“Be yourself and make a difference in the world, whether that difference is with one person, in your family, your community or maybe even the nation.”
These words were the core of the advice bestowed upon 443 graduates of William Woods by Major General Byron S. Bagby, U.S. Army (Retired), who served as commencement speaker at both the undergraduate and graduate commencement ceremonies held on Saturday, April 29, at William Woods University (WWU). 156 undergraduate students received their diplomas at the morning undergraduate commencement, followed by 287 graduate students (including 54 receiving doctorates) at the afternoon graduate ceremony, both held inside Cutlip Auditorium.
A Fulton native and current member of the WWU Board of Trustees who served 33 years in the U.S. Army, General Bagby referenced the storied history of William Woods in his address, citing legendary names in the University’s past that he had the opportunity to know, including Helen Stephens, Amy Shelton McNutt and former President Randall Cutlip. He used the acronym “GRACE” to inspire the graduates, with each letter standing for the five enduring qualities of life: gratitude, resilience, attitude, common sense and endurance.
“As you leave this institution, stay faithful to your core values,” advised General Bagby in his address. “The five values that are embodied in GRACE are certainly values to live by.”
The 2023 commencement ceremony was the first at WWU since 2019 that utilized the standard format of an individual not employed by the University delivering the address. Following his address, General Bagby was presented an honorary degree by the University.
“William Woods will always be part of you, and you will never forget these years you spent on this campus, from the time you first walked across the senior Lake Bridge as a first-year student, through the last time you did yesterday at your last Ivy Ceremony,” President Jeremy Moreland told students at the undergraduate ceremony. “You are always welcome here, and will forever be part of that distinguished organization known as Alumni of William Woods University.”
“And while it’s true that, in youth, it seems people can’t leave home quickly enough,” continued President Moreland. “But when you get older, you may find a longing to go home much more frequently, even if it’s in your mind. As you start your new life as a college graduate, we all hope that your home at William Woods is never too far from the top of your mind.”
Both ceremonies concluded with graduates being officially inducted into the WWU Alumni Association, with the oath being led by Pat O’Rourke ‘’52 and ’74. As always, commencement weekend at The Woods began on Friday, with the student convocation and Senior Soiree sandwiched around one of the University’s most time-honored traditions, the Ivy Ceremony. At the Ivy Ceremony, graduating seniors walk across Senior Lake Bridge for the final time as WWU students, having their own pieces of ivy ceremoniously cut from a long line to symbolize their separation from the University after their years of study.