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WKU Commencement: President Ransdell reflects on

WKU Commencement: President Ransdell reflects on 'amazing 20 years'

In his final Commencement as WKU president, Dr. Gary A. Ransdell reflected on his tenure and thanked members of the Class of 2017 and the campus community “for the most amazing 20 years at the most amazing university in America.”

“As my passions for WKU are forever – I hope yours will be too,” Dr. Ransdell told graduates during Saturday’s undergraduate ceremonies of WKU’s 181st Commencement. “Don’t ever lose that WKU Spirit, and always exude passion, dedication and loyalty to whatever is important in your life. Just make sure WKU remains one of those important things in your life.”

WKU conferred 1,741 bachelor’s degrees, 96 associate degrees and 69 undergraduate certificates during morning, afternoon and evening ceremonies. (More: Commencement photos)

“I have been driven to make WKU better, stronger and of higher value to each and every one of you. I hope you share these WKU emotions,” he said. “To watch you grow, to watch you learn and laugh and thrive here has been special. So thank you for the meaning you have brought to my life, to my career and to my family.”

Dr. Ransdell noted that during his 20 years as president, WKU has graduated 55,000 students who earned 66,559 degrees – or 44 percent of the 150,654 degrees ever awarded at WKU and more than half of WKU’s 107,320 living alumni.

“I’m proud of many things during my WKU presidency— a bolder institutional self-esteem, a rebuilt campus, the fundraising, new degree programs, enrollment and financial growth and the internationalization of our campus — the thing I am most proud of, and moved by, is the number of degrees awarded in my time as your president,” Dr. Ransdell said.

“Yes, I am proud that over half of our living alumni have graduated during my time as president, but let me tell you what I’m going to miss the most. It is the high-fives and the hugs and the selfies with so many of you that has brought meaning, emotion and richness to these last 20 years.”

The morning ceremony included graduates of Potter College of Arts & Letters and University College; the afternoon ceremony included graduates of Gordon Ford College of Business and College of Health and Human Services; the evening ceremony included graduates of College of Education and Behavioral Sciences and Ogden College of Science and Engineering.

As the ceremonies concluded, Dr. Ransdell was joined on stage by his wife, Julie. “Thank you for the passion and the meaning and fulfillment you have brought to our lives,” he said. “Remember, happiness is the treasured goal of life, and you have given us far more than we could ever describe. You are the best part of a leading American university with international reach. We appreciate you.”

Julie Ransdell also thanked students and noted how they have been an important part of their lives. “I thank you from the bottom of my heart for making our 20 years extremely special,” she said.

Ogden Foundation Scholar

Cade McGavinn Brown, a History and Political Science major and Mahurin Honors College graduate from Franklin, was recognized as the Ogden Foundation Scholar, WKU’s highest graduation honor, at the morning ceremony.

Brown, the son of Kelly Brown and the late Mark Brown, also was recognized as a scholar of the Potter College of Arts & Letters and was one of 44 Scholars of the College honored on Saturday.


ROTC graduates

WKU recognized 10 Army ROTC cadets who are being commissioned as second lieutenants and thanked all veterans and those serving in the U.S. military for their service.

Seven cadets commissioned this spring are (name, hometown, first duty assignment): Kelsey Lynn Shimanek of Bourbonnais, Illinois, assigned to Fort Sam Houston, Texas; Kyle Taylor of Scottsville, assigned to Fort Benning, Georgia; John Schleg of Shepherdsville, assigned to Fort Gordon, Georgia; Savannah D. Pennington of Orlando, Florida, assigned to Fort Sill, Oklahoma; Michael Joseph Cunningham III of Louisville, assigned to Fort Benning, Georgia; Caleb Sloan of Greenbrier, Tennessee, Fort Leonard Wood, Missouri; Eric Edward Rohr of Watertown, Wisconsin, assigned to 2nd Infantry Division, Camp Humphreys, South Korea. (Rohr was recognized at Friday night’s graduate ceremony.)

Three cadets who participated in Saturday’s ceremonies will be officially commissioned in August. They are (name, hometown, first duty assignment): Zachary McMillen of Mount Washington, assigned to Fort Benning, Georgia; Daniel Thoele of Louisville, assigned to Fort Lee, Virginia; Quensie Brown of Elizabethtown, assigned to Fort Lee, Virginia.

Regional campus ceremonies

Dr. Ransdell recognized graduates from WKU regional campuses in Elizabethtown-Fort Knox, Glasgow and Owensboro. He will serve as keynote speaker for ceremonies Sunday and Monday in Elizabethtown and Owensboro.

The WKU Elizabethtown-Fort Knox ceremony will begin at 3 p.m. (Eastern time) Sunday (May 14) at the Hardin County Schools Performing Arts Center, 384 W.A. Jenkins Road, Elizabethtown. The WKU Owensboro ceremony will begin at 6:30 p.m. Monday (May 15) at the RiverPark Center, 101 Daviess St., Owensboro.

Commencement notes

  • English professor Walker Rutledge, a WKU faculty member for 48 years, served as chief marshal of the grand march.
  • The undergraduate ceremonies included 106 international students from 17 countries and 351 students who studied abroad in over 35 countries.  U.S. and international flags were carried during the grand march.
  • WKU students and recent graduates earned recognition 67 times this year in prestigious scholarship competitions including five Fulbright awards, two Fulbright UK Summer Institute awards, 14 Gilman Scholarships, five Critical Language Scholarships, three Boren Scholarships, a Goldwater Scholarship and honorable mention, and a Truman finalist.
  • During Friday night’s graduate ceremony, WKU conferred 29 doctor of physical therapy, 11 doctor of education, nine doctor of nursing practice, 583 master’s and nine specialist in education degrees and 58 graduate certificates.
  • On Saturday afternoon, The Gatton Academy of Mathematics and Science in Kentucky recognized 59 students from 37 counties in the Class of 2017, its 10th graduating class.
  • A total of 64 WKU student-athletes across 14 sports, boasting an average cumulative grade-point average of 3.09, graduated during the weekend ceremonies.
  • For social media posts about Commencement, follow #WKUGrad or visit

More: Commencement program

Contact: Registrar, (270) 745-3351

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 Last Modified 5/2/17