KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (WATE) — The University of Tennessee is giving out over 5,000 degrees and certificates as students graduate over the weekend. Friday marked day one of the 11 commencement ceremonies scheduled to take place.
Graduates told WATE that they are looking forward to what the future holds, which is the message one of the commencement speakers, Tamika Catchings, former Lady Vol and WNBA legend shared with graduates.
Catchings said she dreamed of being in the NBA before the WNBA existed. Now after her many accomplishments, she encouraged those graduates to take the advice her parents told her throughout her journey.
“You can do it. If anyone can do it, you can,” Catchings said.
“The biggest thing for me is a couple charges,” the basketball hall of famer told WATE. “A charge for them to push forward through adversity; A charge to push forward using their superpower. And at last, the charge to change the world and inspire the world. I think just from those three charges and thinking about what they did here in 4,5, 6 years, however long it took for them to graduate from the University of Tennessee, what they get to do in the future to really make an impact and changing the world.”
Alexis Arinze, a graduate who majored in audiology and speech pathology also had her parents as inspiration, specifically her father who is a doctor. After watching what he went through during the pandemic, Arinze said that encouraged her to follow in his footsteps, and she believes UT prepared her for that.
“UT has taught me—everyone on campus is so nice, so it’s taught me the Volunteer spirit; to always go out and do above and beyond and help people, so I think that’s the most important takeaway,” Arinze said.
EmiLee White is going into hotel and tourism management. She said it’s been a goal of hers and she is excited for what’s next.
“I’m just really excited to be able to do something that I worked so hard for, for four years and to be able to do something that I love doing,” White said.
Frank Wadewitz, who majored in kinesiology agreed with White.
“I’m really looking forward to just being able to move forward and start this next chapter of life. It’s so exciting to look around and see all the happy faces and everybody celebrating together,” Wadewitz said.
Catchings is also an active philanthropist. Her Catch the Stars Foundation which focuses on literacy, fitness and youth development has benefitted over 15,000 children since its inception in 2004. She also created the Amplification Fund for the UT Health Sciences Center Audiology Department, which supports young adults whose insurance no longer covers the cost of hearing amplifiers.
She currently serves as a basketball color analyst for ESPN and the SEC Network.
Commencement ceremonies will continue through Sunday.