Under clear blue skies Saturday, Cumberland University held its 173rd Commencement ceremony - the final for CU President Dr. Harvill Eaton, who announced his plans to retire earlier this year.
For some graduates, the journey to a diploma took four years; for others it may have taken five or so, but for all it was a bittersweet conclusion to their time at Cumberland. Graduates embraced one another, cried and cheered as they received their diplomas and prepared to enter into the "real world" and begin their careers.
"This feels outstanding! I am so happy this day has finally arrived," Josh McCausland, an art and design major from Cincinnati who received the university's Community Service Award, said. "I feel like I am prepared to tackle whatever comes my way. I will miss Cumberland very much, but I am ready to begin my career."
The ceremony was Eaton's 12th since becoming the university's 25th president in 2004. He expressed his gratitude to the students, wishing them the best as they begin their post-college lives.
"My simple words to you are go and be successful in your journey," Eaton said. "Live your life fully, with meaning and with integrity."
Bob McDonald, chairman of the CU Board of Trust and president and CEO of CedarStone Bank, honored Eaton and his wife, Lois, for their contributions and dedication to the university and community.
The Mace Bearers for the ceremony were three faculty members who received their doctoral degrees over the past year - Drs. Joy Kimbrell, Rhonda Landers and Danny Bryan, an assistant professor of biology who also received the President's Award for Teaching Excellence.
The Algernon Sydney Sullivan Award is presented annually to students and community members who exhibit the ideals of heart, mind and conduct and a spirit of love for and helpfulness to others. This year's student recipient was Karli Collins, an athletic training and health and human performance major from Tarpon, Fla. The community recipients were Lebanon's Bob and Pam Black.
In all, 514 students graduated from CU with 392 participating in Saturday's ceremony. There were an estimated 3,700 guests in attendance.