Donald Rucker's remarks to the Class of 2012

Donald Rucker '12, Class of 2012 president, gave remarks to the Class of 2012 during Baccalaureate on May 20, 2012. Here is the full text:

On August 18, 2008, a group of individuals convened on the campus of Maryville College, welcomed by bands of overly enthusiastic current students, faculty, and staff. With sweaty hands and smiling faces, the so-called “Welcome Crew” aided this group in carrying their stuff to their new homes, leaving many of them wondering where this same “Welcome Crew” was when it was time to move out of the residence halls. This group was embraced and received by the comforting words from our own Rev. Anne McKee and jubilant music from Larry Ervin and the Voices of Praise. With fist bumps, high fives, hugs and tears, these newly found members of the Maryville College community said temporary goodbyes to their support systems, writing the first sentence of a new chapter in their lives. This group was joined by some who had done “the college thing” before and were now encountering the process with new eyes, others who were experiencing the college journey while returning to the comfort of their own home at the end of the day, and even others who had left a previous institution, several from different countries who were embarking on a brand new journey. No matter the background or story, on that scorching hot summer day of August, we joined together for the first time. Over time, we became more than a collected group of individuals, but a family, an intimate force. And this force has been tweaked and updated with appreciated additions and rattling losses, yet we assemble here today unwavering as the Class of 2012.

We have prepared for the upcoming moment to be named a Maryville College graduate, embracing the liberal arts education, in its truest sense, along the way. Maryville College faculty and staff, if you think this merely entails taking a plethora of classes outside of our respective areas of study, you are sadly incorrect, for we have learned so much more. We have learned to survive the extremities of temperature in Anderson Hall and to climb Thaw Hall’s Mount Everest of stairs. We have learned the importance of a dollar through late night Taco Bell runs. We have learned the quintessential times of day to do laundry, so we can sneakily load all the washers and dryers up in the entire residence hall. We have learned to wake up at 7:55 on the dot, roll out of bed, throw a sweatshirt on, brush our teeth ... sometimes ... rub an eye booger out of our eye, lightly sprint to and through Pearson’s dining hall grabbing a bagel, and make it to our 8 o’clock class on time. Most of all and more importantly, we have learned to live lives of citizenship and leadership as we challenge each one to search for truth, grow in wisdom, work for justice and dedicate a life of creativity and service to the peoples of the world. In turn, these experiences have made us stronger.

It is difficult to introduce a class that is so exemplary. Personally, I am so prideful to be standing among them. Many of these people are my role models and have inspired me in more ways than they know. Let me give a few examples. Megan Lock, biology major and standout on the softball field, took her senior thesis to another level by studying abroad in Honduras to so call “spider hunt.” Sam Jackson, a man that not only bleeds orange and garnet but is also a political juggernaut, is vice mayor … VICE MAYOR of his hometown of Greenback, Tennessee. Katherine Nadler, an all-academic performer on the volleyball court, conducted research at Oak Ridge National Laboratory that could aid Homeland Security. Santiago Correa, a silent leader inside and outside the classroom, used a challenging past to produce a truly inspiring senior study and more importantly impact the lives of young Hispanic males through the sport of soccer. And this is just to name a few ... the list goes on and on. Athletically, this class sitting before you brought home 20 Great South Athletic Championships, 5 Great South Athletic Conference President’s Cups, and appeared in 11 NCAA National Tournaments. We have rallied behind the feats of Pre-season Football All-Americans Blake Barnes and Welsey Idlette. We have been represented by the likes of Ridge Carter and Alyse Ray both Academic All-Americans in their respective sports of soccer and golf.

And as these amazing achievements and accomplishments are noteworthy, and characterize a true essence of the force our class is, I would like to take a moment to make a special introduction. Years from today, everyone will remember the stellar athlete, the admirable leader, the outgoing extrovert, and when we ultimately think about our class those people will quickly and ultimately come to mind. However, many graduates sitting among us today have performed amazing feats far beyond any game-winning shot or the most eloquent of speeches. I want to take time to introduce you to the man that persevered through hopelessness and adversity, to the single mother who looked overwhelming odds in the eye and refused to hear “no,” to the person who everyone had given up on, to the people who were told that they would never make it ... Guess What ... you made it! They were wrong! Today you win, and we all genuinely celebrate with you.

Family, friends, faculty, and staff, you are among an outstanding group of people. And yet this marks the final moment, where our family will assemble together under Chilhowee’s Mountains, basking in the drones of bagpipes and the ringing welkin. However, we carry the moments that bond us as a united force in our hearts. Family, friends, and members of the Maryville College community, I am overjoyed to introduce you to our family. Classmates this is our moment … our time to embark on the rest of our lives. I am proud to be standing among you today, and no matter where life takes you and no matter what may come your way always remember this: In the moments of this journey called life when you feel overwhelmed, alone, and not supported, know this. Donald Rucker loves you, is praying for you, and is always rooting for the absolute best in your life. God Bless America, and God bless my family, the Maryville College graduating class of 2012.


Maryville College is ideally situated in Maryville, Tenn., between the Great Smoky Mountains National Park and Knoxville, the state's third largest city. Founded in 1819, it is the 12th oldest institution of higher learning in the South and maintains an affiliation with the Presbyterian Church (USA). Known for offering its students a rigorous and highly personal experience that includes an undergraduate research requirement, Maryville College is a nationally ranked institution of higher learning that successfully joins the liberal arts and professional preparation. Total enrollment for the fall 2014 semester is 1,213.