For the first time in its history, Tyler Junior College awarded bachelor’s degrees during fall commencement ceremonies today in Wagstaff Gymnasium.
TJC commencement ceremonies were held at 10 a.m. and 1 p.m. today in Wagstaff Gym, recognizing 682 candidates for graduation for the fall 2017 semester.
The 10 a.m. ceremony recognized graduates in the School of Nursing and Health Sciences and the School of Professional and Technical Programs.
The 1 p.m. ceremony recognized graduates in the School of Engineering, Mathematics and Sciences and the School of Humanities, Communications and Fine Arts.
TJC President Dr. Mike Metke conferred the degrees and certificates and certified the graduates.
In the 10 a.m. ceremony, three graduates crossed the stage and received TJC’s first Bachelor of Science degrees in dental hygiene: Amanda Camp of Lufkin, Shannon Kassaw of Palestine, and Michelle Trammell of Tyler.
TJC is the first and only community or junior college in Texas authorized to offer a Bachelor of Science degree.
In early 2015, TJC leaders put a plan in motion to pursue legislative approval for the degree. Legislative action was granted in late 2015, after then-State Sen. Kevin Eltife, R-Tyler, State Rep. Travis Clardy, R-Nacogdoches, and Matt Schaefer, R-Tyler, sponsored companion bills in the Texas Legislature to create the program.
During the 85th Texas Legislative session in 2017, State Sen. Bryan Hughes and Reps. Clardy and Schaefer expanded the legislative approval to have TJC designated as one of the state’s four Legacy colleges, regarding community colleges awarding baccalaureate degrees. In addition to TJC, Legacy colleges are: Brazosport College, Midland College and South Texas College.
Metke introduced commencement speaker – and TJC alumnus – State Sen. Bryan Hughes.
In October, Hughes was honored as TJC’s distinguished alumnus during the Homecoming Alumni Awards program.
“Way back in 1989, I was sitting where you are, and I’ve seen many blessings from the Lord since that time,” Hughes said. “TJC is a very special place for me personally.”
Hughes also mentioned his mother who, as a single mom, figured out a high school education wasn’t sufficient to support her family’s needs; so, she came to TJC as a non-traditional student and earned her nursing degree.
“We all have different needs that have been met here,” Hughes said. “Higher education is a backstage pass that gets you into places that you can’t get without it. As you move on with your careers, whether it’s more education or going into the workforce, you will enjoy the bounty of the American dream in ways that you wouldn’t have been able to were it not for your work at TJC.”
Metke said, “This group of graduates has more top students than ever before at TJC. We’ve never had more honors students and academic scholars than we have now. We’ve never had more students who graduated in the top 10 percent of their class. This is truly a golden era for TJC.”