Skip to main content

KNOXVILLE—Take risks. Set goals. Power through obstacles. And above all, enjoy the race of life.

Benita FitzgeraldThat was the challenge from Benita Fitzgerald Mosley, a University of Tennessee alumna and 1984 Olympic gold medalist, to graduates during today’s fall commencement ceremony.

Mosley, a 1984 graduate of the UT College of Engineering, exhorted graduates by sharing tips that served her well during her career as an elite runner and now as a business executive.

First, she said, is “having a good start.”

“Don’t let the fear of making a mistake keep you from taking risks,” she said.

Second, Mosley said, is to set high, measurable goals. She noted that she put in 11 years of work for the 12.84-second race that secured her the Olympic gold in 1984. She became the first African American woman to win gold in the 100-meter hurdles.

“Run your own race,” she said. “Have tunnel vision. Don’t be distracted by what your competitors are doing.”

She added: “You were put on this earth for your own unique purpose.”

Finally, Mosley encouraged graduates to “have a strong finish.”

“We all experience defining moments in our lives,” she said. “It’s often only a small margin that will separate us from reaching our goals.”

Fall 2011 GraduatesMore than 1,850 students were eligible to participate in today’s commencement which combines graduates from the summer and fall terms. The graduate and undergraduate ceremonies can be viewed in an archived webcast at

Also, during today’s commencement, five students received commissions as second lieutenants in the U.S. Army.

On Thursday, students receiving advanced degrees were recognized in a graduate hooding ceremony. There were 607 graduate students who received advanced degrees, including eighty-nine earning the doctor of philosophy degree, two specialists in education, 496 master’s degrees, and twenty graduate certificates.

C O N T A C T:

Lola Alapo (865-974-3993,

Beth Gladden (865-974-9008,