Graduating vets and dependents honored in annual ceremony

MC honors graduating vets and dependents in annual ceremony

May 28, 2018

Maryville College honored five veterans and eight military dependents in its Class of 2018 during the annual Cord and Coin Ceremony held May 18 at the College’s House in the Woods.

Held annually since 2015, the ceremony recognizes graduating veterans and dependents who have been a part of the College’s Student Veterans Association (SVA).

Veterans recognized for service included Army veterans Ronald Gross ’18, Kyle Robison ’18 and Cody Silcox ’18; Navy veteran Gail Lavoie ’18; and Marine veteran Jordan Walker ’18. They were presented red, white and blue cords to wear during commencement exercises by Vice President and Academic Dean Dr. Barbara Wells.

Military dependents recognized included Alexis Black ’18, Mariah Franklin ’18, Alexandra Goodlett ’18, Anna Marie Rice ’18 and Alex Rittman ’18. Dependents Molly Hamant ’18, Nadia Marrero-Silva ’18 and Kelsey O’Dell ’18 were unable to attend the ceremony.

Both veterans and dependents were presented Maryville College Challenge Coins. Art Hafner ’72, a Maryville College alumnus and U.S. Army and Air Force veteran, presented the coins.

“The tradition of the military challenge coin dates back to World War II, but its history goes back to earlier conflicts,” said adjunct instructor of English and Latin and retired U.S. Army Lt. Col. Ted Higgs, who emceed the ceremony. “The modern challenge coin is a symbol of esprit de corps and camaraderie and is a recognition that the bearer is, was or forever will remain a member of that team. In our case, the team is Maryville College.”

The coin designed for Maryville College has the Anderson Hall tower and founding date on one side and, on the other side, an eagle flying against an American flag backdrop that is encircled by the names of the five branches of military service.

In addition to a cord and coin, each the five graduating veterans was presented with a “quilt of freedom” by members of the East Tennessee Quilts of Valor (QOV) chapter. Established in 2003, the QOV Foundation seeks to “cover service members and veterans touched by war with comforting and healing Quilts of Valor.”

Dennis Taylor, U.S. Army veteran and local QOV operator, explained the origins of QOV and how the non-profit has helped veterans recover from war. According to Taylor, the organization has 8,000 volunteer quilters nationwide, and approximately 186,000 quilts have been made. More than 800 of those were presented to veterans in Tennessee last year, he said.

“The quilts have a healing power. They really do,” Taylor told the crowd. “Everybody loves quilts. I’ve never met a person who doesn’t like a quilt. But if someone you don’t even know says ‘thank you’ with a quilt, it makes it even more special.

“ … Those who receive a quilt of honor are among some of the elite,” he said, referring to the population of veterans who have yet to be honored by QOV. “We are so very, very grateful for you veterans, who have sacrificed so much to get an education and are now going out in the world to serve again.”

During the service, SVA President Paula Buckingham ’19 presented gifts of appreciation to Kathi Wilson, registrar and VA certifying official; and Higgs. For her support of veterans in the classroom, Wells, who is retiring this summer, was presented a Maryville College Challenge Coin by Higgs.

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 2018 semester is 1,154.