Southwest Tennessee Community College

For Immediate Release

Date: April 17, 2009

For More Information: Pat O'Brien, (901) 333-4021


Southwest's 2009 Commencement Takes Place on May 2

Southwest will celebrate its 2009 Commencement ceremony on May 2 at 10:30 a.m. at the Desoto Civic Center in Southaven, Mississippi. Founded in 2000, Southwest is the largest community college in the state, offering more than 100 associate degrees, certificates, programs and continuing education opportunities. It is governed by the Tennessee Board of Regents system and this year will award associate degrees and technical certificates to 1,306 graduates.

The commencement speaker will be Joe Birch, nearly as well known for his civic and charitable endeavors, as for his on-air presence as WMC-TV's main news anchor and other broadcast venues. Among his numerous awards is the prestigious Brother Maurelian Medal from Christian Brothers University. With three other distinguished Memphians, he received the Diversity Memphis "Humanitarian of the Year" award in 2008. Heavily involved in the fight against Alzheimer's disease, he was the 2008 honoree at the Alzheimer's Association of the Mid-South gala. And, when the Metropolitan Inter-Faith Association (MIFA) introduced the Joe Birch Media Award honoring those who use the tools of communications to promote MIFA, Birch was its first recipient.

Student speaker Jeni Chatham will receive her degree in general studies. Returning to college after a lengthy recovery from a medical trauma, she credits Southwest with "helping me rediscover my love of learning." Chatham is a member of the Honors Academy, Phi Theta Kappa, and is a dean's list student. Especially active in Pierian, Southwest's literary society, she credits one teacher's encouragement for helping her start writing again. "My high points were being published in Hieroglyph, (literary journal), and having poems adapted for a play based on Hieroglyph." A Court Appointed Special Advocates (CASA) volunteer, serving children through the Juvenile Court system, she plans, after completing her nursing degree, to work with special needs children.

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Cutline: Joe Birch

Cutline: Jeni Chatham