Over 2,500 MTSU Grads Celebrated in University’s First Virtual Commencement


MTSU’s spring Class of 2020 graduated from home offices, kitchen tables and living rooms across the country Saturday, May 9, instead of Murphy Center, but they met the challenge with the same “vigor and dedication” they applied to earning their degrees, university President Sidney A. McPhee said.

During MTSU’s first virtual graduation, streamed to mark a long-awaited day of celebration after a pandemic-truncated semester, McPhee praised the 2,519 new graduates for their “True Blue” perseverance.

“It is important that we recognize the achievements of our graduates and not allow the coronavirus pandemic to stop us from showing our tremendous support and admiration for each of you as you move on to the next phase of your lives,” the president said in videotaped remarks. “I want you to know that we are extremely proud of you.

“No one knows how much, or how long, this virus will change how we all operate. This challenge requires each of you to bring the same vigor and dedication that you put forth during your higher education to your future endeavors.”

Along with their status as the university’s first virtual graduating class, the spring Class of 2020 also made history by putting the university’s total number of graduates over 150,000.

MTSU has awarded 147,644 degrees to students since its inaugural 1911-12 academic year. With these 2,519 graduates, that number swells to 150,163 alumni around the world.

One of those newly minted alumni, Penelope Storm of Murfreesboro, chose social work as a career with the advice of her professors. Acknowledging the nontraditional student’s stellar efforts, including a 4.0 GPA, those professors chose her as the 2019-20 Outstanding Student of the Year.

She now plans to begin MTSU’s Mid-Tennessee Collaborative Master of Social Work Program.

“My goal is to go in as a child protective services case manager and move into research and development later on,” Storm said, adding that colleagues in her field are proving daily their necessity during crises.

“Social workers are essential workers and, therefore, they are still interacting with the public,” she said.

Another new grad, Madison Armstrong of Troy, Tennessee, said her Horse Science Program professors, staff and fellow students in MTSU’s School of Agriculture made all the difference in her college career.

“MTSU was better than I would’ve ever thought,” said Armstrong, recipient of the program’s Pegasus Award for horse care and Sam Paschal Award for Outstanding Horse Science Student.

She’s planning a career as an equine facility stable manager.

“I came knowing no one in the ag department, and now I know friends and more people than I graduated with in high school and found myself with a little family,” Armstrong said. “If you work hard and try your best, they become your family.”

Along with several alumni and university supporters, Tennessee Gov. Bill Lee offered a recorded message of support for the new graduates.

“Your celebration is certainly a little different this year, but it is nonetheless special. All the hard work that you put in, the sleepless nights, the commitment you made to get where you are — we celebrate that,” Lee said.

“Congratulations to you; you deserve to embrace this moment, and we embrace it with you.”

The virtual ceremony, which aired on MTSU’s Facebook page and YouTube channel, also featured an on-screen running scroll of all the graduates’ names and a cappella renditions of the national anthem and the alma mater by H. Stephen Smith, associate dean of the College of Liberal Arts and professor of voice in the School of Music.

The university Registrar’s Office reports that the group formally receiving their degrees May 9 comprises 2,132 undergraduates and 387 graduate students. The latter number includes recipients of 317 master’s degrees, 44 education-specialist degrees and 26 doctorates. Two graduate students also received certificates.

A program listing each graduate, along with a special message from the president, is available at http://ow.ly/qqPz30qEroZ.​​​​

The video of the complete ceremony is available at ​https://youtu.be/pmvhRZE5ghc.

Later this month, the new Class of 2020 graduates will receive a “True Blue Graduation Box” by mail to mark their accomplishments.

The box will include the graduate’s MTSU diploma cover with diploma inside; a mortarboard; a unique blue tassel with 2020 drop; two commemorative programs; an invitation to a future ceremony; a special MTSU gift; an MTSU Alumni bag; an appropriate Latin Honors stole if earned; and a gift from the Daniels Veterans and Military Family Center for student veterans.

The spring 2020 graduates also will be invited to participate in a future on-campus commencement ceremony.

“The resilience and responsiveness that you have demonstrated throughout the past two months will serve as the roadmap for challenges that lie ahead,” said McPhee, who was joined on the video by university Provost Mark Byrnes.

“On behalf of the Board of Trustees, the faculty, administration and staff of this great university, and all our alumni across the state of Tennessee and around the world, please know how proud we are of you.”

More information about the spring 2020 virtual graduation is available at http://mtsu.edu/virtual-graduation. MTSU graduation information — including links to the university Registrar’s Office — is available anytime at http://mtsunews.com/graduation-info.

MTSU will continue its 2019-20 academic year on Monday, May 18, when summer 2020 classes begin. Like the spring 2020 semester, all summer MTSU courses will be presented remotely. For status updates on MTSU, visit http://mtsu.edu/coronavirus.