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WKU confers degrees to nearly 1,400 at 174th Commencement

WKU conducted morning and afternoon ceremonies Dec. 14 as part of the 174th Commencement. (WKU photo by Clinton Lewis)

WKU conducted morning and afternoon ceremonies Dec. 14 as part of its 174th Commencement. Additional photos are posted on the WKU Facebook page at www.facebook.com/WKUNews (WKU photo by Clinton Lewis)

WKU conferred degrees and certificates, recognized honor graduates, awarded nine doctoral degrees, commissioned four ROTC officers and presented an honorary doctorate during Fall 2013 Commencement on Saturday (Dec. 14).

“This may be the end of your collegiate career, but the requirement of commencement is that you must now commence,” WKU President Gary Ransdell told graduates at Diddle Arena. “You must commence to keep your mind challenged. The degree you get today is not simply to show the world what you know, but rather to show that you have been educated and that your WKU experience will bring value to all you encounter from this day forward.”

In morning and afternoon ceremonies of its 174th Commencement, WKU conferred 1,395 degrees — 87 associate, 951 baccalaureate, 343 master’s, five specialist, nine doctor of education — and 27 certificates. (More: Photos are posted on the WKU Facebook page at www.facebook.com/WKUNews)

“Commencement speeches are typically filled with advice for new graduates, but suggestions and advice are fleeting,” Dr. Ransdell said. “Lots of individuals will want to give you advice about your profession and your relationships and about how you spend your money and your leisure time. It is my hope that your time at WKU helped to cultivate in you the ability to think for yourself. I hope we have built in you a great sense of self-confidence, that we have raised your personal self-esteem and helped you to hone your instincts.”

Sofia receives honorary doctorate

WKU graduate Zuheir Sofia received an honorary doctorate in Business Leadership during the morning ceremony.

Zuheir Sofia was awarded an honorary degree of Doctor of Business Leadership. (WKU photo by Clinton Lewis)

Zuheir Sofia was awarded an honorary degree of Doctor of Business Leadership. (WKU photo by Clinton Lewis)

Sofia, a native of Syria, received his bachelor’s degree in economics and business administration in 1969, has had a successful career in the financial industry and was inducted into WKU’s Hall of Distinguished Alumni in 1998.

“I am proud and humbled to receive this honor,” Sofia said. “Western has contributed greatly to my business and civic achievements.

“I cherish Western’s traditions which emphasize the same values we treasure in our family – the worth of character, the power of kindness, the virtue of patience, the magic of resilience, the value of knowledge and the joy of friendship. Western created the opportunity for me to better myself.”

Sofia, chairman and CEO of Business Bank of Florida and Sofia & Company, has made several gifts to WKU, most of them dedicated to international students and programs including the Zuheir Sofia-Dero Downing International Center, the Zuheir and Susan Sofia Scholarship for international students and the Capps-Wurster International Scholarship Fund in the Gordon Ford College of Business.

Sofia has been a member of WKU’s College Heights Foundation board, the President’s Board of Advisors and “A New Century of Spirit” campaign; served as chair of the Ohio State University Board of Trustees; and served as president and chief operating officer of Huntington Bancshares.

“He is a self-made man whose career achievements are a result of his intellect, work ethic, determination and pursuit of excellence,” said Dr. Jeff Katz, dean of WKU’s Gordon Ford College of Business. “We are proud to have such an outstanding and loyal Hilltopper, and we would like to express our appreciation to Mr. Sofia for his generous support, wise counsel, keen insight and the many contributions he has made to our university.”

Ogden Foundation Scholar

At the afternoon ceremony, Dylan Ward of Hartford, the son of Brian and Karen Ward, was recognized as the Ogden Foundation Scholar, WKU’s top academic honor presented to one graduating baccalaureate degree senior who has demonstrated exceptional academic achievement and outstanding university and civic engagement. He also was a scholar of the Ogden College of Science and Engineering.

Dylan Ward was recognized as the Ogden Foundation Scholar. (WKU photo by Bryan Lemon)

Dylan Ward was recognized as the Ogden Foundation Scholar. (WKU photo by Bryan Lemon)

Ward, a civil engineering major and Honors College graduate, encouraged graduates to seek excellence and purse a life of constant growth. “Always remember that the most important thing about excellence is that excellence is never achieved but instead it’s a constant pursuit,” he said.

Ward is a member of WKU Spirit Masters, Ogden College Ambassadors, Phi Gamma Delta fraternity, Order of Omega Greek Honor Society, Tau Beta Pi Engineering Honor Society and American Society of Civil Engineers. His numerous activities include serving as co-captain of the WKU Steel Bridge Team and participating in the 2012 Bike4Alz cross country bike ride for Alzheimer’s awareness and research.

“My challenge for everyone in this room is to live life, get involved, give your all and be a game changer,” Ward said. “Seek excellence with humility and show your thankfulness by impacting the lives around you.”

Doctoral degree recipients

Nine more recipients of WKU’s doctoral degree in educational leadership were recognized at the afternoon ceremony. Fall 2013 recipients of WKU’s Doctor of Education (Ed.D.) in Educational Leadership are: Dana Clayton of Evansville, Ind.; Nadia Linet De Leon Sautu of San Francisco, Calif.; Christopher L. Gaddis of Owensboro; T. Ryan Hall of Bowling Green; Lynn A. Hines of Bowling Green; LeAnn Howell of Hartford; Mary Lloyd Moore of Bowling Green; David E. Oliver of Bowling Green; and Rachel B. Rosales of Owensboro. (More information about the December 2013 Ed.D graduates)

ROTC commissioning

Four graduates of the Hilltopper ROTC program were commissioned as second lieutenants. LTC Scott Walker, professor of Military Science, administered the oath of office to Army cadets Susanne Hauser of Fort Knox, Kimberly Laughlin of Agat, Guam, and Kacey Rexing of Cadiz and Marine Corps cadet Emmett Stephens of Bowling Green. Veterans and those serving in the U.S. military also were recognized at both ceremonies.

Scholars of the College awards

WKU recognized 10 Scholars of the College, who had the highest GPAs in their colleges while completing at least 60 credit hours at WKU.

  • University College: Lonard W. Tilford III of Seymour, Ind., a computer information technology major and son of Helen Tilford.
  • Gordon Ford College of Business: Nicholas M. Wilmes of Owensboro, an accounting major and son of Mark and Teresa Wilmes.
  • College of Health and Human Services: Allison M. Parks of Raleigh, N.C., a nursing major, Honors College graduate and daughter of Hugh and Laura Parks; Ashlee Cauley of Bowling Green, a dental hygiene major, wife of Clay Cauley and daughter of Joey and Donna Mershall.
  • College of Education and Behavioral Sciences: Brittany M. Madden of Bowling Green, an elementary education major and daughter of Craig Madden and Andrea and Shannon West; Faith E. Edwards of Bowling Green, an elementary education major and daughter of Billy and Jennie Edwards; Kelsey Thomason of Hopkinsville, a psychology major and daughter of Lee and Rhonda Thomason.
  • Ogden College of Science and Engineering: Mary Claire Newton of Owensboro, a biology major and daughter of Ron and Vicki Newton and Clare Lopez; Dylan H. Ward of Hartford, a civil engineering major, Honors College graduate and son of Brian and Karen Ward.
  • Potter College of Arts & Letters: Ethan K. Morris of Shepherdsville, a social studies and history major and son of Danny and Rebecca Morris.

Commencement notes

  • The morning ceremony included graduate and undergraduate degree candidates in the University College, Gordon Ford College of Business and College of Health and Human Services. The afternoon ceremony included graduate and undergraduate degree candidates in the College of Education and Behavioral Sciences, Ogden College of Science and Engineering and Potter College of Arts & Letters.

    Members of the Class of 2013 waved red towels at the end of the ceremonies. (WKU photo by Bryan Lemon)

    Members of the Class of 2013 waved red towels at the end of the ceremonies. (WKU photo by Bryan Lemon)

  • The graduating class included 50 international students from 20 countries. International students and all graduates who participated in a study abroad experience at WKU were recognized during the ceremonies.
  • Commencement featured a video preview of the 2014 Talisman, WKU’s award-winning yearbook. View the video at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=emk7Ez1NjlU
  • Each graduate was given a Class of 2013 WKU red towel to wave at the end of the ceremony.
  • English professor Mary Ellen Miller, who has been a WKU faculty member for 51 years, served as grand marshal of the Commencement grand march.

Contact: Registrar’s Office, (270) 745-3351.

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