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Commencement 2018 Rewind | Looking back on Spalding’s biggest day

Steve Jones and Liz Dallmann

Welcome to commencement day at Spalding, where the university celebrated 645 students who have completed or will complete degrees in the 2017-18 school year. A big crowd – about 400 – participated in commencement exercises at packed Canaan Christian Church.

Check out our Spalding Facebook album titled “Commencement Activities” for tons of pictures from Saturday and from Friday’s awards ceremonies. Be sure to tag yourself and your loved ones if you recognize a picture.

Here’s a collection of updates and anecdotes from the day.

Deedra Latham, 38 weeks pregnant, a man and young girl posing
Deedra Latham, MA in school guidance counseling, and her family

Graduating while expecting

We all love Spalding, but sitting through a two-hour commencement can be a bit tedious, right? Now imagine that you’re 38 weeks pregnant.

Still, Deedra Latham, who is due to deliver a baby girl she’ll name Siyah just about any day now, made sure she was there to walk across the stage as the first member of her immediate family to earn a master’s degree.

Latham, who received a master of arts in school guidance counseling from the College of Education, said she was feeling Braxton Hicks contractions throughout the day Saturday, including during the ceremony, and wondered at least a little if she might start labor.

“Siyah was very active today, extremely active,” Latham said with a laugh after commencement. “She was here in spirit with us.”

Latham said it was important to her to walk at commencement because she wanted her 5-year-old daughter Lailah, who was a toddler when Latham got her bachelor’s degree in psychology from Spalding in 2016, and family to witness the moment.

Latham, lead instructor at the Bluegrass Center for Autism, also said she looks forward to the years ahead when she can show her soon-to-be-born daughter pictures of how she was still in Mom’s belly when she graduated with her master’s.

“They can look back at that and know that anything is possible,” she said.

Perhaps they’ll be Golden Eagles like their mother someday.

What does graduating from Spalding mean to you?

We asked a few grads that same question on commencement day. Here’s some of their answers:

James Turner, in black cap and gown
James Turner, MSBC

James Turner, MSBC: “It’s a huge accomplishment. I’m an Air Force veteran, so I planned on coming to school for a long time. I didn’t actually expect to get my master’s while I was here, but because Spalding’s classes are accelerated, I got to get more done in a short amount of time. I still had some time left on my GI Bill®, so I talked to a friend of mine, and I decided to get my master’s. It’s a big accomplishment for me, and I am excited about it.”

D’Erika Trabue: “It means everything to me especially because I have younger siblings, who have been watching me. And now I have a son. It’s not that I am only doing it for my siblings, but I am doing it for my son.”

Sarah Mudd: “A lifetime of achievement. I’ve been dreaming about doing this since I was little, and I finally am here.”

Spalding honors late MSAT student

Group of graduates and family of Mikie Hill
2018 MSAT grads and the family of Mikie Hill.

Spalding tragically lost a student this school year when Mikie Hill, of the master of science in athletic training program, died in a car accident.

Mikie was honored at commencement and during Friday’s emotional MSAT awards program with his wife being presented with his degree posthumously.

Spalding’s continued sympathies and condolences go out to Mikie’s family.

Social work students honored

Bachelor of science in social work graduates were the winners of Spalding’s two major undergraduate senior awards.

TJ Serio, an LGBTQ advocate on campus, won the Mother Catherine Spalding Award. Read more about TJ here.

TJ Serio in blue cap and gown
TJ Serio, BSSW

“(Graduating today) means that I have completed another step in my process in that I am headed off to grad school to make even bigger changes in the community,” he said.

Chauncey Burnett won the Meagher Award. He is a former addict who has spent time in prison who is now graduating with a 4.0 while celebrating 10 years’ sobriety. Read more about Chauncey here.

“It’s indescribable, it’s electrifying,” Burnett said of earning his degree. “I still don’t realize what’s going on just yet. I’m getting all these accolades. I’m getting all these pats on the back when before it was ‘Stay away from me. Don’t come around.’ I’m realizing that my past is an asset to my future and maybe to others. And

Chauncey Burnett in blue cap and gown
Chauncey Burnett, BSSW

so, I am looking at where God is using me as an instrument for others.”

Serio said he would recommend students coming to Spalding because “of the one-on-one attention that you get, the support that you get and the bonds and relationships that you can form with people.”

What would Burnett say to someone considering coming to Spalding?

“I probably wouldn’t say anything,” he said with a laugh. “I’d probably put them in a choke hold and say ‘C’mon let’s go see an advisor.’”

WDRB also did a feature story on Burnett.

Honorary degrees conferred

President Tori Murden McClure began the service by conferring honorary doctorates of public service  on community activist Christopher 2X, nonprofit leader and retired banking executive Carl Thomas and banking executive Steve Trager. Master of science in nursing grad Christe Coe won the Caritas Medal as Spalding’s alumna of the year. Barbara Carter, field director of the School of Social Work, won the Outstanding Faculty Award. Read about those honorees here. Retiring nursing faculty member Ann Lyons was also recognized with an emeritus honor. It was a surprise announcement for Lyons.

First-generation grad expects ‘very emotional’ day

Bachelor of science of business administration major William Hampton said he managed to pull together 10 tickets for his loved ones for commencement, and it’s day of celebration for the family with William Hampton becoming their first-ever college graduate.

He said he expected it’ll be an emotional moment for his family when he walks across the stage.

“Very emotional,” he said. “It’s a very proud for them.”

Hampton, the second-oldest of five brothers and sisters, hopes that he graduation will set an example for his younger siblings to do the same.

Hampton is a Butler High School alum who transferred to Spalding two years ago from Jefferson Community and Technical College.

“It was definitely a great choice,” Hampton said.

Hampton said Spalding’s business program was challenging and will get him well-prepared for his career. He concentrated his studies on marketing.

‘A dream 35 years in the making’

For years, Carla Johnson, who is now 53, has placed a Post-It note on the wall to mark the space she was reserving for a college diploma.

Carla Johnson, smiling, wearing blue cap and gown with gold sash
Carla Johnson

Now, in fulfilling what she said is “basically a dream 35 years in the making,” Johnson is nearly ready to receive and hang up that diploma.

Johnson, a liberal studies major with an emphasis on English and creative writing, participated in commencement on Saturday and is set to earn her bachelor’s in interdisciplinary studies with a minor in business once she wraps up some final undergraduate coursework. After that, she’ll have that long-awaited degree.

“Everyone is like, ‘Wow, she did it!” Johnson said. “I’m like, ‘Well, I’ve almost done it.’ I need to keep reminding myself that so that I don’t slack off on my studies.”

She has had stints in college since she was a teenager, earning credits at Eastern Kentucky University, the University of Louisville and Jefferson Community and Technical College but never completing a degree. But since arriving at Spalding in March 2016, she has not missed a class and has been determined to finish, despite facing responsibilities at home, including taking care of her mother.

Johnson also has a map of Australia hanging on the wall, signifying the promise she made to take a trip there as a graduation present to herself, should she ever finish school.

“Every day I wake up and see that,” she said.

Johnson now has plans to make the trip to Australia in the fall.

She also has her sights on her next degree. Johnson wants to enroll in a graduate school and study public administration and policy, focused on social and distributive justice.

Former Card celebrates MSAT grad

A familiar face from the Louisville sports scene was on hand to watch commencement: former University of Louisville and current Buffalo Bills tight end Keith Towbridge, who came to watch his girlfriend, Brittanie Glasser,

graduate with a master’s in athletic training.

Towbridge and Glasser have been dating for three years, since they were undergrads at U of L. Glasser was on the student manager and training staff for the Cardinals.

Glasser, an alumna of Iroquois High School, said she enjoyed the program and the small class size at Spalding and that the university offers the chance to earn a master’s in athletic training.

“A lot of people don’t understand what athletic trainers do and the many hats that we wear,” she said. “We’re friends, colleagues, athletic trainers, therapists at times. We’re people who help people in need.”

Towbridge, in town for the weekend before reporting back to the Bills, said he knows firsthand the importance of athletic trainers and appreciates the work and educational pursuits of his girlfriend.

“Athletic trainers get us ready for the hard days ahead – ready for practices,” he said. “They basically just take care of us.”

Spalding celebrates student-athlete grads

Dozens of Spalding’s NCAA Division III student-athletes earned their degrees and celebrated at commencement.

“Proud is the word I would definitely use,” men’s soccer head coach Adam Boyer said of the seven graduates – five current players, one former player and one grad assistant coach – from his program. “These guys put a lot into the university as student-athletes during their time at Spalding, and ultimately it’s with one goal in mind, and that’s to graduate and move on. To see the culmination of their hard work is exciting and something I take a lot of pride in.”

Boyer’s words could apply to any of Spalding’s student-athletes who got their degrees. Congrats to them all!

Here are some tweets recognizing grads from Spalding’s various teams: