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KNOXVILLE — Today’s world is marked by rapid change and technology unimaginable only a few years ago. Yet, a simple message remains appropriate for graduates at the University of Tennessee, Knoxville.

State Rep. Craig Fitzhugh
State Rep. Craig Fitzhugh
State Rep. Craig Fitzhugh addressed about 1,200 undergraduate students who participated in fall commencement today at Thompson-Boling Arena.

In a testament to changing times, Fitzhugh, himself a UT graduate, alluded to a video on YouTube.com “that speaks to the speed, complexity, and change of our time -– of your time -– the exponential generation.” The video fires off facts such as the top 10 jobs that will be in demand in 2010 did not exist in 2004 and that institutions are currently preparing students for jobs that don’t yet exist.

But Fitzhugh found that the message he wanted to convey was much less complex and technical. Inscribed on a box given to Fitzhugh by his wife, Pam, are the words: “Think deeply, speak gently, love much, laugh often, work hard, give freely and be kind.”

“Written years ago, I believe these words may yet be significant in today’s frenetic, exponential world,” Fitzhugh said.

“Those 15 words are my wish for each of you on this special day and throughout your special life of challenges, opportunities, and successes. You may not see each other again, especially in this context, but you are forever bound as the University of Tennessee’s Class of 2008,” he said.

Fitzhugh, D-Ripley, has served in the Tennessee House of Representatives since 1995. He has been chairman of the House Finance, Ways and Means Committee.

Fitzhugh earned a bachelor’s degree in finance at the University of Tennessee, Knoxville, in 1972, and graduated from UT’s College of Law in 1975. His son, Tom, was among the students graduating today from the College of Business Administration.

These days everyone is concerned with the economic situation and their career futures. Fitzhugh touched on the effect on the university and how graduates can help.

“As we are all aware, especially those looking to enter the work force, we are in the most challenging economic times since The Great Depression. The declining revenue in Tennessee is having a direct and detrimental effect on your university,” he said.

“The University of Tennessee cannot and must not lose ground during these troubling times. Every dollar will assist our university to further its mission as a premier land-grant institution, both now and in the future. So when you can, consider giving back to your particular college where you learned your specialty, or perhaps a sorority, fraternity, or other student organization on campus that has had a positive effect on your college career and in your life.”

He also said the state of Tennessee can benefit from today’s graduates.

“Consider giving to this state by making your home here.
Tennessee is a wonderful place to live, offering something from east to west for just about everybody. She has given us much and needs you even more. It may not be in your plans now, but consider your place in Tennessee,” Fitzhugh said.

On Friday, students receiving advanced degrees were recognized in a graduate hooding ceremony. There were 170 students earning master’s degrees and 115 earning doctorate degrees who participated.

During today’s commencement, three graduates received commissions as second lieutenants in the United States Army. Two others were commissioned in the summer.

More than 3,000 students were eligible to participate in today’s commencement, which combines graduates from the summer and fall terms. The ceremony can be viewed in an archived webcast at http://www.utk.edu/commencement/fall08/.


Elizabeth Davis, (865) 974-5179, elizabeth.davis@tennessee.edu