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Dr. Joe Johnson’s message of leadership resonates with South College graduates

June 17, 2016

Dr. Joe Johnson, president emeritus of the University of Tennessee, delivered a particularly fitting commencement speech about leadership.

He told students they could lead regardless of what their future career holds.

“One can be a leader in whatever role they fill – a nurse, a teacher, a legal aid,” Johnson said. “Leadership is not defined by your title, how big your office is or how much you make. It is defined by causing good things to happen.”

Johnson began his career at UT in 1958 and was named president in 1990.

More than 200 South College graduates received their diplomas during the ceremony at the Tennessee Theatre in downtown Knoxville.

Several students were honored with Outstanding Student awards, including:

  • Ashley Cox and Amanda Copeland, Criminal Justice
  • Tiffany Goins, Legal Studies
  • Amanda Guffey, Paralegal Studies
  • Amanda Davis and Christy Watts, Nursing
  • Michele Elliot, Physical Therapist Assistant
  • Matthew Smith, Health Science
  • Wilbert McDaniels, Business (Graduate Level)
  • Erica Costly, Business (Undergraduate Level)
  • Jennifer Gibson, Imaging Sciences
  • Brandy Snodderly, Medical Assisting

Jennifer Milam received the Presidential Award. Many graduates wore colored cords, medals and stoles signifying achievements, such as academic achievement and honor society membership.

Several faculty members also were honored. Dr. Shiv Dhar received the Distinguished Teaching Award for Outstanding Classroom Effectiveness, Professionalism and Dedication. Carolyn Hillegas received the Barbara Brimi Distinguished Service Award for Outstanding Institutional, Professional and Community Service.

About South College

South College is a private institution accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges(SACSCOC) to offer programs at the doctorate, masters, baccalaureate, and associate levels. To learn more about South College, visit