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University of the Cumberlands begins its Golden March Tradition


Twenty-one graduates from the Cumberland College class of 1961 prepare to walk during UC’s 2011 Commencement processional. The 50-year graduates were the first to take part in the Golden March Tradition, set to be an annual event at each commencement ceremony that will honor the graduating class from 50 years before.

WILLIAMSBURG, Ky. – University of the Cumberlands (UC) celebrated its 50-year graduates during its May 7, 2011 commencement ceremony. Graduates from the class of 1961 were honored at UC’s first 50th Class Reunion breakfast before the ceremony. During the graduation processional, the ’61 graduates walked to their seats in the Golden March Tradition, which will be practiced every year.

The graduates met for breakfast at 8:30 a.m. in the Boswell Campus Center on UC’s campus, where they recollected days spent at Cumberland College and marveled at how much the campus had changed.

Jack Asbury, a retired teacher and current resident of Tennessee, looked around the campus in amazement. It had been 30 years since he visited, and since then the campus has tripled in size.

“It is beautiful,” he said admiringly.

Evelyn Tolliver, a Corbin resident said of trying to navigate the campus today, “I’d get lost!”

During the breakfast, each 1961 graduate stood and introduced him or herself and then offered a memory or anecdote of professors long gone, meeting his or her spouse and courting them, and things done since graduating.

“We spent our time in the wigwam, down under the gym over there,” recalled Brenda (Young) Rains, referring to herself and classmates Georgia Robinson, Evelyn Cox and Charlotte Ramsey.

One graduate fondly recalled “Dr. Val,” (Dr. John Vallandingham) her math professor at Cumberland College.

“He was a legend down here,” said Shelby (Thurston) Pennington. Pennington, a math major, was the only female in most of her math classes. She stressed her pride in being a Cumberland College graduate.

“I was so well prepared for graduate school when I left here,” said Pennington, a retired math teacher in the Corbin school system.

Of the 215 graduates of 1961, 21 attended the golden reunion, along with friends and family. Each graduate was given a 50th reunion medallion, cap and gown, and they carried a Golden Reunion banner as they walked in to take their seats during the commencement’s processional.

The idea to begin a Golden March Tradition at each commencement was put into motion by the Director of Alumni Services, Dave Bergman. The decision to wait until 2011 to begin the tradition seemed appropriate, since 1961 was the year that Cumberland College graduated its first four-year class.

The college had previously been a junior college, and many of the ’61 grads were attending with the idea that they would transfer on to a four-year institution to receive their bachelors. Upon the addition at Cumberland, many of them stayed and completed their degrees there. UC looks forward to celebrating its graduates each year with this new tradition.

“The event was a success and plans are already underway to improve upon the event in 2012 when the 1962 class arrives on campus for the annual tradition,” said Bergman.

Located in Williamsburg, Ky., University of the Cumberlands is an institution of regional distinction, which currently offers four undergraduate degrees more than 40 major fields of study; nine pre-professional programs; seven graduate degrees, including a doctorate and six master’s degrees; certifications in education; and online programs.