16 graduating women veterans surprised with Quilts of Valor

Local News

During a surprise pre-commencement celebration, 16 graduating women veterans were honored with Quilts of Valor.

While not all 16 veterans could be present at Tuesday’s ceremony at the University of Tennessee, none of the recipients were aware that they were being honored with a quilt to congratulate them for earning their degrees and thank them for their service. 

Instead, these 16 women were invited to the event under the pretense of receiving special commencement regalia. 

Veteran Resource Center graduate assistant Linda Hinkle came up with the idea after seeing four veterans presented with quilts during the opening of the VRC in the fall of 2017.  

Three of the female veterans graduated in December 2017. The remaining recipients include both undergraduate and graduate students representing varying disciplines and all branches of the military.  

Quilts of Valor Foundation creates 60-by-80-inch quilts for veterans. The nationwide organization was founded in 2003 when founder Catherine Roberts’s son Nat was deployed in Iraq. During a dream, Roberts saw a young man in despair sitting on the edge of a bed. She then saw the same man wrapped in a quilt, which changed his demeanor to that of hope and well-being.  

Nationally, the organization—which has branches all across the country—has awarded more than 185,000 quilts. Tennessee has 26 sewing groups with more than 400 volunteers registered.  

About 471 veterans and 402 military spouses and dependents are attending UT this spring using veteran benefits.

The university ranks 31st among all public universities in the U.S. News and World Report’s 2017 Best Colleges for Veterans. Last year, UT received the VETS Campus designation from the state, and in 2014, UT became the first school in Tennessee to be designated a Purple Heart University.

Quilt of Valor recipients:

  • JoAnn Walker
    MBA, December 2017 graduate
  • Carrie Smith 
    B.S. in Kinesiology, May 2018 graduate
  • Jessica Gadd 
    Public Administration, May 2018 graduate
  • Jennifer Cochran
    Doctorate in Social Work, May 2018 graduate 
  • Whitney La’Ryan Woods 
  • Rayleana Schenfenfelder
    MBA, December 2017 Graduate
  • Orara Stella Sezenias
  • Tiffany Gordon
    Master’s in Social Work, May 2018 graduate
  • Yuki Minami Baltimore, MD 
    Modern Foreign Language/Literature, May 2018 graduate
  • Kaitlyn Hansen 
    B.S. in Marketing, May 2018 graduate
  • Erika Poulter 
    Bachelor’s in Political Science, May 2018 graduate
  • Linda Hinkle Bradshaw, WV
    Master’s in Social Work, May 2018 graduate
  • Samilynn Jordan
    Master’s in Agriculture, Leadership, Education, and Communications, December 2017 graduate
  • Jaime Krone 
    Master’s in Social Work, May 2018 graduate

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