WKU Class of 2020 celebrates Commencement

WKU Class of 2020 celebrates Commencement
Updated: May. 8, 2021 at 10:25 PM CDT
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BOWLING GREEN, Ky. (WBKO) - In a ceremony delayed a year by a global pandemic, members of Western Kentucky University’s Class of 2020 celebrated their graduation in person Saturday at Houchens Industries-L.T. Smith Stadium.

“When you began your journey toward that degree at WKU, it was unimaginable at the time that your Commencement celebration would be postponed by a global pandemic. But we all know the story that unfolded last year - when the unfathomable became reality - and almost overnight we altered most every aspect of our lives,” President Timothy C. Caboni said in congratulating the Class of 2020 and welcoming several hundred graduates back to campus.

“There is no place I would rather be than here with you today! I believe this is likely the first -- and let’s hope only -- Commencement ceremony for those who have already commenced! I’m so grateful that we can take this day to celebrate your achievements!”

In a virtual ceremony last May, WKU conferred degrees and certificates to 3,094 graduates from spring and summer 2020 -- 106 associate, 2,161 bachelor’s, 582 master’s, 59 doctoral and 10 specialist degrees, and 216 undergraduate certificates. (More: Commencement program)

“What you overcame wasn’t easy, and I’m so proud of you for facing unthinkable challenges head-on, for adapting to a remarkably different world around you and for persisting in order to succeed,” President Caboni said.

Former Student Government Association President Will Harris encouraged the graduates to reflect on their accomplishments and memories and to never forget their home on the Hill.

“When each of you stepped foot on this campus, you made WKU your home, you turned an institution of buildings into an institution filled with life. You filled this campus with joy. You filled the campus with laughter, with memories,” Harris said.

“You took a campus and you turned it into a home. Fellow Hilltoppers, that will never change. WKU will forever be your home. Be proud of this tremendous accomplishment -- you overcame an obstacle that no one could anticipate, and you came out stronger.”

Award recognitions

WKU recognized the spring 2020 recipients of the top graduate and undergraduate academic awards.

Ava Fergerson of Bowling Green, who graduated with a Master of Science in Psychology with a concentration in Psychological Sciences, was recognized as the John D. Minton Award recipient. Fergerson is enrolled in the clinical psychology doctoral program at the University of Southern Mississippi. The Graduate School’s top award is named for Dr. John D. Minton, who was a history professor and WKU’s first graduate dean and who served as vice president for Administrative Affairs and as WKU’s fifth president. (More: 2019-2020 Outstanding Graduate Students)

Dallas McKinney of Mayfield, a graduate of the Mahurin Honors College who earned a Bachelor of Science degree in Meteorology and a Bachelor of Science in Geographic Information Science along with a Certificate in Geographic Information Systems, was recognized as the spring 2020 Ogden Foundation Scholar. The award, WKU’s top undergraduate graduation honor, is presented to one graduating baccalaureate degree senior who has demonstrated exceptional academic achievement and outstanding university and civic engagement. (More: WKU recognized 43 Scholars of the College in May 2020)

Doctoral graduates

The College of Education and Behavioral Sciences recognized the following spring/summer 2020 doctoral graduates:

Educational Leadership Doctoral Program: Thomas Tyler Clark, Michelle Elkins, Shannon Gilkey, Robert Howard, Berschel Robert Hunt, Lisa Ann Hunt, Iffy Onwelumadu, Anthony Paganelli, Jessica Powers, Irina Rader, Troy Robertson, Xiaoxue Xiang (Note: Dissertation/project titles in Commencement program)

Doctor of Psychology (Psy.D.) in Applied Psychology: Joseph C. Case, Mary Ellen Foley (Note: Dissertation/project titles in Commencement program)

The College of Health and Human Services recognized the following spring/summer 2020 doctoral graduates:

Doctor of Nursing Practice: Mary K. Barrett, Erinn L. Basista, Brandy M. Blue, Kristen D. Clary, Anjali D. Cunningham, Brandi W. Fruin, Tara E. Hewitt, Jenifer L. Hill, Jessica C. Ingram, Tracy L. Jenkins, Krystal B. McKain, Michael C. Partin, Allison L. Pedigo, NaKeisha J. Perkins, Melissa G. Simpson, Kaitlin M. Wells, Mose Young (Note: Dissertation/project titles in Commencement program)

Doctor of Physical Therapy: Shelby Nicole Adams, Katelyn N. Bean, Ryan Beard, Derek L. Brockman, Caleb Zane Driver, Kristin N. Fortunski, William Hayes Fowlkes, Micah T. Jones, Keagan Isabell Walker, Erin McNeil, Chandler McPherson, Daniel B. Nisbet, Jackie Ann Plunkett, Chase Perkins, Hannah Raulston, Kyle T. Ray, Clint Raymer, Chelsea Danielle Rilley, Sarah Catherine Sadler, Brady Emmons Saunders, Thomas Brent Shifflett, Nicholas Smith, Megan M. Sternberg, Katie N. Thomas, Titus A. Wade, Cara Lynn Warning, Megan E. Willie, Jamal Wittmer, Claire Youngquist (Note: Dissertation/project titles in Commencement program)

Commencement notes

Dr. Julia Roberts, the Mahurin Professor of Gifted Studies and the Executive Director of The Center for Gifted Studies and The Carol Martin Gatton Academy of Mathematics and Science in Kentucky, carried the Mace to lead the procession of platform guests. The honor of carrying the mace is given to the faculty member in attendance who has served the longest tenure. Dr. Roberts has taught at WKU for 40 years.

The National Anthem was led by spring 2020 graduate and Vocal Performance major Sarah Chapman.

Joe Morel, President of the WKU Alumni Association National Board of Directors, welcomed graduates to the WKU Alumni family.

WKU recognized graduates and those in attendance who are serving in the U.S. military or are military veterans.

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