Newly minted MTSU graduates can treasure the "years of dedication, sacrifice and hard work" that earned their new degrees and still "be greedy" when facing new choices, a longtime sociology professor said this past Saturday (8/8/15).
"We're marking this special day, the culmination for you all of years of dedication, sacrifice and hard work -- something that we don't often do," Dr. William Canak, outgoing president of the university's Faculty Senate, told the 903 students in his summer 2015 commencement address.
"What will become of this marker? Is this a fork in the road? And you know what Yogi Berra said about forks in the road. 'Take them,' he said. In the 21st century, your century, there will be many forks in the road. Choosing one fork in the road doesn't mean not choosing others. BE GREEDY. Choose a lot of forks."
Of the 903 MTSU students receiving degrees in Saturday's celebration, 673 were undergraduates and 230 were graduate students, including 214 master's degree recipients, five education-specialist degree recipients and 11 new doctoral degree-holders. One graduate student received a graduate certificate.
New graduate Juliana Morgan of Memphis, Tennessee, said her road to commencement was a long one. Graduating with honors with a 3.8 GPA, Morgan majored in child development and family in the Department of Human Sciences.
"It's crazy it's finally here," said Morgan, 21, whose entire family attended Saturday's event. "It's not hit me yet. There's been a lot of hard work. I didn't feel like it was going to end."
A member of the National Society of Collegiate Scholars, Morgan will continue working at Primrose School of Murfreesboro, which cares for preschool and kindergarten students. She said she knows she "wants to work with children. I'm not sure where it's going to take me. We'll see where God leads me."
Canak encouraged students not to fear taking changes in the next phases of their lives.
"What will the next decades bring and mean for you, and how can you negotiate the challenges, still sustaining a moral compass and sustaining a secure identity as you go beyond MTSU?" Canak asked the students.
"On a day when we celebrate your success, I want to encourage you to, with an open mind and heart, also be fearless and embrace failure. Consider your capacity to sustain learning, to sustain engagement, to sustain contributing to your community. These are the foundations for a meaningful life. I wish you many wonderful adventures. Real ones come with risks, but they can bring the possibility of happiness. I wish you all much nachas -- that's happiness."
Wearing his Army blues, psychology major Ryan McCoy of Nashville has been finishing college while working for a Nashville sign company and interning with the Army National Guard.
"I'm the first of three brothers in my family to graduate from college," said McCoy, 22, who will lead a maintenance and ordnance platoon that fixes trucks for the Guard. "I'm excited to graduate. I graduated almost on time. I'm glad to be finished."
A former cadet in the military science ROTC program, McCoy was commissioned in May and finished his course work this summer.
MTSU President Sidney A. McPhee encouraged the graduating students to thank the family members, friends and others who helped them reach this personal milestone of accomplishment.
"We see this time of commencement as a comma, rather than a period, in your life," he said. "This is just the beginning of greater things to come for you."
The university's 2015-16 academic year begins Monday, Aug. 24, with the first official day of fall 2015 semester classes. University Convocation, a public ceremony welcoming new freshmen into the MTSU family, is set for Sunday, Aug. 23, at 2 p.m. in Murphy Center.