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Graduate ceremony begins WKU

Graduate ceremony begins WKU's 181st Commencement

WKU began its 181st Commencement on Friday night with the recognition of nearly 700 graduates of The Graduate School.

WKU conferred 29 doctor of physical therapy, 11 doctor of education, nine doctor of nursing practice, 583 master’s and nine specialist in education degrees and 58 graduate certificates and recognized its top graduate students during the ceremony at Diddle Arena. (More: List of doctoral graduates; Commencement photos)

WKU President Gary A. Ransdell encouraged members of the Class of 2017 to put their education, talent and passion to use to build outstanding communities and workplaces. “Our passions and our inspirations drive us and give us a strong sense of purpose, and they are a great source of our pride and happiness,” he said. “Lead by example and use the WKU motto, The Spirit Makes the Master, as a guiding principle in your life. That spirit blends the heart with the mind – and both are at the core of almost every achievement.”

John D. Minton Award

Jessica Canada Wellman of Williamsburg received the John D. Minton Award for outstanding graduate student.

Wellman, the daughter of Kimberly and Gary Canada and the wife of Gregory Wellman, received her Master of Arts in Applied Economics. “Jessica is an excellent example of how students who work hard can grow and flourish at WKU because she received WKU’s top undergraduate academic honor last year,” said John D. Minton Jr., chief justice of the Kentucky Supreme Court.

The award is named for Minton’s father who was WKU’s first graduate dean and served as vice president for Administrative Affairs and as WKU’s fifth president.

Wellman will spend the 2017-18 academic year in South Africa on a Fulbright Scholar Research Grant studying how land grants are used for poverty alleviation. Afterward, she will pursue a Ph.D. in economics at the University of Virginia. More: Read more about the 2017 Minton Award winner.

Outstanding graduate students

WKU also recognized the following six students as the outstanding graduate student within each academic college:

  • College of Education and Behavioral Sciences: Annastasia F. Williams of Davenport, Iowa, Master of Arts in Education, Student Affairs in Higher Education.
  • College of Health and Human Services: Zona J. Ascensio of Bowling Green, Master of Public Health.
  • Gordon Ford College of Business: Zane M. Ramey of Lexington, Master of Accountancy.
  • Ogden College of Science and Engineering: Aykut Arslan of Bowling Green, Master of Science, Mathematics.
  • Potter College of Arts & Letters: Gavin L. Kirkwood of Rancho Cucamonga, California, Master of Arts, Organizational Communication.
  • University College: Heather A. Oliver of Colorado Springs, Colorado, Master of Arts, Organizational Leadership.

Commencement notes

  • WKU ROTC cadet Eric Edward Rohr of Watertown, Wisconsin, was commissioned into the U.S. Army as a second lieutenant and assigned to 2nd Infantry Division, Camp Humphreys, South Korea. WKU also recognized all veterans and those serving in the U.S. armed forces.
  • Friday night’s ceremony included 109 international students from 21 countries; an additional 106 students from 17 countries will be recognized during Saturday’s ceremonies. U.S. and international flags were carried in the grand march.
  • WKU recognized graduates from its three regional campuses in Elizabethtown-Fort Knox, Glasgow and Owensboro.
  • Dr. Fred Stickle, professor of counseling and a faculty member for 38 years, served as chief marshal.
  • Ten WKU student-athletes earned their master's degrees with a cumulative GPA of 3.66, including three 4.0 marks.

Commencement activities continue

WKU’s Commencement Weekend continues Saturday (May 13) with three undergraduate ceremonies and the graduation of The Gatton Academy’s 10th class.

During three undergraduate ceremonies at 9:30 a.m., 2 p.m. and 6 p.m., WKU will confer 1,741 bachelor’s degrees, 96 associate degrees and 69 undergraduate certificates. The 9:30 a.m. undergraduate ceremony will include Potter College of Arts & Letters and University College as well as recognition of Cade McGavinn Brown, a History and Political Science major from Franklin, as the Ogden Foundation Scholar; the 2 p.m. undergraduate ceremony will include Gordon Ford College of Business and College of Health and Human Services; the 6 p.m. undergraduate ceremony will include College of Education and Behavioral Sciences and Ogden College of Science and Engineering. More: Commencement program; parking information

The Gatton Academy of Mathematics and Science in Kentucky will recognize 59 students from 37 counties in the Class of 2017, its 10th graduating class. The ceremony will begin at 1 p.m. May 13 at Van Meter Hall. Guest speaker will be Dr. Julia Carter, President of the Wood Hudson Cancer Research Laboratory.

WKU Elizabethtown-Fort Knox will host a commencement ceremony at 3 p.m. (Eastern time) Sunday (May 14) at the Hardin County Schools Performing Arts Center, 384 W.A. Jenkins Road, Elizabethtown. The keynote speaker will be Dr. Ransdell. Student speaker will be Edward Razo of Radcliff, a social work major and member of the Class of 2017.

WKU Owensboro will host a commencement ceremony at 6:30 p.m. Monday (May 15) at the RiverPark Center, 101 Daviess St., Owensboro. Keynote speaker will be Dr. Ransdell. Student speaker will be Joshua Holder of Owensboro, an elementary education major and member of the Class of 2017.

For social media posts about Commencement, follow #WKUGrad or visit

Contact: Registrar, (270) 745-3351

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 Last Modified 5/2/17