 3.5 quality point average and complete at least 22 hours of special honors classes spread over three disciplines.
Two distinguished military graduates were noted: Eric Daniel Beaty, who earned a bachelor's degree in industrial technology, and Addie Lynn House, who earned a bachelor's degree in biology. The honor goes to those in the ROTC program with outstanding academic records. Both graduates received commissions in a ceremony immediately before commencement.
Graduating students hailed from 16 states including Tennessee and six foreign countries. They represent 37 undergraduate fields of study and 15 graduate fields.