A record-breaking 718 students participated in spring commencement at Union University on May 16 at Oman Arena.
Saturday’s graduates join 348 graduates from the December 2014 graduation and an expected 180-200 graduates in the July 2015 graduation to complete Union’s 2014-15 graduating class.
“Quite honestly, it is very humbling,” said Dr. Samuel W. “Dub” Oliver, Union University President. “It is an immense privilege and honor to serve and lead at Union.
“Graduation is one of those times when the grandness of our university is on display – 718 students graduated who each, in their own right, have accomplished a great deal,” Oliver said. “Thousands of parents, family members and friends are present and a community of servants (faculty and staff) all want everything to be just right for everyone,”
Oliver completed his third graduation ceremony and first May graduation as Union’s president.
Due to inclement weather, the ceremony was moved from the Great Lawn on Union University’s campus to Oman Arena located beside Madison Academic High School.
The commencement was split into two ceremonies because the large number of graduates was expected to attract more spectators than the 4,800 seat capacity of the arena. According to university estimates, more than 7,000 spectators attended the two ceremonies.
The first commencement was held at 3 p.m. for BSOL (Bachelor of Science in Organizational Leadership) and all graduate students. The second commencement started at 6:15 p.m. for all traditional undergraduate students.
Steve Gaines, Union alumnus and pastor of Bellevue Baptist Church in Cordova, Tennessee, gave the address at both commencement ceremonies.
Gaines challenged graduates, faculty, friends and family to live a life devoted to prayer, filled with the power of God and to proclaim the gospel often.
The Elizabeth Tigrett Medal was awarded to Phillip Richard Kurtzweil, biochemistry major. The medal has been awarded since 1912 by vote of the entire Union faculty to an outstanding member of the senior class.
After the presentation of diplomas in the second ceremony, Will Duncan, senior class president and engineering major, gave a short address and announced the senior gift, a patio for outdoor cafeteria seating.
In Duncan’s speech, he informed the crowd that each traditional undergraduate student graduating had invested around $100.00 every day since the beginning of freshman year to pay for tuition and fees.
He explained that this was a lofty investment, but that it was a worthwhile investment. At the end of his speech, Duncan encouraged his fellow classmates to go out into the “real world” and start returning on the investment they had just spent four years building up.
“Thank you to everybody that has contributed to my college experience, professors, friends, faculty and staff,” Duncan said. “Anyone who has given me advice or encouraged me throughout this time has contributed to my education and college career immensely.”
Students expressed appreciation for their college experience.
“I love how easy Union makes it to get involved,” said Morgan Roth, senior nursing major. “There are so many different facets that you can plug into to make your time at union rich in opportunities and friendships.
“It gave me chills walking across the stage to receive my diploma, because I worked so hard for that moment. It is an odd thought that I have done all I can do to receive this degree. Its been a really great four years and I’m going miss it, but I’m excited about my future career in nursing,” Roth said.
“You are well prepared and are ready for what God is calling you to do,” Oliver said in his address to graduates. “Be faithful to Christ and His teachings; serve well; continue to invest in relationships, building community wherever you are; and always remember that you are welcome at Union University.”
Additional reporting by Cardinal & Cream staff.