Spring commencement at the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga will be celebrated with five separate ceremonies over two days starting Friday, May 5. All ceremonies will take place inside McKenzie Arena.
This will be the 261st overall commencement for the University, founded in 1886 as the then-private Chattanooga University. The first UTC graduation ceremony took place Aug. 23, 1969, at the Tivoli Theatre in downtown Chattanooga.
Two ceremonies take place on Friday:
- 11 a.m. for recipients of advanced degrees from the Graduate School
- 3 p.m. for graduates of the College of Health, Education and Professional Studies
Three ceremonies take place on Saturday:
- 9 a.m. for graduates of the Gary W. Rollins College of Business and the College of Engineering and Computer Science
- 1 p.m. for College of Arts and Sciences graduates in History; Interdisciplinary Studies; Mathematics; Political Science and Public Service; Psychology; Social, Cultural, and Justice Studies
- 4 p.m. for Arts and Sciences graduates in Art; Biology, Geology, and Environmental Science; Chemistry and Physics; Communication; English; Modern and Classical Languages and Literatures; Performing Arts; Philosophy and Religion
Due to McKenzie Arena construction activity, Gate 1 is closed while capacity is reduced; all attendees require tickets for admission. Graduation candidates will follow the ramp by the tennis courts and enter on the ground level. Family and guests will enter the building upstairs on the Houston Street side of the arena at Gates 2 and 3.
Guest parking is available for each of the ceremonies in the following lots on campus: Lot 32, 33, 34 and the Mocs Alumni Drive Garage (Lot 31). Accessible disability parking is available in Lot 20. These lots can be viewed on the parking map.
Commencement ceremonies can be watched via livestream online for those unable to attend.
Click here for more information and a FAQ list on spring commencement ceremonies.
Commencement ceremonies and featured speakers:
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11 a.m. Friday, May 5—Graduate School Commencement
Janelle Reilly, chief executive officer, CHI Memorial Health System
Janelle Reilly serves as chief executive officer for CHI Memorial Health System. She joined CHI Memorial as president and chief operating officer in July 2016, with responsibilities for the daily operations of three acute-care hospitals and the strategic direction of key service lines. She moved into her current position in January 2019.
Reilly has more than 30 years of healthcare management experience, serving as vice president of medical surgical operations and vice president of organizational advancement for Mercy General Health Partners in Muskegon, Michigan (1990-1997), as regional system strategy and accountable health network officer with Saint Alphonsus Health System in Boise, Idaho (1997-2012), and as chief operating officer and chief strategy officer for Presence Health in Chicago (2012-2015) before coming to Chattanooga.
She received a bachelor’s degree in chemistry and mathematics from William Jewell College in Liberty, Missouri, and a master’s in health care administration/management from the University of Missouri. As an undergraduate, she spent a year studying abroad as an Oxford Scholar.
“My advice is, ‘Hum if you want to,’” Reilly said when asked about the advice she will impart to the graduates. “This is a teaser for the content of my speech.”
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3 p.m. Friday, May 5—Undergraduate Commencement: College of Health, Education and Professional Studies
Dr. Bryan Johnson
Dr. Bryan Johnson has served as a corporate executive and a K-12 district leader.
Johnson served as superintendent for Hamilton County Schools from 2017 to 2021. During his tenure, Hamilton County Schools experienced historic academic growth moving from 130 of 141 districts in Tennessee to 2nd, making HCS the fastest-improving school district in Tennessee.
The national publication Education Week named Johnson one of its “Leaders to Learn From” for 2020. The Tennessee Organization of School Superintendents recognized Johnson as the 2020 Tennessee Superintendent of the Year, and he was one of four finalists for National Superintendent of the Year.
Before coming to Chattanooga, Johnson spent 10 years in the Clarksville (Tennessee) Montgomery County School System, rising to chief academic officer.
A native of Nashville, Johnson attended Austin Peay State University in Clarksville, majoring in business administration. He received a master’s degree in teaching from Belmont University and a doctorate from Trevecca Nazarene University in educational leadership.
“This is a monumental accomplishment for the graduates and for those who have supported them on their journey. I’m honored to play a small role in the recognition of their achievements,” Johnson said.
“So frequently, graduates are told they are our future. I believe they are our now. We need these brilliant minds to lean into spaces and make an impact wherever they land. Chattanooga’s university has prepared them to do just that.”
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9 a.m. Saturday, May 6—Undergraduate Commencement: Gary W. Rollins College of Business and College of Engineering and Computer Science
Charles Wood, president and chief executive officer, Chattanooga Area Chamber of Commerce
Charles Wood serves as the president and chief executive officer for the Chattanooga Area Chamber of Commerce. He is also chief economic development officer for the Greater Chattanooga Economic Partnership, a public-private, regional economic development partnership representing a 16-county region in Northeast Alabama, Northwest Georgia and Southeast Tennessee that focuses on building awareness of the region for business expansion and relocation.
Wood has served more than 20 years in key economic development positions in Mobile, Alabama; College Station, Texas; Pensacola, Florida; and the Mississippi Gulf Coast. He came to Chattanooga in 2012 as vice president of economic and talent development for the Chattanooga Area Chamber of Commerce, which serves the city and Hamilton County.
Wood received a bachelor’s degree in international studies and a master’s in economic development from the University of Southern Mississippi. He completed the Economic Development Institute at the University of Oklahoma and holds the designation of Certified Economic Developer from the International Economic Development Council.
Wood and his wife, Angie, have one grown son and live in downtown Chattanooga. In his spare time, he crews on sailboats, cooks Cajun food and can be found at his son’s coffee shop on the Northshore.
“The opportunity for me to speak to UTC’s graduates is both humbling and a bit terrifying. They are future entrepreneurs, CEOs and community leaders. Many of them will stay in Chattanooga and play critical roles in our community’s economic success,” Wood said, “and I am honored to share such a special occasion with them.”
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1 p.m. Saturday, May 6—Undergraduate Commencement: College of Arts and Sciences, students in History; Interdisciplinary Studies; Mathematics; Political Science and Public Service; Psychology; Social, Cultural, and Justice Studies
Dr. Chandra Ward, assistant professor of sociology
Dr. Chandra Ward serves as an assistant professor of sociology at UTC. She is an interdisciplinary scholar, having been trained in areas that range from the sociology of gender and sexuality to Geographic Information Systems and community geography.
Ward, a UTC faculty member since 2017, is an urban sociologist by training with expertise in public housing policy, low-income neighborhoods, community networks, displacement and urban development. She has studied the impact of mega-events—such as the Olympics—on displacement and the political landscape of host cities. Her doctoral dissertation looked at the impact of the disruption of place-based social networks on measures of the well-being of former public housing residents.
Her research at UTC has focused on Chattanooga and Smart City projects. Currently, she is working with Vanderbilt University and the Chattanooga Area Regional Transportation Authority on a multi-million-dollar transportation project that has contributed to her interest in mobility and its relationship to citizenship.
In addition, she is active in the Chattanooga community, serving on the boards of The Chattery, Stoveworks and Humanities Tennessee.
Ward received a bachelor’s degree in sociology and criminal justice from the University of Georgia – Franklin College of Arts and Sciences. She earned a master’s degree in sociology from Texas State University and a doctorate in sociology from Georgia State University.
“When I was approached about giving a commencement speech, I was honestly shocked while also filled with gratitude,” Ward said. “As a first-gen college graduate and woman of color, I have often struggled with imposter syndrome, something I’m sure our graduates have faced during their higher education career. However, I know that my background also serves as a teaching tool for myself and students who may feel more included and at ease knowing their professor has experienced and overcome the obstacles that economic insecurity brings.
“Daughter of a teen mom, raised by her grandmother, I have truly dreamt of being in this position—and my dreams are coming true. I am excited to encourage our graduates to dream and never stop because this is the beginning of an exciting new adventure for them.”
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4 p.m. Saturday, May 6—Undergraduate Commencement: College of Arts and Sciences, students in Art; Biology, Geology, and Environmental Science; Chemistry and Physics; Communication; English; Modern and Classical Languages and Literatures; Performing Arts; Philosophy and Religion
Randy Boyd, president, University of Tennessee System
Randy Boyd has served as the University of Tennessee System’s 26th president since November of 2018 and serves as the chief executive officer of the statewide university system, which includes campuses in Knoxville, Chattanooga, Pulaski and Martin; the Health Science Center in Memphis; the statewide Institute of Agriculture and Institute for Public Service and managing partnership of Oak Ridge National Lab.
In 1991, Boyd founded Knoxville-based Radio Systems Corporation, a company that produces more than 4,000 pet-related products under the brand names PetSafe, Invisible Fence, ScoopFree and SportDOG. The company employs more than 1,400 people with offices in six countries worldwide. He also owns Boyd Sports, LLC, which owns five minor league baseball teams, including the Tennessee Smokies.
In 2007, he began a journey transitioning from entrepreneur and businessman to full-time public servant. Since that time, he has served as Special Advisor on Higher Education to then-Governor Bill Haslam and as Tennessee Commissioner of Economic and Community Development. Boyd is a founder and chairman of tnAchieves, a nonprofit that has helped send more than 133,000 students to community college free of tuition and fees.
Boyd is the first in his family to graduate from college. He received a bachelor’s degree in business with an emphasis on industrial management from UT Knoxville. He also earned a master’s degree in liberal studies with a focus on foreign policy from the University of Oklahoma.
“Having the opportunity to address our amazing graduates is one of the best parts of my job,” Boyd said. “As new alums, I’d like to leave you with three challenges. First, live a life that leaves the world a better place than you found it. Second, live a life that honors the UT Chattanooga tradition and makes alumni proud. And third, live a life that will inspire the future generations of Mocs that will follow you.”