For the first time in history, Tiffin University celebrated its 132nd annual commencement online.
Unable to hold traditional commencement due to the coronavirus pandemic, TU celebrated its graduates with a virtual ceremony on May 2.
A presenter announced each graduate’s name along with a visual slide show. The Class of 2020 included 810 graduates, with 380 earning a master’s degree, 429 earning a bachelor’s degree and one earning an associate degree.
TU’s President, Dr. Lillian Schumacher, welcomed and congratulated the new graduates. Reflecting on the past few months, President Schumacher couldn’t help but think how extraordinary the Class of 2020 will be. “I hope that upon your graduation from Tiffin University, you continue to dream big and aim high, and know that you’ll be able to achieve whatever it is you set your minds to,” she said.
Dr. Reginald Wilkinson, President of Connecting the Dots, LLC, delivered the commencement address. Dr. Wilkinson, who also serves on TU’s Board of Trustees, has extensive experience in government, non-profit administration and the private sector. His speech reflected on Dragon pride and how Tiffin University has prepared its students for this monumental achievement. “Graduation is the icing on a green and gold cake,” he said, “but educational attainment is a lifelong journey.”
Along their journey, Dr. Wilkinson encourages the graduates to become trailblazers. “Don’t just casually navigate your way through life,” he said. “Make a definable difference. Do something that no one else has done. Be an expert problem solver and do it all with gusto.” He also advises the Class of 2020 to embrace change. “There is nothing more permanent in our lives than change. How we confront change and challenges will define our lives. Through it all, always maintain a glass-half-full outlook.”
For many students, like Baleigh Searles, graduation is a huge milestone. “Graduating college is my biggest accomplishment,” she said. Baleigh is a first-generation college graduate. “It would have been an honor to walk across the stage at commencement, but I respect TU’s decision to keep everyone safe. Whether a traditional ceremony or virtual, I know my parents are proud of me either way.”
Baleigh celebrated her accomplishment with family, particularly with her younger sister Morgan. Morgan is also a 2020 graduate from Hopewell Loudon. She took TU classes through their College Credit Plus program in her senior year. The girls donned their caps and gowns to watch the virtual ceremony together as a family.
Although it wasn’t ideal to complete her last semester online, Baleigh is thankful for everyone’s support. “It didn’t hit me until finals week that I wouldn’t take a seated class again,” said Baleigh. “Transitioning to the online platform was an adjustment, but my family and professors helped me push through to the end.”
Baleigh advises incoming freshmen students not to be afraid, to utilize their advisors and to have fun. “There are many opportunities at Tiffin University to put yourself out there,” she said. “You will make some of the best memories here.”
Baleigh earned a bachelor’s degree in digital forensics. Although her plans are uncertain right now, she has remained positive. Like many other graduates across the country, Baleigh will keep applying and putting her resume out there in hopes of a bite once companies begin hiring once again.
The ceremony also included brief remarks by Provost Dr. Peter Holbrook, Board of Trustee Chair Dr. Claire Johansen and Brenda Collins, President of TU’s Alumni Association. Dr. Holbrook recognized the three recipients of university awards. The recipient of the Student Leadership Award was Madison Wells. This award is given to a graduating student in the baccalaureate program for scholarship, participation in extracurricular activities, and communication with other students as a leader on campus. A native of Marion, Ohio, Madison graduated with a bachelor’s degree in homeland security and terrorism with a minor in intelligence studies. She was commissioned as a Second Lieutenant in the Air Force.
The recipient of the Scholar Athlete Award was Elle Hamilton. This award is given to a graduating student in the baccalaureate program, who has achieved a three-point cumulative GPA or higher, has played intercollegiate athletics for four years and in their senior year participated as a starter in 75 percent of the team’s games. Elle was a member of the lacrosse team and graduated with a bachelor’s degree in forensic psychology with a minor in leadership studies. She is from Victoria, British Columbia, Canada.
The Provost Award recipient was Autumn Cooper. This award is given to a graduating student in the baccalaureate program, with the highest cumulative GPA having completed 50 percent of the total degree requirements while at Tiffin University. Autumn graduated with a bachelor’s degree in marketing with a minor in human resource management. She is from New Lenox, Illinois.
To view TU’s virtual commencement, please visit tiffin.edu/commencement.