The University of Tennessee at Chattanooga celebrated its 235th Commencement at the McKenzie Arena today. A total of 15 student-athletes from six different teams earned their degrees as a part of the program.
The student-athletes and their families gathered with members of the UTC Athletics Department for a reception In the Hall of Fame Room at McKenzie Arena prior to graduation ceremonies. Senior Garrett Hughes, a First Team All-Southern Conference selection at tight end for the Mocs football team, reflected on his career at UTC.
"It does fly," stated Hughes. "Four and a half years...it went by fast. The last couple of years with football made it go by really fast. I talked to the other players when we had our exit interviews, and I told them to take advantage of every opportunity you have because it is gone before you know it."
Six student-athletes graduated with distinction, led by a pair of SoCon Track & Field Champions. Chris Berry, the 2009 SoCon 5000M indoor and outdoor champion, graduated Magna Cum Laude with a degree in Health & Human Performance. Teammate Anneli Uys, the 2010 SoCon Female Track Athlete of the Year, also graduated Magna Cum Laude with a degree in Health & Human Performance.
Four members of the Mocs soccer program were honored for their academic work, including Danielle Barr who earned Cum Laude with her degree in Nursing. Marlee Jenkins (Environmental Science), Arielle Lankford (Biology) and team manager Whitney Lowe (Health & Human Performance) also graduated Cum Laude. Chelsea Hurst gave the soccer program five graduates in all, earning a degree in Psychology.
The football team had four student-athletes walk across the stage today, beginning with Hughes' degree in Business Administration. "It was a lot of work that went into it and it is something to really be proud of," he added.
Chris Pitchford, a three-year starter at receiver, also graduated with a Business Administration degree. Starting fullback Courtland Ellzey (Political Science) and receiver Chris Marshall (Sociology) rounded out the class from the football team.
"I am very proud of them," stated head football coach Russ Huesman. "They have been excellent representatives of our program and this University throughout their careers. Graduating student-athletes is what it is all about and it is great to see them recognized for their hard work."
The softball team had a pair of student-athletes complete their academic careers. Brooke Loudermilk, a two-time SoCon Pitcher of the Year, graduated Cum Laude with a degree in Art Education. She was joined by fellow All-SoCon performer Kaiti Kelley who earned her degree in Health & Human Performance.
"Without athletics I don't know if I would have been able to accomplish what I accomplished," stated Loudermilk. "I think it is all a reflection of our program, the coaching staff and our personal values."
Derek Rende, a three-time all-region and four-time All-SoCon golfer, earned a degree in Criminal Justice. Tyler Roberson, a member of the Mocs' wrestling program, rounded out the graduates with his degree in Health & Human Performance.
All totaled, 11 SoCon titles, four individual SoCon trophies, three SoCon Athlete of the Year Awards and 23 All-SoCon honors walked across the stage today. "This group certainly exemplifies our Vision to establish comprehensive excellence as the UTC standard," stated Director of Athletics Rick Hart. "They all have been excellent representatives of Mocs Athletics during their careers and I am very proud of them."
Derek Rende - Criminal Justice
Danielle Barr - Nursing - Magna Cum Laude
Chelsea Hurst - Psychology
Marlee Jenkins - Environmental Science - Cum Laude
Arielle Lankford - Biology - Cum Laude
Whitney Lowe - Health & Human Performance - Cum Laude
Tyler Roberson - Health & Human Performance