When East Tennessee State University’s fall commencement takes place Saturday morning, graduates from a myriad of academic backgrounds will hear from speakers Travis Graves, an ETSU associate professor, and Dr. Shirley Raines, present emeritus of the University of Memphis.
Those graduating will also hear from ETSU President Dr. Brian Noland, even though the university’s president will not be physically present at the ceremony.
The university announced earlier this week that Noland would be unable to participate in the ceremony as he continues to recover from injuries suffered in a mid-November car crash. However, university officials said Noland has recorded a video that will be played at the ceremony.
“It’s really cool that he’s doing a graduation piece, even though he can’t physically be there,” Student Government Association President Michael Wallace said, “because he’s the type of person that will just be there some way, somehow. So I look forward to seeing his piece there.”
ETSU was quiet Thursday, as many students were headed home after completing this semester’s final exams. But, like Wallace, other students still on campus Thursday afternoon praised Noland’s effort to be in attendance at the ceremony, at least in spirit.
“I know a lot of students are sad or disappointed that he will not be there because he is so active on campus,” ETSU Junior Jessica Cadwallader said. “A lot of students do know him personally, but I think it’s great that, even though he is not feeling well, he’s still going to make a huge effort to have his presence there for those who are graduating.”
Earlier this week, Noland posted a video on ETSU’s website as part of his monthly “From My Notepads” videos. In the video, Noland expressed appreciation to members of their community, as well as ETSU staff and students, for their support, discussed his injuries and said he hoped to return to conducting campus business in January.
ETSU senior Gabby Billiot said she viewed Noland’s video posted earlier this week, adding that Noland is the type of person that will “always try to do the work he needs to do.” She said, because of this, Noland’s effort to somehow be present at the ceremony is not surprising.
“He’s the kind of person that will try and do something, even though he can’t physically do anything,” she said.
“I think it’s awesome that he’s trying to be there any way that he possibly can,” ETSU student Elizabeth Triplett said. “It means a lot to the graduating students to have their president there, whether it be in person or via video. I think he would be there if he could, and we all know that. So I think it’s good that he’s put forth the effort to try to be there one way or another.”
The first ceremony will begin at 10 a.m. with Graves, an associate professor in the Department of Art and Design, speaking. Raines will deliver the 2 p.m. address in the ETSU/Mountain States Health Alliance Athletic Center.
But before ETSU’s ceremony, Milligan College will have its fall Commencement tonight at 7 in the Mary B. Martin Auditorium of Seeger Memorial Chapel.
The college will award 101 degrees at the ceremony to five Bachelor of Arts students, 39 Bachelor of Science students, 19 Master of Business Administration students, nine Master of Education students and 29 Master of Science in Occupational Therapy students.
The keynote speaker at the Milligan ceremony will be Dr. Gene Wigginton, retired president of Standard Publishing in Cincinnati.
Those unable to attend the Milligan ceremony may view it live online at www.milligan.edu/streaming.