East Tennessee State University celebrated more than 2,000 graduates at its two commencement ceremonies on Saturday, May 4. 

The ceremonies included special recognitions of ETSU’s military-affiliated graduates, “first-generation students” who are the first in their families to graduate from college, and the new members of the ETSU 1911 Society. 

“East Tennessee State University was founded in 1911 to serve a noble mission, that of improving the quality of life for the people of our region and beyond,” said ETSU President Dr. Brian Noland. “As our graduates transition from this place of educational exploration and enter graduate school or embark upon their careers, they will become the next chapter of the ETSU story, a place where anyone, regardless of where they come from, can grow, succeed, and realize their dreams.” 

Busfield Receives Honorary Doctorate

During the morning ceremony, Noland presented an honorary doctorate degree to the keynote speaker, Timothy Busfield, a producer, director and Emmy Award-winning actor. 

Busfield attended ETSU in 1978-79 before launching his successful career in film, television and stage. He went on to win an Emmy for his work on “thirtysomething,” and appeared in many popular TV shows and movies including “The West Wing,” “Field of Dreams” and “Revenge of the Nerds.” 

With more than 700 professional credits, he has been a season regular or recurring character in 18 series, appeared in more than 40 television movies and feature films, and appeared in more than 50 regional theater productions and on Broadway. 

He founded two of America’s most successful professional theaters, The Fantasy Theatre (AKA the B Street School Tour) and The B Street Theatre, both in Sacramento, California. The theaters perform annually for over 250,000 children and adults at their facility in Sacramento and schools throughout northern California. 

Urging students to be bold and actively pursue their dreams, Busfield told graduates "You’ve been prepped and trained to go after life. That’s what you’ve been trained for. Go! This is no time to rest.”


The Class of 2024 by the Numbers



Degrees Conferred


Graduating with Honors


First-Generation Students


Military-Affiliated Students



1911 Society Inductees


Roan Scholars Graduate

ETSU conferred 2,028 degrees on Saturday, with 790 students graduating with honors. Almost 40% of this year's graduating class is made up of first-generation college students, and 125 graduates are military-affiliated. The university also inducted 11 new members into the 1911 Society and celebrated its 100th graduate from the Roan Scholars Leadership Program

Actor and director Timothy Busfield stands at a podium delivering the keynote address at the ETSU 2024 Spring Commencement ceremony
A graduate student laughs as her graduate hood is placed around her neck during the ETSU 2024 Spring Commencement ceremony
A smiling student wearing a student athlete stole crosses the stage during the 2024 ETSU Spring Commencement Ceremonye

Watch the Recorded Ceremonies

Morning Ceremony


College of Arts & Sciences, Biomedical Sciences, and Clemmer College of Education and Human Development

Afternoon Ceremony


College of Business & Technology, College of Clinical & Rehabilitative Health Sciences, College of Graduate & Continuing Studies,* College of Nursing, College of Pharmacy (Bachelor of Science), and College of Public Health

* The graduate programs that participate with the College of Graduate and Continuing Studies are the Master of Arts in Liberal Studies, Master of Professional Studies, and Doctorate of Education in Global Sport Leadership. All other graduate level degree programs will participate with their corresponding college.

Gatton College of Pharmacy


Quillen College of Medicine


East Tennessee State University was founded in 1911 with a singular mission: to improve the quality of life for people in the region and beyond. Through its world-class health sciences programs and interprofessional approach to health care education, ETSU is a highly respected leader in rural health research and practices. The university also boasts nationally ranked programs in the arts, technology, computing, and media studies. ETSU serves approximately 14,000 students each year and is ranked among the top 10 percent of colleges in the nation for students graduating with the least amount of debt.

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