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Get involved, speak your beliefs and don’t whine was the advice University of Tennessee President Joe Johnson gave graduates Friday.

In his final UT-Knoxville commencement ceremony as university president, Johnson also told spring semester graduates to take a graceful, pleasant approach to life.

Approximately 2,900 undergraduate and graduate degrees were awarded at Thompson-Boling arena. Johnson is stepping down as UT president July 31.

”Be involved, get out of the house. You need to stand up and give an answer when you have the opportunity,” Johnson said.

He warned them against whining and choosing their associates unwisely. Referring to the thousands of parents and relatives crowding the arena, he reminded them to ”remember who brought you to the dance.”

Johnson took the podium not only to confer the degrees, as he has done since becoming UT’s 19th president in 1991, but also as commencement speaker.

”You paid us a great honor by choosing UT. Now everybody’s going to graduate-except the nurses,” he quipped, when high-spirited graduates from the College of Nursing interrupted him with cheers.

The audience gave Johnson a standing ovation when he finished his address.

UT-Knoxville Chancellor Bill Snyder introduced Johnson as someone who played a vital role in the growth of the university in the 1960s and 1970s. Snyder singled out Johnson’s approach to UT students as his largest contribution to the institution.

”Dr. Johnson’s real legacy is the way he has personalized the institution,” Snyder said, praising him for the ”centrality of students” in his leadership at the school.