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Union graduates largest class in history during 184th spring commencement

Union President David S. Dockery (right) awards an honorary doctorate degree to Harry Smith. (Photo by Morris Abernathy)
Union President David S. Dockery (right) awards an honorary doctorate degree to Harry Smith. (Photo by Morris Abernathy)

JACKSON, Tenn.May 23, 2009 – Nearly 430 Union University graduates received degrees May 23 on the university’s Great Lawn during the 184th annual spring commencement ceremony.

That brings to 968 the number of Union graduates from the class of 2009 – the largest class in Union’s history. The graduates represented 25 states and such countries as Kenya, Russia, South Africa, Brazil, Scotland and others.

“It is my prayer that tonight’s recognition will represent the beginning of a lifetime of service and achievement,” Union President David S. Dockery said during the ceremony.

Dockery was scheduled to be the event’s keynote speaker, but rainy weather shortened the ceremony, and Dockery delivered only a brief charge to the graduates. He challenged the graduates to reach for high expectations for the sake of God’s kingdom and God’s glory, and to do so with integrity while grounding their lives in the word of God.

“We send you out with a call to be God’s fellow workers as you leave this place to carry the gospel and to be an influence for good, to represent salt and light in the culture that has lost its way,” Dockery said. “We urge you to be willing to open your lives to God’s leadership in new ways.”

As part of the ceremony, Will Trautman, who majored in engineering, received the university’s Elizabeth Tigrett Medal. The award, created by Tigrett’s son to honor his mother, has been awarded since 1912 by vote of the entire Union faculty to an outstanding member of the senior class.

Union also awarded an honorary Doctor of Humanities degree to Harry Smith, who has spent the past nine years on Union’s board of trustees, including four years as board chairman, when he guided Union through its response to the Feb. 5, 2008, tornado that caused massive damage to the campus.

Dockery called Smith a friend, supporter, wise counselor and generous contributor to Union. The third floor of White Hall, named Grace Hall, and the Grace quad in the residential complex were funded by contributions from Smith.

“It is impossible for us to calculate the goodness and wisdom of this man and what he has done to advance the work of Union University,” Dockery said.

Andrew Courtner, president of the senior class, addressed his classmates and encouraged them to depend upon the Lord as they face their futures.

“We now stand at the threshold of the unknown as our lives start all over again,” Courtner said. “One thing is certain in our lives. We are forced to rely on our savior and pray to our Lord Jesus Christ for guidance, direction, comfort and opportunities as we will realize we cannot do this on our own.”

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

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