Light rain couldn’t dampen the enthusiasm of graduates Thursday evening as they made their way into Houchens Industries-L.T. Smith Stadium for Western Kentucky University’s 191st Commencement.
As rain ended and the sun peeked through the clouds, President Timothy C. Caboni noted that WKU’s newest alumni faced the most trying set of circumstances experienced by any group of college graduates in recent memory.
“Through the interruptions and obstacles created by an unprecedented global pandemic and the devastation caused by the historic December storm, you have endured so much,” he said. “But your steadfast grit and perseverance, coupled with your relentless drive to succeed, has brought you to this point.
“Your commitment to purpose, your determination of spirit and your limitless resilience have served you exceptionally well. And if ever there were a graduating class that deserves to celebrate crossing the finish line, it is you!”
Student Government Association President Matthew Wininger reminded fellow graduates that their WKU experience has been transformative. “We came here to earn a degree, but we leave here with so much more,” he said.
“WKU’s mission is to prepare students of all backgrounds to be productive, engaged, and socially responsible citizen-leaders of a global society. Our WKU experience has done just that,” Wininger continued. “Strengthened by the unusual and unprecedented set of circumstances that we faced, we are now prepared to take on whatever lies in front of us. Through these hardships, our light shined and the Hilltopper spirit persisted.”
WKU presented honorary doctorates to Angela Alexander Townsend and Abraham Williams Jr., both of Bowling Green. Townsend, a longtime educator and a 2015 inductee into the Gov. Louie B. Nunn Kentucky Teacher Hall of Fame, received an honorary doctorate of humanities. Williams, Executive Director of the Housing Authority of Bowling Green who has partnered with WKU on numerous projects, received an honorary doctorate of public service. (Read more about the honorary degree recipients)
Ahmet Kaan Aydin of Istanbul, Turkey, who received a master of science in Applied Mathematics, was recognized as the John D. Minton Award recipient. The Graduate School’s top award is named for Dr. John D. Minton, who was a history professor and WKU’s first graduate dean and served as vice president for Administrative Affairs and as WKU’s fifth president. (#WKUGrad: Read more about Ahmet Aydin)
Ogden Foundation Scholar
Zena Pare of Alvaton was the Fall 2021 Ogden Foundation Scholar. She received a bachelor of science with a major in International Business, a bachelor of science with a major in Economics, and a bachelor of arts with a major in Corporate and Organizational Communication, in addition to a minor in American Sign Language Studies and certificates in Advanced Professionalism and Applied Data Analytics. (#WKUGrad: Read more about Zena Pare)
Nicholas Barth of Alvaton was the Spring 2022 as Ogden Foundation Scholar. He earned a bachelor of arts with double majors in Psychology and German, in addition to a minor in Clinical and Community Behavioral Health. (#WKUGrad: Read more about Nicholas Barth)
The Ogden Foundation Award, WKU’s top undergraduate graduation honor, is presented to one graduating baccalaureate degree senior who has demonstrated exceptional academic achievement and outstanding university and civic engagement.
The Hilltopper Army ROTC Program commissioned 15 graduates as second lieutenants in the U.S. Army.
Colonel Morgan Greene, Professor of Military Science, administered the oath of office to the following cadets (name, hometown, first duty assignment): Sean Alamo of Greensburg, Kentucky, assigned to Fort Lee, Virginia; Joshua Blackwell of Franklin, Tennessee, assigned to Fort Benning, Georgia; Cole Blaine of Smiths Grove, Kentucky, assigned to Fort Jackson, South Carolina; Jonathan Bryant of White House, Tennessee, assigned to Fort Lee, Virginia; Marissa Burnside of Hendersonville, Tennessee, assigned to Fort Sam Houston, Texas; Keith Contreras of Palatine, Illinois, assigned to Fort Lee, Virginia; Avery Duvall of Elizabethtown, Kentucky, assigned to Fort Benning, Georgia; Joseph Lee Friedman of Princeton, Indiana, assigned to Fort Rucker, Alabama; Jamie Goings of Bardstown, Kentucky, assigned to Fort Lee, Virginia; Anthony Griffin of Elizabethtown, Kentucky, assigned to Fort Sill, Oklahoma; Jordan Hardy of Fort Campbell, Kentucky, assigned to Fort Lee, Virginia; Shelby Howell of Greensburg, Kentucky, assigned to Fort Sam Houston, Texas; Janice Kampsen of Clarksville, Tennessee, assigned to Fort Sam Houston, Texas; Abraham Poku of Carthage, New York, assigned to Fort Benning, Georgia; Jack Willey of Bowling Green, Kentucky, assigned to Fort Benning, Georgia.
WKU recognized graduates and those in attendance who are serving in the U.S. military or are military veterans.
College Recognition Ceremonies
On Friday at Diddle Arena, WKU’s five academic colleges will host recognition ceremonies to celebrate the accomplishments of their graduates who will walk the line and shake hands with President Caboni.
The ceremony schedule is: College of Health and Human Services, 8 a.m.; Potter College of Arts & Letters, 10:30 a.m.; Ogden College of Science and Engineering, 1 p.m.; College of Education and Behavioral Sciences, 3:30 p.m.; and Gordon Ford College of Business, 6 p.m. The ceremonies will be broadcast by WKU PBS and will be streamed on WKU’s YouTube and Facebook pages.
WKU is expecting heavy traffic throughout the day. To accommodate traffic flow for graduates and guests, WKU Parking & Transportation is providing parking recommendations for each ceremony, including shuttle service to Diddle Arena, at https://www.wku.edu/commencement/directions.php as well as live updates at https://www.wku.edu/eventparking. More: Event parking information; #KnowParking video; parking map
Gatton Academy graduation
The Gatton Academy of Mathematics and Science will recognize 77 students from 37 counties in the Class of 2022, its 15th graduating class. The ceremony will begin at 2 p.m. Saturday at Van Meter Hall. Speakers will include Bruce Kessler, Claus Ernst and Uta Ziegler.
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Western Kentucky University prides itself on positioning its students, faculty and staff for long term success. As a student-centered, applied research university, WKU helps students expand on classroom learning by integrating education with real-world applications in the communities we serve. Our hilltop campus is located in Bowling Green, Kentucky, which was recently named by Reader’s Digest as one of the nicest towns in America, just an hour’s drive from Nashville, Tennessee.