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Thomas More University honors newest alumni at in-person, day-long commencement; 440 get degrees

Thomas More University honored its newest alumni during an in-person, day-long Commencement Ceremony Saturday.

More than 260 undergraduate and graduate students registered to participate in the ceremony and walked alongside their families in the Connor Convocation Center to receive their diplomas.

Thomas More University graduates got a personal touch.

“I hope you realize the remarkable achievement of becoming a graduate,” President Joseph Chillo, LP.D., said in a letter given to each Class of 2021 graduate. “Commencement marks the opportunity for us to celebrate your notable achievement and it signifies that you have met all of the requirements for graduation. As you walk across the stage today, walk slowly, taking it all in and realizing that this graduation is a defining moment for both you and your family.”

Though more than 260 received their diplomas in-person, the ceremony honored the achievements of the entire Class of 2021, which included 371 undergraduate and graduate students, receiving a total of 440 degrees. Of this student total, 63 were first-generation undergraduate students. The class represented students from 14 states and four countries, and 11 of the graduates were veterans or active military.

This year’s Commencement was unlike traditional ceremonies in past years due to modifications necessitated by the COVID-19 pandemic. The ceremony mirrored the Class of 2020’s Commencement, which took place this past August. Each student was given a timeframe to arrive to campus depending on the college in which they were receiving their diploma. The graduate’s family members all received a front-row view of their student as they walked across the platform, being congratulated by President Joseph Chillo, LP.D., Provost Molly Smith, Ph.D., and Board of Trustees Chair Judith A. Marlowe ’69, Ph.D. The setup allowed for a more personalized experience for the students as Chillo, Smith, and Marlowe were able to directly applaud each student on an individualized basis.

A happy graduate

“As you go out into the world, serving as great leaders in your future endeavors, I know that you will succeed because of the education and Saints Experience you’ve received here at Thomas More,” Chillo added. “You have made an impact on this campus, and now you are equipped to make an impact in our community and world.”

The ceremony was outlined as followed:

• 10 a.m. – College of Business Programs
• 12:30 p.m. – College of Arts and Sciences Programs
• 2 p.m. – College of Education and Health Sciences and the Institute for Ethical Leadership and Interdisciplinary Studies

Student Award Winners

Whitney Johnson, the 2021 Outstanding Senior Award recipient, graduated with a bachelor’s degree in psychology. During her time at Thomas More, Johnson has served as president of Black Student Union, a resident assistant, a mentor resident assistant, a residence life intern, Camp Summit mentor, Camp Summit coordinator, and has hosted Live Whitney Wednesdays on Student Life’s social media accounts. Upon graduation, she will be attending Miami University in the Student Affairs in Higher Education graduate program and will be a graduate assistant for the Office of Residence Life. She claims that Thomas More has been a platform for her to grow in leadership and she will be taking everything she has learned and her experiences at the University into her future as a professional and a person.
Abby Link, the 2021 Presidential Service Award recipient, graduated with a bachelor’s degree in political science and economics. During her time at Thomas More, Link has not only been a dedicated student, but an active member and advocate for campus life, and the well-being of individuals that constitute it. She is easily recognizable through her multiple leadership roles, her persistent dad-jokes, and for being the number one patron of Thomas More apparel. As she moves on to pursue her master’s degree in public administration at the University of Cincinnati, Link remains present at Thomas More through the many students she has mentored and her love for the community around her.
Rebecca Gaeddert, the 2021 Digital, Graduate, and Professional Graduate Award recipient, graduated with a Master of Ethical Leadership (MAEL). A Northern Kentucky native, Gaeddert obtained her bachelor’s degree in human resource management from Northern Kentucky University in 2018. Gaeddert is currently a human resources professional at The Kroger Company, an animal lover, sister, daughter, and friend. She claims that the MAEL program has taught her the importance of authenticity and servant leadership in 21st century teams.
Naomi Diedrichs, the 2021 Digital, Graduate, and Professional Undergraduate Award recipient, graduated with a bachelor’s degree in business administration. Diedrichs is currently the corporate strategy manager at Toyota Boshoku America, Inc., and she has more than 20 years of experience in the automotive industry. Her current main activities at Toyota Boshoku America, Inc. include the development of the company’s short and mid-term strategy and the implementation and monitoring of corporate governance. She also manages the company’s external affairs and public relations and works with Toyota Boshoku’s headquarters in Japan, as well as several manufacturing plants in USA, Canada, Mexico, Argentina, and Brazil. She is originally from Japan and speaks both English and Japanese fluently. She graduated from Nagoya College Japan with an associate degree in English. On the weekends, she enjoys hot yoga and walking her two dogs with her husband. She and her husband have two grown children.
Recordings of each student award winner’s speech can be viewed at thomasmore.edu/commencement. Find more information about TMU’s commencement there as well. The Commencement was livestreamed on Thomas More’s Facebook page for those unable to attend.
“I encourage you to continue to inspire, be a trailblazer, and most importantly, stand up for what you believe in as did our patron saint Sir Thomas More,” Chillo said in conclusion of his letter. “You will make a difference and you will always be a Saint.”


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