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KNOXVILLE — When Courtney Caldwell, a graduate of the College of Nursing at the University of Tennessee, Knoxville, walked across the stage to get her nursing pin on Friday, Dec. 12, an important person was missing from the audience: her husband.

Courtney Caldwell receiving her nursing pin
Courtney Caldwell receiving her nursing pin
Courtney’s husband, Gunnery Sergeant James Caldwell, is on active duty in Iraq. He’s not due home until late January.

But, thanks to modern technology, the couple got to share Courtney’s graduation ceremony in cyberspace.

The College of Nursing graduation was held at 1 p.m. in the University Center ballroom. In Iraq, it was 9 p.m.

A friend of the couple, armed with a laptop and webcam, sat near the front of the auditorium and beamed the ceremony to James, who was watching from his barracks. Meanwhile, those sitting near the computer could see James in Iraq.

When Courtney’s name was called to receive her pin, she walked onto the stage and paused for several seconds with College of Nursing Dean Joan Creasia. The two gazed at the Webcam and smiled.

“In case you were wondering what was happening,” Creasia told the crowd afterward, “We were sending a live feed to Iraq, to Courtney’s husband.”

As Courtney left he stage, she paused again to look at the Webcam and the couple’s 7-year-old daughter, Kiersten, ran up to give her mom a hug as her dad -– and most of the audience — watched and smiled.

Courtney is not your typical undergraduate student. She joined the Navy at age 20 and served eight years active duty before leaving to pursue nursing at UT Knoxville. She joined the Navy Reserves after leaving active duty and is now an Electronics Technician First Class. She has served a total of 12 years between active duty and the reserves.

James is an active duty Marine Gunnery Sergeant of almost 15 years, currently stationed in Al Asad, Iraq.

Courtney was one of seven December 2008 bachelor’s degree graduates from the College of Nursing. There were 42 master’s degree graduates and one doctoral graduate.


Amy Blakely, (865) 974-5034,