Class of 2017 encouraged to use WKU experience to make a good life

Members of WKU's Class of 2017 waved red towels at the conclusion of the 182nd Commencement. (WKU photo by Bryan Lemon)

WKU graduates were reminded Saturday (Dec. 9) that student success remains at the heart of why WKU exists today just as it did at school’s founding by Henry Hardin Cherry in 1906.  

“Graduates – and now our newest alumni – I’m proud that Western Kentucky University has remained true to what President Cherry envisioned – to be that place where lives are changed,” President Timothy C. Caboni told members of the Class of 2017.

“Dr. Cherry championed the success of students, and he encouraged them to give more, to do more, to be more. Thus our institutional motto, The Spirit Makes the Master,” he said. “That phrase may have a different meaning to different people. For me, it speaks to our resolve as an institution to prepare you to make a good living. But even more important, it speaks to our commitment to prepare you to make a good life – both for yourself and for those around you.”

In morning and afternoon ceremonies of its 182nd Commencement, WKU conferred degrees and certificates to 1,401 graduates — 85 associate, 1,001 bachelor’s, 243 master’s, one specialist and 11 doctoral degrees as well as 29 undergraduate and 31 graduate certificates. (More: WKU recognizes top students; photos from Commencement activities are posted on the WKU Facebook page.)

“Dr. Cherry’s passion was ensuring that men and women would be educated, and he believed that the value of that education is not in the material, but it is about creating responsible citizens,” President Caboni said.

“Commencement marks the end of the shortest phase of your engagement with WKU – you are no longer a student, but you are always a Hilltopper,” he said. “You embarked on your lifelong journey with us the first day you stepped on the Hill. And now, as you step out into the world, I challenge you to carry with you that spirit that has defined your time here. Be proud of your achievements, but use them to make a good life.”

Ogden Foundation Scholar Kelly Burgess encouraged her fellow graduates to use their knowledge and skills wisely and to become leaders.

“For me, one of the defining characteristics of the spirit that I found at WKU is the spirit to serve others,” said Burgess, a Hospitality Management and Dietetics major and graduate of the Mahurin Honors College. “During your time at WKU, you gained knowledge that enables you to serve in your area of expertise. As an individual, you have talents and gifts that no one else has. Using the combination of these, your internal passion and the spirit acquired at WKU, you can, and will, make a tremendous difference in the world.”

Burgess, the daughter of Keith and Beth Burgess of Franklin, Tennessee, received WKU’s top graduation honor at the morning ceremony. The Ogden Foundation Award is presented to one graduating baccalaureate degree senior who has demonstrated exceptional academic achievement and outstanding university and civic engagement.

“As I mentioned, earning a degree gives you the honor and responsibility of being a leader,” she said. “However, leading does not have to be anything more than humbly using your knowledge, talents and passions to serve others. Let the spirit you found here remind you that the best way to lead is to truly serve.”

Student Government Association President Andi Dahmer congratulated graduates for believing in themselves and for persevering on their journey to a college degree. “When you harken back to your time at WKU be filled with pride, you’ve achieved an educational success that no one can take away,” she said. “Remember this, believe that you can – and you will.”

The morning ceremony included graduate and undergraduate degree candidates in the Gordon Ford College of Business, College of Health and Human Services and University College. The afternoon ceremony included graduate and undergraduate degree candidates in the Potter College of Arts & Letters, College of Education and Behavioral Sciences and Ogden College of Science and Engineering. More: Commencement program

Contact: Registrar, (270) 745-3351

Posted with permission from WKU News