Cumberland University celebrated its 171st commencement on the front lawn of Memorial Hall on Saturday, conferring degrees on more than 400 students of its class of 2013.
In a ceremony punctuated by vibrant musical performances and rousing speeches, Cumberland honored graduating students representing nine countries, 25 states and 48 Tennessean counties.
University President Harvill Eaton presided over the event, telling students to “always strive for success, and in whatever you do, serve with purpose.”
The event kicked off as retiring education professor Dorothy “Dot” Jenkins bore the university’s symbolic mace in an opening processional. Officials honored Jenkins for more than 35 years of service, during which she trained and inspired more than 1,000 educators.
The university also honored Martha Bradshaw and her late husband, Dr. James Bradshaw, with the Algernon Sidney Sullivan Award, recognizing their years of service and devotion to Cumberland and the Wilson County community.
A member of the Cumberland University Board of Trust, Martha Bradshaw was instrumental in planning the Phoenix Ball since its inception. James Bradshaw, who passed away in February, served the Wilson County community as a physician for much of his life.
Undergraduate Allyson Clair Agee, who won the Algernon Sidney Sullivan Award for her outstanding performance as a student, athlete and leader, was similarily honored.
Eaton also recognized students Hannah Lane Clement and Chelsea Dawn Hardin, who received the President’s Award, and Jason Grindstaff, assistant professor of health and human performance, who received the President’s Award for Teaching Excellence.
In addition to celebrating the more than 400 students who donned caps and gowns Saturday, the university also paid tribute to four departing faculty members, including Jenkins; Wilbur “Pete” Peterson, vice president for academic affairs; Annette Allison, assistant professor of education; and Mildred Saffell-Smith, assistant professor of education.
The 171st commencement capped a year of change for Cumberland University, which recently initiated institutional changes to continue to offer students an affordable, high quality-education.