More than 300 graduate Texas A&M Central Texas

By BRITTANY FHOLER 
Cove Leader-Press 

More than 300 undergraduate and graduate students crossed the stage to receive their degrees during the Texas A&M University Central Texas Commencement ceremony held Saturday evening at the Bell County Expo Center. 
Saturday’s graduates pushed the number of students who have graduated from TAMUCT to more than 7,000 since the campus opened its doors in 2012. 
Of the nearly 350 students graduating, 71 graduated with their master’s degrees and four with their Specialist School Psychology, while 14 earned a Bachelor of Science Nursing degree, seven earned a Bachelor of Social Work and three earned a Bachelor of Music. 
During the [rocessional, graduates walked to their seats to sounds of the 1st Cavalry Division Band, under the direction of Maj. Curtis Kinzey, playing March of the Warriors. Director of Student Success Larry Davis sang the National Anthem. 
Before the awarding of degrees, Lt. Gen. Theodore Martin, Deputy Commanding General/Chief of Staff U.S. Army Training and Doctrine Command, commissioned 10 ROTC cadets into the U.S. Army as Second Lieutenants.  
“We’re here today to bring on board the next generation of Army leaders that will help protect our country and our way of life,” Martin said. “These young men and women of character are ready and they will never let you down.”
One of the cadets, Shawn Griffon of Copperas Cove, graduated with a Bachelor of Science from the College of Arts and Sciences. Griffon is following in his father’s, grandfather’s and great-grandfather’s footsteps in joining the military. 
“When I started trying to think about what I wanted to do, I just always when I was a kid, I played soldier, so it just kind of was destiny I suppose,” Griffon said. 
Griffon transferred from Angelo State University to Texas A&M Central Texas. He said he was ready to graduate and take the next step. 
“It’s still kind of setting in a little bit but it feels really good because it’s probably one of the hardest things I’ve ever done, with trying to balance trying to commission into the Army through ROTC, having a job and attending school,” Griffon said. 
Now that he’s reached the end of this part of his journey, Griffon said he was feeling nervous. 
“You’re supposed to know a lot but in reality, you’re going into a leadership position and you really don’t know too much,” Griffon said. “I hope that I have a lot of good mentors when I actually do get to my unit and platoon and hope that I can be developed into somebody worth following.”
Following the commissioning of the new officers, Laylan Copelin, the Vice Chancellor for Marketing and Communications for the Texas A&M University system, shared a few words of encouragement to the graduates. 
“While none of us know what the future for each of you may hold, I do know that you will be prepared for what lies ahead, thanks to this university,” Copelin said. “You are now part of a unique segment of our society, not just as graduates of Texas A&M University Central Texas but more broadly those with a college degree. I challenge you to see this as both a personal accomplishment and also a charge to carry out a proud legacy of positively impacting people’s lives.”
The A&M University system has a visible presence in 251 of the state’s 254 counties but a program presence in all of the counties. It enrolls more than 153,000 students, with 32,000 graduating each year. 
Texas A&M University Central Texas differs from most other universities in quite a few ways- by being an upper-level university but also by having such a large veteran population. Graduates who served in the United States military were identified by the maroon stoles worn over their black gowns. 
One of those veterans was David Sanchez, who served 23 years in the Army and was a forward observer, or 13F. Walking with him on Saturday was his service dog, Remington the Australian Shepherd, who wore his own little graduation cap. 
Sanchez earned his Bachelor of Science in Psychology from the College of Education and plans to start on his master’s degree in the fall. 
Sanchez said his reason for enlisting in the military was to go to college, with the objective being to earn his doctorate degree. Some people enlist with the purpose of earning a medal, Sanchez added. 
“Mine was ‘I’m here just to go to college,’ but I stayed 23 years,” he said. 
 “I’m ready for the next step,” Sanchez added. “I really want to see what happens now. I want to see the master’s.”
Texas A&M University Central Texas is a recognized Purple Heart University by the Military Order of the Purple Heart CENTEX Chapter 1876 and therefore indicates which graduates are Purple Heart recipients in the program. Saturday’s commencement ceremony recognized Terry Smith for being a Purple Heart recipient. 

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