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UTM class of 2020 honored in virtual commencement

The University of Tennessee at Martin conferred over 700 undergraduate and graduate degrees in a virtual ceremony on Saturday, May 2, 2020 at 10 a.m.

The in-person graduation ceremony was cancelled due to the COVID-19 outbreak. The UT System cancelled all in-person classes on March 11. Students finished the semester online. 

University officials gathered in front of the Administration Building to hold the graduation ceremony streamed to UT Martin’s Facebook page and YouTube channel. 

UTM Chancellor Keith Carver announced that 59 counties, 24 states and three foreign countries are represented in the graduating students. Doug Cook served as the mace-bearer for the ceremony, acting as one of only a few UTM faculty members on-site for the ceremony. 

Chancellor Carver during the livestream

A number of faculty were honored during commencement. Abigail Shelton received the Coffey Outstanding Teacher Award. David McBeth and Rachna Tewari were awarded the Cunningham Outstanding Teacher Scholar Award. Mark Hewitt won the Academic Advisor Award. Jack Grubaugh and Richard Robinson were selected as the Tennessee Alumni Outstanding Teacher Award winners. 

The administrations took time to honor two members of the university community who recently died. Dr. Hyungju Hur, assistant professor of history, died recently after a brief illness. Health and Human Performance major Kirk Maddox received his degree posthumously after he died suddenly April 20 and was honored during the virtual ceremony. 

Two students were also honored for their involvement and leadership roles on campus. Devin Majors and Savannah Williams were recognized with the Paul and Martha Meek Leadership Awards. 

Carver outlined the hard times that the class of 2020 has faced. He likened graduating to the adopt-a-plot garden in the middle of Virginia Weldon Park in Historic Downtown Martin. He encouraged students to “adopt your own spot in the world.” 

“I want every day for you to intentionally focus on your spot and every day plant and water and nurture your spot,” Carver said. 

UT System President Randy Boyd and Student Government President Devin Majors made appearances in the graduation ceremony in videos. 

“It has been my honor to belong to one of the most devoted classes in the history of this university,” Majors said. 

College Deans took the podium and encouraged students to stand when their names were called. Robert Nanney, chair of the communications department and professor of communications, and Richard Robinson, faculty advisor for WUTM-FM 90.3 the Hawk and professor of communications, read the names of all UT Martin graduates. 

Carver says that UTM will likely host an in-person commencement ceremony in August. Read more about that here.

If you missed graduation, you can check it out on YouTube.

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