MTSU honors TBI director/alumnus Gwyn at May 7 commencement

2,400+ graduates set record for University

Mark Gwyn, director of the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation, stressed the values of integrity and public service to the graduates recognized May 7 at Middle Tennessee State University's 100th spring commencement.

Gwyn, a 1985 MTSU alumnus, delivered the keynote speech at the first of two spring 2011 graduation ceremonies. The University awarded more than 2,400 degrees, setting a record for the spring ceremony.

"There has never been a better time for forward-thinking people," said Gwyn, who encouraged graduates assembled at Murphy Center to "seek out and embrace change and actively seek out and find ways to grow throughout your lives.

"With some dedication and perseverance, you will eventually accomplish your dreams," added Gwyn, the first African-American to lead Tennessee's largest law-enforcement agency.

Gwyn, who was reappointed in 2010 to a second six-year term as TBI director, was among five alumni recognized by the University during commencement as 2010-11 Distinguished Alumni. Others were:
  • Michael Latterell (B.S. '03), who was honored for young alumni achievement. Latterell has been nominated for five Grammy Awards as a recording engineer and won one in 2009 for Best Bluegrass Album;
  • H.G. "Pete" Taylor (B.S. '60), who was honored for service to the community. Taylor served for 33 years in the U.S. Army, including roles as commanding general of the 24th Infantry Division and the National Training Center; and
  • Don and Hanna Witherspoon, who were honored for service to the community. The Witherspoons graduated from MTSU in 1964 and have served their alma mater in a variety of volunteer and fundraising roles.
Dr. Hershel "Pat" Wall, special assistant to the president of the University of Tennessee, was the keynote speaker for the 1 p.m. ceremony. Wall, a Murfreesboro native, spent more than 50 years on the UT Health Science Center's Memphis campus serving in various roles, including chancellor and interim dean of medicine.

MTSU, the state's largest undergraduate institution, divides its commencements into two ceremonies to accommodate its large graduation classes. In September, MTSU will celebrate the centennial of its founding.

Candidates recognized at spring 2011 commencement surpassed the mark set in spring 2009, when 2,147 were honored.

MTSU President Sidney A. McPhee urged graduates at the May 7 ceremonies to "enjoy this time of excitement and bask in the glory that comes with this day.

"Although you may feel that the long journey is now over, those of us here at MTSU see this time of commencement as being a comma, rather than a period, in your lives," McPhee said. "This is just the beginning of even greater things to come."

Gwyn, whose entire career has been spent in law enforcement, extolled the values of public service and urged the graduates to consider such options. "Helping victims see justice served keeps me going for many days," he said.

The TBI director told graduates that "MTSU is a good foundation for your future," but that they will face tests of character in their future. He urged them to act with integrity and build enduring relationships with family, friends and community.

Integrity, he said, is "deliberately doing the right thing, even if no one knows what you have done."

Wall, also a retired colonel and physician in the U.S. Army Reserve, urged graduates at the afternoon ceremony to share their talents and skills with their communities and "enjoy the journey ahead … this is only the beginning."

"I am particularly proud to be an alumnus of the No. 1 choice of undergraduates in Tennessee," said Wall, who graduated from MTSU in 1957 and spoke fondly of faculty role models from his undergraduate studies.

Wall also urged graduates to support their alma mater in the years ahead.

"If you have valued your education, invest in the future of where you received it," he said. "Don't wait to be asked."

To see a slideshow of photos from commencement, click on the Spring 2011 Commencement set link to photos on Flickr at the upper right of this page. Graduates may view and purchase photos at .