Skip to main content
Alumna Margaret Scobey, former US Ambassador to Egypt, spoke to students Friday morning at the College of Arts and Sciences commencement ceremony.

More than 3,730 undergraduate and graduate students received degrees from the university last week. Thirteen ceremonies took place between Wednesday, May 8, and Saturday, May 11, and featured a wide variety of speakers imparting their wisdom to these newly-minted UT alumni.

Below is a collection of the words of wisdom shared by this year’s commencement speakers.

  • “I’d like to share a quote from Benjamin Franklin that I find very appropriate in our careers. ‘Tell me and I forget. Teach me and I remember. Involve me and I learn.’ I challenge you to remember this quote every time you step onto the job. Not only are we going to be nurses, but we will also be educators and it is our responsibility to involve them in their care.” – Erin Peterson Shook, member of the graduating class, speaking at the College of Nursing commencement ceremony.


  • “You have earned more than a degree here today. You have gained admission to a vast network of Volunteers. Alone you can accomplish a lot. With this network, you can accomplish anything.” – Dwight Hutchins, global managing director for Accenture, Health and Public Service Strategy, 1986 chemical engineering graduate, speaking a the College of Engineering commencement ceremony.


  • “Sometimes you can take a wrong attitude and turn it into a right attitude and it can change your life. Find your niche. Take your opportunities and you’ll be surprised at what will happen in your life.” – Former Olympian Missy Kane, 1978 physical education graduate and 1984 masters recipient, speaking at the College of Education, Health, and Human Sciences commencement ceremony.


  • “The more high-tech we become, the more high-touch we must be. Relationships are what matter, not transactions. So no matter how much technology or facts surround you, be sure to touch and engage each person along your path.” – Monica Langley, senior special writer for the Wall Street Journal and a 1980 journalism graduate, speaking at the College of Communication and Information commencement ceremony.


  • “You are going to get to choose two things when you leave here. You are going to get to choose your standards for living and you are going to get to choose your standard of living…But I have seen a lot of people along life’s way who prioritize their standard of living above their standards for living…In every case, I have every seen, they blow themselves up. So I am going to encourage you to put your standards for living above your standard of living.” – Donnie Smith, president and CEO of Tyson Foods and a 1980animal science graduate, speaking at the College of Agricultural Sciences and Natural Resources commencement ceremony.


  • “It doesn’t matter whether you studied history or geology or chemistry or Greek or whatever. Hopefully you now have an intellectual framework that allows you to acquire new information, assimilate it to what you know, and to change your assumptions and perceptions when new information requires it. Take with you the friends you have made here. With luck you will continue to expand that circle of friends. But there is no substitute for the friends of your youth. You’ll also have a friend in the university. No matter where I went in the world, and I went to some pretty remote places, the first piece of mail I ever received inevitably came from the UT Alumni Association. I’ve always thought that if Osama Bin Laden had gone to UT, it would not have taken so many years to find him.” – Margaret Scobey, alumna and former US Ambassador to Egypt and longtime diplomat. Speaking at the College of Arts and Sciences commencement ceremony.


  • “Life can certainly have its share of difficulties, but it’s really not all that complicated. It’s doing the simple things well that generate success.” – Mark Emkes, Tennessee Commissioner of Finance and Administration and retired chairman, chief executive officer and president of Bridgestone Americas Inc., speaking at the College of Business Administration commencement ceremony.


  • “There will probably come a time when each of you will be challenged to act with courage when confronted with a dilemma (involving the rule of law). Rather than wait for that opportunity, I hope you will search for it and will seize it.” – Lamar Alexander, US Senator from Tennessee and UT president from 1988 to 1991, speaking at the College of Law commencement ceremony.


  • “Begin each day just pledging to do your best. That’s all we can do. We’re human. Forgive yourself when things don’t turn out the way you expect. Because, believe me, sometimes they won’t…The two things most important things you can give people—it’s not the education you can spew out at them; of course that’s important—but it’s your time and your word. Those are two things that will get you anywhere you want to go in this profession.” – Dr. Patricia Sura, who previously served as an assistant professor of surgery at the College of Veterinary Medicine, speaking at the college’s commencement ceremony.


  • “Let us hold fast to the friendships we formed and relationships we established during the time in this college. Let us become the leaders that will shape a better tomorrow. And, above all, let us use the tools and strategies that we have learned to become change agents who will make a difference in the world. We have made it this far, but we have so much farther to go.” – Mira Hanna, member of the graduating class, speaking at the College of Social Work commencement ceremony.


  • “For some of you, today may mark the end of your formal education but whether you know it or not, another phase of your education is about to begin. I’m talking about learning more than you ever thought possible about fields outside your own—learning someone else’s ropes. To be good at what you do, you need to have a pretty good handle on what (your clients) do.” – Robin Klehr Avia, regional managing principal and chair of the board at global design firm Gensler, and a 1976 graduate in interior design, speaking at the College of Architecture and Design hooding ceremony.