Jay Dale went off script.
As president of the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga Alumni Board of Directors, Dale is tasked with introducing new graduates to the responsibilities of being alums of the institution—which he was doing as part of undergraduate commencement ceremonies on Saturday, Dec. 17, at McKenzie Arena.
Midway through his remarks to the graduates of the Gary W. Rollins College of Business and the College of Health, Education and Professional Studies, Dale took a slight detour.
“If you’ll allow me to go off script and take a personal moment, you’ll see why here in a second,” said Dale—a two-time alum of UTC (bachelor’s degree in finance in 1994, master’s degree in business administration in 2001). “First, let me say, I love this University. It has given me so many beautiful memories. A great education has propelled me to a very blessed career. Lifelong best friends at the Kappa Sigma fraternity, where I lived in the fraternity house and played in intramurals. We won the Greek intramural championship four years in a row; no big deal, just saying.
“But most importantly, I met my beautiful wife, Cynthia, here. We have two amazing daughters, Emma and Caroline, who chose to attend here. Both attend here now, and one of my daughters—Emma—is graduating today. I would not be a good father if I didn’t take this opportunity to embarrass her one more time in school. So Emma, if you would please stand.”
Emma Dale sheepishly stood to the applause of the McKenzie Arena crowd.
“Mom and I are very proud of you. We love you. Congratulations. You did it,” continued her dad—who punctuated “You did it” with a fist pump before returning to his script.
Following the ceremony, Emma Dale, who received a bachelor’s degree in business management, laughed when asked if she was embarrassed to get singled out by her dad.
“Embarrassed? It happens all the time, but in front of people that I know is even more embarrassing,” she said, “but it was nice. Parents, they get you through college and they make you feel good.”
Jay Dale smiled widely as he stood next to his daughter.
“I was thinking about the memories of when I was here, meeting my wife here, and then to have both my daughters go here is just special,” said Dale, market president at First Horizon Bank.
His wife, Cynthia, received a communication degree from UTC in 1993. Their youngest daughter, Caroline, also pursuing a communication degree, is in her junior year at UTC.
“We’re proud to be part of Chattanooga. We’re proud to be Mocs,” he said.