JOHN WRIGHT • Staff Writer | Murray Ledger and Times
Outgoing three-time Murray State University Student Government Association President Jeremiah Johnson used a big stage to do something he said he had waited to do for six years Saturday.
And it was directed at the faculty of the place that became his alma-mater several minutes later.
“I want to say thank you for the love and support you have shown to all of our students, even when you were kicking our butts when we were wrong,” Johnson said as he gave the commencement address for the 2014 graduation exercises at a packed CFSB Center as he faced more than 1,400 fellow students who were accepting their diplomas.
He said he thinks of three things when it comes to MSU. Diversity and tradition were the first two, but he seemed to especially focus on the third — family.
“I’ve seen some students come here who really didn’t have what they could call a family, while there would be others who couldn’t stop calling their family every five minutes,” Johnson said, drawing laughter. “Somehow along the way, though, we found our MSU family, where we were treated like we were at home.
“That is what Murray is about. At the end of the day, we’re here for each other.”
Long-time MSU Journalism professor Dr. Bob Valentine served as one of the emcees for Saturday’s event and said it is always an honor to watch the students cross into the next phase of their lives.
“To me it is more than anything a reminder of how long and how hard they have worked to get here,” said Valentine, who shared the emcee role with Mark Welch, interim executive director of the MSU Office of Development and also coordinator for the successful Town & Gown program.
“However, this day is also all about the parents and that’s why we really try hard to get all of the names correctly pronounced. This is an important day and we want to make it as memorable as possible for everyone involved.”
This was also a big day for the man recently named the 12th president in MSU ‘s history, Dr. Tim Miller, who assumed the interim president’s position after the departure of Dr. Randy Dunn. Miller leaves having guided MSU through the time between Dunn leaving and the hiring of the man who was named the 13th president in Murra, Dr. Bob Davies, and having pretty much kept a promise to attend as many campus functions as possible.
Johnson, from the podium, saluted Miller.
“I remember when he said, ‘Now guys, I know we have a new president, but would you allow me to shake hands and say, ‘Congratulations’ to those graduates on that stage?’ I’m glad you’re here today, Dr. Miller. I sure appreciate you for everything you’ve done,” Johnson said.
“Teaching and learning is so important to me,” Miller said. “This is a special day and one of the most important events yet in ta college career,and we hope the graduates and especially their support systems remember this day.
“Remember the value of your degree,” Miller charged the Class of 2014, “and don’t forget your alma mater.”
It doesn’t appear that will be difficult for Whitney Hutchens of Murray, who graduated Saturday with a degree in Social Work. When she pulls out her black commencement cap years from now, she will see the message she wrote on it, “I Did It MSU.”
“I saw that people were doing that on (the social network) Pinterest,” Hutchens said of the art work that was lettered in the MSU school colors of blue and gold. It was one of many message and works of art participants in Saturday’s event applied to their caps.
“For one thing, I’m very proud of myself and this is my way of saying that. Plus, I want my family to be able to see me when I walk in today so this might make it a bit easier. I told them what to look for.”
Saturday also marked an historic day for MSU as its first doctorate recipients walked the graduation line. MSU said five students — Shondell Vanessa Hickson, Roy Alan Morris, Renea Nagel-Terrell, Cheryl Deniece Parker and Lorrie Elaine Springer — all earned doctor of nursing practice degrees, the first such degrees MSU has granted in its nearly 92 years.
This is the kind of example, Outstanding Senior Man Samuel Pellock of Highland, Ill,. said shows the high caliber of teaching at MSU overall.