Thirty-five years after joining the United States Army, Tyrone Barmore will join the ranks of nearly 80 Middle Tennessee State University student-veterans garnering degrees Saturday, Dec. 16, at the fall commencement ceremonies.
“Ever since I got out of the military, I’ve wanted to complete my college education. For almost 30 years I’ve been saying this,” said the 55-year-old Barmore, who will graduate with a bachelor’s degree in integrated studies from University College’s Applied Leadership Program.
Barmore and 40 other graduating veterans attended the Graduating Veterans Stole Ceremony Thursday, Dec. 14, in the Miller Education Center’s second-floor atrium, with Amazon Military the presenting sponsor.
“If you are military, we are here for you and your families,” retired U.S. Army Lt. Gen. Keith M. Huber, MTSU senior adviser for veterans and leadership initiatives, told the graduates and the dozens of family, friends and university supporters in attendance. “This university allows so many opportunities for our veterans to graduate and the support of this university is tremendous.”
Stole ceremonies have become a tradition for the host Charlie and Hazel Daniels Veterans and Military Family Center, which was instrumental in Barmore’s decision to attend MTSU. The center serves 1,200-plus military connected students and their families with a one-stop shop of academic and support services and is the largest and most comprehensive facility of its kind on an academic campus in the nation.
Student-veterans receive special red stoles — a symbol of their military service — to wear at their upcoming graduation ceremonies at 9 a.m. and 2 p.m. Saturday, Dec. 16, in Murphy Center. A total of 77 veterans are scheduled to graduate that day and will be formally recognized from the stage by MTSU President Sidney A. McPhee, who attended Thursday’s ceremony along with Provost Mark Byrnes and a host of academic and administrative leaders.
Daniels Center has ‘best resources’
As a Delta Air Lines employee and member of the Delta Veterans Business Resource Group, Barmore was part of a cohort invited to tour the MTSU campus in 2019 and meet with staff at the Daniels Center. Before Barmore left campus that day, he was making plans to attend MTSU. He applied and was accepted for the spring 2020 semester.
“The Daniels Center has the best resources if you want to continue your education,” said Barmore, who took online classes from his home in Douglasville, Georgia. “They accommodated anyone who wants to pursue a degree.”
Barmore, who left the Army as a Specialist E-4, admitted it wasn’t easy going back to college in his 50s. The husband and father of three daughters had to retake a couple of classes and garnered tutoring for other courses.
“There were a few times I wanted to give up. But I just thought about my determination,” said the recipient of the Major General Charles R. Henry Scholarship. “I committed to this, and I said no matter what, I’m not going to give up.”
Aerospace major William Lassiter was spotlighted for earning the Avery R. King Scholarship. In 2021, Lassiter was hit by a car while walking his dog and had to drop out of the flight instructor program.
“I had to redo the entire course and the scholarship gave me the money to help out with that,” said Lassiter, who returned in 2022 to finish his degree.
Award, scholarship recipients spotlighted
After the ceremony recognizing each of the veterans present, Daniels Center Director Hilary Miller spotlighted award and scholarship recipients.
Business administration major Paul Schoenfeld was awarded the Veterans Leadership Award, given to a student-veteran who showed “superior leadership, academic achievement and selfless service to MTSU and the community,” announced Laurie Witherow, interim vice provost for enrollment services.
“Paul consistently works to empower those around him and always wants to lend a helping hand,” Witherow told the crowd.
Schoenfeld, who served as a satellite communication systems operator/maintainer in the Army, was a regular at the Daniels Center and tried to connect and offer encouragement to fellow veterans.
“It’s an honor to receive, and definitely wasn’t expected,” said Schoenfeld, who flew in for the ceremony from Germany where he and wife, Chelsea Schoenfeld, moved in January after she took a new job. The student-veteran was able to complete his degree remotely while living overseas.
David Corlew, the late Charlie Daniels’ manager for 47 years and Journey Home Project cofounder with Daniels, was on hand to present the Daniels Center Journey Award to Gary George.
George, who is earning his master’s degree in international affairs, is a 28-year veteran of the Marine Corps. George started at MTSU in 2016 and earned a bachelor’s in international relations before starting on his master’s.
George was nominated by a committee of professors from the Department of Political Science and International Relations who called him “intellectually curious, a team player and tireless worker,” Miller said. The committee also said he’s “demonstrated resolve, determination and perseverance through his academic journey.”
As part of his practicum for his master’s, George has been working in the U.S. Government Accountability Office assigned to a Contracting and National Security Acquisitions team working on modernization of positioning, navigation and timing in global positioning systems. He’s also been remotely attending security studies programs at Massachusetts Institute of Technology.
“It’s an honor to be nominated by my professors and being selected is also a very big honor,” said George, who served in logistics and recruiting during his military service.
Miller also recognized her intern Jeffrey Grey, who received the Kathryn L. Henry Scholarship given to journalism majors.
At the end of the ceremony, Miller handed out a special alumni coin to the student-veterans to make sure they know their importance to the university and beyond.
“We wanted to you to have it in your pocket and reach in your pocket and feel it and remind you that you still have a responsibility here,” Miller said, showing off the square-sided coin. “Your job is not finished.”
— Nancy DeGennaro (Nancy.DeGennaro@mtsu.edu)