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A UT Diploma: An Asset with Great Potential

Published: May 08, 2017
For the first time the University hosted two separate ceremonies at the Florida State Fairgrounds Expo Hall.
For the first time the University hosted two separate ceremonies at the Florida State Fairgrounds Expo Hall.
Between the two ceremonies, there were 1,209 bachelor’s degree candidates and 288 master’s degree candidates —1, 497 in all.
Between the two ceremonies, there were 1,209 bachelor’s degree candidates and 288 master’s degree candidates —1, 497 in all.
The Top 3 most popular undergraduate majors in this class were criminology, management and marketing.
The Top 3 most popular undergraduate majors in this class were criminology, management and marketing.

»Through Their Eyes 

Nearly 1,500 graduates walked across the stage at UT’s 144th commencement on Saturday, May 6, receiving diplomas that William B. Rutherford ’86, who gave the morning address, said are assets with great potential.

“But like most assets, it is how you put it to use and how you operate it that will determine its ultimate value,” he said, giving three suggestions for reaping its full reward.

“Traits like integrity, honesty, treating people with respect and civility, doing the right thing the right way will be your greatest asset you will ever have,” said Rutherford, chief financial officer and executive vice president at HCA Holdings Inc. “It will sustain through all cycles of life, both professionally and personally.”

Rutherford said to search out and live with a strong sense of purpose and seek out the answers to these questions: Am I doing what I want to do? Am I going where I want to go? And am I becoming who I want to become? He urged graduates to be in constant pursuit of professional development and to seek to learn as much as possible through experiences.

Khadijah Khan ’17, a journalism major, gave the morning challenge, sharing one lesson that stood out among others.

“There are always new opportunities masked under the cloak of defeat,” Khan said. “UT has shown me that a true Spartan never quits. Rather, we rise up more relentlessly than ever before and persevere until we are someone of whom we are proud.”

Alan Randolph ’90, Florida state president at Bank of the Ozarks, received the 2017 Alumni Achievement Award. Tammy Charles ’12, MBA ’14, senior manager of corporate relations at Metropolitan Ministries, received the 2017 Young Alumnus Award.

At the afternoon ceremony, Aileen Black ’83, executive director, industry lead and group leader of U.S. government at Google, gave the address, sharing wisdom she has gleaned from hosting a radio show. The very last question she has asked more than 150 guests is what advice they would give to their younger self as they crossed the graduation stage. She shared the top three responses she has received over the years.

“Be true to who you are, and trust yourself,” Black said. “Don’t fear failure, but fear not having the courage to try.”

Her third point was about embracing change.

“I am going to quote one of my favorite guests from the show, Joanne Chiedi, principal inspector general at the Department of Health and Human Services. ‘If you can help change the future, you will help guide your career,’” Black said. “Embrace change, and be a change agent.”

Jennifer Sanchez, a government and world affairs major, gave the afternoon challenge, encouraging the crowd to become active citizens by making community a priority in their values and life choices.

“It is an identity everyone can understand, just like gender, socioeconomic status, ethnicity and so forth,” Sanchez said. “Find your passion, what you wish to advocate for and hone in on that. You all have the responsibility to change the world, to make waves, to affect change, to break barriers and solve the multitude of social issues which currently exist.”

It was a theme Rutherford echoed in his morning address.

“Simply be willing to commit to the effort to achieve your goals and aspirations. A very wise person told me early on in my career that the successful person is willing to commit more effort than the average person, so always be willing to commit to whatever your goals and pursuits are,” Rutherford said. “By your presence here today, and you earning your degree, you have already proven you have the drive and commitment. Just recognize it doesn’t stop here but rather starts here, and there is a large, beautiful universe to pursue.”

Congratulations, Class of 2017!

To see May commencement highlights through social media, view the 2017 Storify.