Rain doesn’t stop Cumberland University’s 176th commencement

Staff Reports • Updated May 11, 2018 at 9:00 AM

Rain did not dampen the spirit of Cumberland University’s 176th commencement, as the highest number of students – 586 – graduated from the university. 

Nearly 75 percent of those students were present to receive their diplomas in the Dallas Floyd Recreation Center.

Because the ceremony was moved indoors, each graduate was given five tickets for guests to enter the Dallas Floyd Recreation Center. Those guests without tickets were able to view the ceremony live in the overflow areas at the Heydel Fine Arts Center, Baird Chapel, Labry Hall and the Phillips Dining Hall. An estimated 3,000 guests attended commencement.

The commencement processional included C. William McKee, provost and vice president for academic affairs, as the macebearer, followed by assistant professor Valerie King who represented the Labry School of Science, Technology and Business; assistant professor Julie Windmiller who represented the Jeanette C. Rudy School of Nursing and Health Professions and instructor Joseph P. Minor who represented the School of Humanities, Education and the Arts. Other members of the academic procession included university officials, dignitaries and honorees who comprised the platform party and representatives from the board of trust. 

The honor guard consisted of the 2018-19 student government officers Kayla Sanders, president and graduating senior; Carlos Tirado, vice president; Paige Hrobsky, secretary; Ashley Kambeitz, treasurer; and Tensaye Taye, student liaison. 

McKee announced the opening of the 176th commencement assembly. Ryan Bennett, senior minister of First United Methodist Church in Lebanon, gave the invocation. The Cumberland Chorale sang the “Star Spangled Banner,” accompanied by Lee Austin, instructor of music, and conducted by professor Brian Kilian.

Cumberland president Paul Stumb welcomed the crowd and recognized special guests state Sen. Mark Pody, state Rep. Clark Boyd, state Rep. Susan Lynn and Lebanon Mayor Bernie Ash. Cumberland board of trust chairman W.P. Bone III; faculty senate president and assistant professor Stephen Earnest and student government president Claudia Tepox all spoke words of congratulations and encouragement to the graduates. 

The musical selection was performed by Lauren Gregory, a 2018 graduate, who sang “It Wonders Me” from the musical “Plain and Fancy” by Albert Hague.

The faculty award of excellence was presented to December 2017 graduate Ally Suite who received a bachelor’s of criminal justice and public administration and is currently enrolled in the master of public service management program. The president’s award was presented to Allison Decker, who graduated summa cum laude with a double major in business administration and business management and marketing. 

The Algernon Sydney Sullivan Student Award was presented to Brandon Olin, who was a president’s ambassador, resident assistant, officer in the student government association, member of the University Singers, Delta Mu Delta and Alpha Lambda Delta honor societies, among other activities. 

The Algernon Sydney Sullivan Community Engagement Award was presented to Alexa Moscardelli, a retired Wilson County Schools teacher and the first Wilson County teacher of the year. Alexa and her family established the Francis George Moscardelli Memorial Scholarship at Cumberland for her late husband who served on the Cumberland board of trust for 23 years. 

The president’s award for teaching excellence was presented to Sandy Smith, program director for the special education programs for graduate and undergraduate students. 

Faculty promotions were announced for Danny L. Bryan, Gail E. Humes, Eric A. Landis and Jenny L. Mason. Retiring faculty members Kim Y. Finch, Stephen B. Finch, Joseph P. Minor and Trudy Wright were also recognized.

After the conferral of earned degrees, the University Singers performed the Cumberland University alma mater, conducted by 2018 graduate Emily Parks. The benediction from University chaplain and assistant professor Mike Ripski and the valedictory and farewell from McKee rounded out the ceremony.

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