MARTIN, Tenn. – Union City native and Jackson, Tenn., physician Dr. Ronald
H. Kirkland urged UT Martin fall graduates to remember those who helped
them succeed as he spoke during the 2 p.m. commencement ceremony Sunday in
the Kathleen and Tom Elam Center.
Kirkland, returning to his alma mater as commencement speaker, is also
president of the University of Tennessee National Alumni Association. He
earned his bachelor’s degree from UT Martin in 1970 and his doctor of
medicine in 1977 from the UT Center for the Health Sciences, Memphis. He
recalled his student years at UT Martin and some of the people who
influenced his life as he spoke to approximately 300 graduates and an
enthusiastic crowd of family and friends.
Kirkland recognized UT Martin for filling “a unique niche in the UT System,
providing high-quality undergraduate education.”
“It’s not primarily a research university,” Kirkland said of UT Martin.
“Its professors actually teach, meet students and care about their
students.” He said the university is well represented across the country by
its alumni “who are competing well in their chosen fields.”
He reminded the new graduates that they did not earn their success alone.
“If you’re like me, you didn’t get where you are without some help along
the way,” he said. “And for most if not all of you, there are some special
people here today who have helped you to get to this place.”
Kirkland concluded his remarks to the graduating class by reading selected
passages from “Oh, The Places You’ll Go!” by American Author Theodore
Giesel, who is better known as Dr. Seuss.
UT Martin Chancellor Philip W. Conn presided over the exercises and
conferred the degrees. The commencement ceremony featured the graduation
of 86-year-old Ola Kizer of Martin, who became the oldest person ever to
earn a University of Tennessee degree. She received a bachelor’s degree in
human environmental sciences.