The red towels waved and graduates, their friends and family members cheered as the Class of 2018 celebrated Friday night at WKU’s 183rd Commencement.
WKU’s first outdoor Commencement ceremony since May 2006 began with a new tradition, the Topper Walk, as faculty and graduates made their way from the Kentucky Museum to Houchens Industries-L.T. Smith Stadium. English Professor Walker Rutledge, a faculty member for 49 years, served as chief marshal of the procession that included the parade of U.S. and international flags. (More: Commencement photo gallery.)
“Tonight you are part of something old and something new as we bring back an old tradition and begin a new one of our own,” President Timothy C. Caboni told the graduates. “Many of you will recall your first week as Hilltoppers when you assembled as a class during MASTER Plan Convocation, and we’re excited to bring you together one final time to celebrate your successful completion.
“For something new, I hope you enjoyed the Topper Walk. You are now the first class to take that walk down the Hill and through the faculty gauntlet.”
WKU conferred degrees and certificates to 3,283 spring and summer graduates -- 144 associate, 2,184 bachelor’s, 702 master’s, 10 specialist, 27 doctor of physical therapy, nine doctor of education, 13 doctor of nursing practice and four doctor of psychology degrees and 95 undergraduate certificates and 95 graduate certificates. (More: 64 WKU student-athletes receive degrees)
“Graduates, as you sit here tonight, having reached this important milestone in your life, I want you to reflect back to the first time you climbed the Hill as a member of the Class of 2018,” President Caboni said. “Think about the journey you have taken since then and what has been most special to you: lifelong friendships; your time in the classroom or in the library or in the Downing Student Union.
“Perhaps you’re feeling appreciative of the professor who took an interest in you, or you’re recalling the experience you had in a student club or as part of a team. Maybe you’re thinking about your study abroad opportunity, or an internship, or a project that had great meaning to you.
“No matter the specific thoughts that come to mind, your WKU Experience is special, and it is unique to you. It has shaped who you are, what you will do, and where you will go.”
The ceremony ended with another first, the Big Red Bash, as graduates continued the celebration with family and friends on the WKU South Lawn.
John D. Minton Award
Nicole Musgrave of Columbus, Ohio, who received a Master of Arts in Folk Studies, was recognized as the John D. Minton Award recipient. 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 served as vice president for Administrative Affairs and as WKU’s fifth president.
Musgrave served as graduate assistant for the Kentucky Folklife Program at WKU, provided assistance for the exhibit A Culture Carried: Bosnians in Bowling Green at the Kentucky Museum and co-wrote a successful grant application to the National Endowment for the Arts. Following graduation, Musgrave will serve as an AmeriCorps VISTA Member with Hindman Settlement School and will continue her work with the Kentucky Folklife Program to implement the NEA-funded statewide Kentucky Folklife Network.
The award was presented by John D. Minton Jr., Chief Justice of the Kentucky Supreme Court.
Ogden Foundation Award
Lily Nellans of Des Moines, Iowa, who received her bachelor’s degree with double major in International Conflict Studies and Philosophy with a minor in Citizenship and Social Justice, was recognized as the Ogden Foundation Scholar, WKU’s top undergraduate graduation honor. The Ogden Foundation Award is presented to one graduating baccalaureate degree senior who has demonstrated exceptional academic achievement and outstanding university and civic engagement.
Nellans has been a member of the WKU Forensics Team and Student Government Association and served as a member and volunteer for other campus and community organizations. Nellans traveled abroad four times to Bosnia and Herzegovina, Israel and Kosovo as she developed her passion for genocide prevention. She will begin a master’s program this fall at the London School of Economics and Political Science.
The award was presented by David Hartman, a member of the Ogden Foundation Board of Trustees.
Sixteen Army ROTC cadets were commissioned as second lieutenants and are beginning careers in the U.S. Army. They are (name, hometown, first duty assignment): Vijay Ahluwalia of Brooklyn, New York, assigned to Fort Leonard Wood, Missouri; Erian Bradley of Louisville, assigned to Fort Knox, Kentucky; John Brough of Frankfort, assigned to Fort Sill, Oklahoma; Michael Bryar of Louisville, assigned to Fort Carson, Colorado; Brian Bulka of Niagara Falls, New York, assigned to Fort Lee, Virginia; Shannah Gardiner of Versailles, assigned to Fort Jackson, South Carolina; James Morrow of Auburn, assigned to Fort Rucker, Alabama; LaDeirdre Mumford of Hopkinsville, assigned to Fort Jackson, South Carolina; Dharmesh Patel of Bowling Green, assigned to Fort Lee, Virginia; Tom Pudic of Bowling Green, assigned to Fort Benning, Georgia; Michael Sawyer of Summer Shade, assigned to Fort Sill, Oklahoma; Tyler Shirley of Columbus, Ohio, assigned to Fort Leonard Wood, Missouri; David Sizemore of Marion, assigned to Fort Huachuca, Arizona; Kyle Wilson of Henderson, assigned to Fort Benning, Georgia; Allison Wombles of Bloomington, Illinois, assigned to Fort Eustis, Virginia; and Taylor Yarbrough of Bardstown, assigned to Fort Gordon, Georgia.
WKU also recognized graduates and those in attendance who are serving in the U.S. military or are military veterans.
College recognition ceremonies
On Saturday, WKU’s six academic colleges will host special recognition ceremonies at Diddle Arena to celebrate the accomplishments of their graduates who will walk the line and shake hands with President Caboni. The schedule is as follows: College of Health and Human Services at 8 a.m.; University College at 10 a.m.; Ogden College of Science and Engineering at noon; College of Education and Behavioral Sciences at 2 p.m.; Potter College of Arts & Letters at 4 p.m.; and Gordon Ford College of Business at 6 p.m. (More: Commencement website; parking map; parking video)
Gatton Academy graduation
In addition to the WKU ceremonies, The Gatton Academy of Mathematics and Science in Kentucky will recognize 88 students from 48 counties in the Class of 2018, its 11th graduating class. The ceremony will begin at 10 a.m. Saturday (May 12) at Van Meter Hall. Guest speaker will be Hood Harris, President of the AT&T Kentucky.
Regional campus ceremonies
The WKU Elizabethtown-Fort Knox Ceremony will begin at 6 p.m. ET at Hardin County Schools Performing Arts Center, 384 W.A. Jenkins Road, Elizabethtown. Student Christina A. Cook and Dr. Beth Laves, Associate Vice President for WKU’s Division of Extended Learning and Outreach, will make remarks.
The WKU Owensboro Ceremony will begin at 6:30 p.m. at the RiverPark Center, 101 Daviess St., Owensboro. The keynote speaker will be Madison Silvert, president of The Malcolm Bryant Corporation. Provost David Lee and student Cindy Williams also will make remarks.
WKU Glasgow hosted its Graduand Ceremony on Thursday night (May 10). The keynote speaker was 2017 Miss Kentucky Molly Matney, a junior agriculture major from Center. Provost David Lee and Trista Childress, a graduating senior, also made remarks. More: Graduand photo gallery
Contact: Registrar’s Office, (270) 745-3351