U.S. Rep. Diane Black and state Rep. Ryan Williams will be the speakers for Tennessee Tech University's first dual spring commencement ceremonies on Saturday, May 7, in the Hooper Eblen Center on the TTU campus. Nearly 1,300 students will graduate in the ceremonies.
Black will speak at the morning ceremony at 9:30 a.m. Students of the colleges of Agricultural and Human Sciences, Arts and Sciences, Engineering, and Interdisciplinary Studies will graduate at this time. Williams will speak at the afternoon ceremony at 2 p.m. Students of the colleges of Business and Education will graduate at this time.
The addition of a second ceremony was needed because a single ceremony had reached the center's capacity with the growth in the number of graduates and their guests over the years.
As a small business owner, former educator and registered nurse for more than 40 years, Black brings a unique perspective to her work in Washington.
She ran for office for the first time in 1998, when she was elected to the Tennessee House of Representatives. Elected to the state senate in 2004, Black built on her reputation as a champion for children and seniors, traditional family values, fiscal responsibility, and small business owners. In 2006, Black was elected by her peers to serve as chairperson of the Senate Republican Caucus – the first woman in Tennessee history to hold that title.
In 2010 Black was elected to represent Tennessee's 6th Congressional District, which encompasses areas north, east and south of Nashville. Upon coming to Congress, Black was chosen as one of only two freshmen to serve on the powerful House Ways and Means Committee, serving on the Oversight and Human Resources Subcommittees on Ways and Means. Additionally, Black serves as a member of the House Budget Committee.
Born in Baltimore, Md., Black and her husband of 30 years, Dr. David Black, have three grown children and six grandchildren. They moved to Tennessee 25 years ago and currently live in Gallatin.
At an early age, Williams fell in love with team sports – in particular, the game of soccer. He later used that gift to earn a scholarship to play soccer at the collegiate level for Carson-Newman College in Jefferson City, Tenn. This was a significant accomplishment for Williams and his family because he became the first member of his working-class family to graduate from college.
After graduation, Williams immediately took a sales job for an area rug company. After working his way from the lowest-paid position to part-owner of the company, the couple decided to sell the business and move to Cookeville in spring 1999.
In 2010, he was elected to represent the 42nd District, which includes Cookeville, in the Tennessee House of Representatives. He currently also serves as director of business development for J&S Construction Co., having worked there since moving to Cookeville.
During his term as a Cookeville City councilman, Williams used his real estate and leadership skills to find a suitable land option for the new Prescott K-8 campus in South Cookeville. The location he found allowed for better distribution of school traffic around the city. Most importantly, it was within the city's future growth plan and the school board's land acquisition budget.
Williams also served as the council's representative to the Planning Commission and in that role has been an advocate for more stringent standards in landscape buffering between commercial and residential property. He also spearheaded the organization of an Architectural Review Board and developed a new architectural standard for all commercial and multi-family properties. Ryan's support of the Cookeville Regional Medical Center staff and board has facilitated the growth of one of our community's greatest employers and assets.
Williams and his wife, the former Abby Bates of Cookeville, have two children.
Following these ceremonies, TTU will have granted more than 70,000 degrees. Students graduating this spring hail from 32 states including Tennessee, 78 Tennessee counties and 14 foreign countries. They represent 41 undergraduate and 22 graduate programs.