UTM brings commencement to May Grads

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May graduates at the University of Tennessee at Martin had no commencement to attend because of the COVID-19 pandemic. So, the university delivered commencement to them Saturday, May 2, through UT Martin’s first-ever virtual commencement streamed on Facebook Live and YouTube. The ceremony will be archived on YouTube with closed captioning included for later viewing. The live event was produced by the UT Martin Office of Intercollegiate Athletics and Department of Communications in cooperation with other areas of the university.
The event was closed to the public and was led by Chancellor Keith Carver, Provost Philip Acree Cavalier and the university’s academic deans. Campus Minister Amanda Crice, of the UT Martin Wesley Foundation, was also present to deliver the invocation. Participants engaged in social distancing in compliance with Centers of Disease Control and Prevention COVID-19 control guidelines.
The event drew 722 YouTube views, approximately 1,700 live views and 36,000 views on Facebook, and also generated 538 shares. More than 700 students were eligible to receive degrees, and more than 400 submitted photographs that were streamed following the conferral of degrees by Carver.
The 10 a.m. ceremony marked the first outdoor UT Martin commencement since 1977 spring commencement was held at what is now Hardy M. Graham Stadium. Mace Bearer Doug Cook, retiring Department of Visual and Theatre Arts chair, graduated in the 1977 commencement and closed his UT Martin career by serving in the honorary role during the virtual event.
Among his duties, Carver also delivered a brief commencement address in which he acknowledged the challenging semester that just ended but noted that, “In life, disruption happens.” He recalled how the university and its predecessors struggled during different points in history. “What we’ve learned through all of this is the University of Tennessee (at) Martin is tough, and our people are resilient, and resourceful and creative, and we persevere,” he said.
Carver talked about the pedestrian-friendly reputation of the campus and community and often walks from campus to downtown Martin. One of his favorite downtown locations is Virginia Weldon Park where an Adopt-A-Spot location features plants and flowers cared for by volunteers. “Graduates, today, I want to commend you to adopt your own spot in this world,” he said, which could be a person, a community cause or a global issue. “There’s all sorts of pain, and suffering and confusion, especially right now, but graduates, I want you to respond to that in your spot with love, attention and care.”
Three other speakers joined the virtual commencement celebration through pre-recorded video segments, including University of Tennessee President Randy Boyd, Devin Majors, of Nashville, a two-term Student Government Association presidentand future University of Tennessee College of Law student, and Amy West, a 1997 UT Martin graduate and president of UTM’s alumni council.
Remembered during the event was Kirk Maddox, of Huntingdon, who died April 20 and received his Bachelor of Science in Health and Human Performance posthumously. Also remembered was Dr. Hyungju Hur, UT Martin assistant professor of history, who died April 26.