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The 176th Commencement of Cumberland University

5/5/2018

Rain did not dampen the spirit of Cumberland University’s 176th commencement, as the highest number of students ever — 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 of 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 Dr. C. William McKee, provost and vice president for academic affairs, as the macebearer, followed by Assistant Professor Dr. Valerie King representing the Labry School of Science, Technology, and Business; Assistant Professor Julie Windmiller representing the Jeanette C. Rudy School of Nursing and Health Professions, and Instructor Joseph P. Minor representing the School of Humanities, Education, and the Arts. Other members of the academic procession included the university officials, dignitaries, and honorees who comprised the platform party, and representatives of 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. 

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

CU President Dr. 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. CU Board of Trust Chairman W.P. Bone, III; Faculty Senate President and Assistant Professor Dr. 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 now 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 Bachelor of Business Administration and Business Management and Marketing. The Algernon Sydney Sullivan Student Award was presented to Brandon Olin, who has been a president’s ambassador, resident assistant, officer in the student government association, member of the University Singers, member of 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 school teacher from the Wilson County School system 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 Dr. Sandy Smith, program director for the Special Education programs for graduate and undergraduate students. 

Faculty promotions were announced for Dr. Danny L. Bryan, Dr. Gail E. Humes, Dr. Eric A. Landis and Dr. Jenny L. Mason. Retiring faculty members Dr. Kim Y. Finch, Dr. 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 Dr. Mike Ripski, and the valedictory and farewell from Dr. McKee rounded out the ceremony.