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APSU receives original copy of speech delivered to graduates of predecessor school in 1889

Austin Peay State UniversityOn Friday, more than 200 students at Austin Peay State University will graduate with degrees during Summer Commencement.

Although there will be no graduation speaker, degree candidates can take with them these words spoken to graduates of Southwestern Presbyterian University in June 1889:

“You are to occupy no mediocre position in society; your scholarly attainments, together with your good moral character, will command for you a position far above the average,” James Murdock Sykes told his fellow classmates of a school that preceded APSU from 1875-1925 on the same site where APSU now stands.

The original copy of Sykes’ 1889 valedictory address was donated to APSU’s archives collection. His great-granddaughter, Janice Loewen, of Broken Arrow, OK, recently discovered the speech in some old family members and notified Gina Garber, archivist at APSU.

“We were honored to receive the original copy,” Garber said. “The heritage of APSU goes back long before APSU became what it is today, and to have this in our collection helps to make this University’s history that much more complete.”

Sykes wrote his speech in long cursive handwriting that was characteristic of the penmanship during that era. And although the paper is fraying, much of the words can be discerned clearly.

Garber said the document would be preserved.


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