Despite the threat of wintry weather, hundreds of excited students, family, and friends made their way to Bethel’s Rosemary and Harry Crisp II Arena to cheer on the university’s newest group of graduates this weekend. In his welcoming remarks, Bethel University President Walter Butler noted that 1,108 Bethel University students graduated during the 2018 calendar year. A total of 374 students from the colleges of Arts and Sciences, Professional Studies, and Health Sciences matriculated during the December commencement.During the ceremony, Dr. Joe Sam was honored as Professor Emeritus.

Bethel President Dr. Walter Butler noted that Bethel is in its 177th year and is in the top ten percent of colleges and universities in the United States.

“You are part of a class across the country in 40 states,” he said.

Anne B. Pope, Executive Director of the Tennessee Arts Commission, served as commencement speaker. During her remarks, Pope -- the former federal co-chair of the Appalachian Regional Commission, commissioner of the Tennessee Department of Commerce and Insurance and the current executive director of the Tennessee Film, Entertainment, and Music Commission – spoke frankly about some of her mistakes and failures and encouraged the audience to learn from her experiences and “do what you always dreamed.”

Her theme of “Do it, live it, give it” inspired listeners to take the road less traveled.

She advised graduates to decide who you want to be: “Do it and live it. Listen and laugh at yourself. Give a life and give of your heart.”

She spoke of The Dixie Theatre in Huntingdon, and it being a state of the art facility. She mentioned that Jason Isbell performed there the night before to a sold out crowd. The audience came from 15 states, she said.

She advised not to ever be afraid to open the door and take the road less traveled.

“Be who you want to be, because life is a journey, and you should cherish every moment,” Pope said. Most importantly, she stressed, “Give something that will outlast you.”

Local graduates included: Emily Myers, Huntingdon, Master of Business Administration; Kelly Brinkman, Huntingdon, Bachelor of Science; Timothy Ellis, Huntingdon, Bachelor of Science; Daniel Delgado, McKenzie, Bachelor of Science; Jolie Reid, McKenzie, Bachelor of Science; Andrew Rush, Huntingdon, Bachelor of Science; Tamera Williams, Huntingdon, Bachelor of Science (Magna Cum Laude); Kevin Beck, McKenzie, Bachelor of Arts (Magna Cum Laude); Nida Ntita, McKenzie, Bachelor of Arts (Suma Cum Laude); Jennifer McCord, Atwood, Bachelor of Science, Jennifer Silver, Huntingdon, Bachelor of Science, Jason Paris, McKenzie, Associate of Applied Science; and Michael Sevarns, Huntingdon, Associate of Applied Science.

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