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280 to graduate from Union Dec. 15

Deborah Wilds will be the keynote speaker for Saturday's graduation ceremony.
Deborah Wilds will be the keynote speaker for Saturday's graduation ceremony.

JACKSON, Tenn.Dec. 10, 2007 – About 280 students will graduate from Union University Dec. 15 during commencement exercises at West Jackson Baptist Church.

Deborah Wilds, president and chief operating officer of the College Success Foundation, an organization that provides scholarships and mentoring to low-income, high-potential students, will be the keynote speaker.

Wilds formerly served as a senior program officer for education at the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and as the deputy director of the American Council on Education’s Office of Minorities in Higher Education.

As part of the ceremony, Union will present the Robert E. Craig Service Award to Thad and Alicia Smotherman, from Arlington, Texas.

The award is named after Union’s 13th president, who led the university for more than two decades and was responsible for reestablishing Union with the churches of the Tennessee Baptist Convention. Craig was also responsible for relocating the university campus to north Jackson.

The Smothermans serve on Union’s Board of Regents, and for the past 10 years have hosted and supported Union’s alumni work in Texas. Alicia, a 1963 Union graduate, is a physician. Thad is an investor who is a leader in several business and health care-related operations.

“Thad and Alicia Smotherman are terrific people who have offered incredible support for the work of Union University over the past decade,” Union President David S. Dockery said.

“Their efforts to enhance our alumni work with Union alums in Texas, their support for prospective students in that area and their service on the Union Board of Regents have all been beneficial for the university.

“We particularly want to thank them for their wise counsel and encouragement in the startup of the nurse anesthesia program at Union. They are most worthy recipients of this year’s Craig Service Award.”

Union will also present an honorary Doctor of Humanities degree to Stephen C. Reynolds, president and CEO of Baptist Memorial Health Care of Memphis. In September, BMHC made a $1 million donation to the health care programs at Union.

“Stephen Reynolds has given outstanding leadership to the work of Baptist Memorial Hospital in Memphis for many years,” Dockery said. “We are thrilled to recognize his leadership in the world of health care, to acknowledge his partnership in the work of Tennessee Baptists and to thank him for his support of our new pharmacy program.”

The ceremony will begin at 11 a.m.

Media contact: Tim Ellsworth, news@uu.edu, 731-661-5215

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