A professional musician was among those receiving degrees from Kent State University at Stark during the commencement.

CANTON  Professional musician Rodney Hubbard was among the dozens who moved the gold-colored tassel from the right side of the mortar board to the left during the Kent State University at Stark commencement ceremony.

In his mid-40s, Hubbard already has years of experience as a professional performer having played with a former rhythm and blues group known as Jodeci. But despite his lengthy record of experience, the Portage County resident put himself on course to obtain a bachelor of science in music technology.

"I commuted down here to Canton for my degree during the past four and a half years," Hubbard said. "I wanted to better myself. I wanted to be an example to my children. They have to earn, at minimum, a bachelor's degree."

The commencement attracted nearly a capacity gathering Sunday afternoon to Umstattd Hall in McKinley High School. Kent State awarded degrees to 239 recipients at this campus. Hubbard, a Cleveland native, started his college education at the Kent State University in Kent. He became interested in the Stark campus when he heard about the music technology program.

"He is a guy who had a very robust and impressive resume before he came to us," said Erin Vaughn, a professor in the music department at the Kent State Stark. "He was the kind of student, as an educator, that you want to have. He had tons of performance experience. He was always looking for more. I wish the 20-year-olds were more like him."

In his past, Hubbard was not a studio performer. He would perform as a piano player during live concerts. His focus now is on religious music. Hubbard is pastor of worship at a church known as Mount Zion Fellowship in the Cleveland area.

"I am not a road musician anymore," Hubbard said. "I will continue to do my music. But I do plan to turn some corners in my spiritual work. I plan to attend seminary."

During the commencement, the graduating class was given a farewell by Denise Seachrist, dean and chief administrator of the Kent State University at Stark campus.

"All of us will continue to cheer you on as you pursue your next challenges," Seachrist said. "As you know, our superb faculty has made an investment in your success. I hope you will stay connected to the university that is so proud to claim you."

The commencement address was given by Joel Daniel Harris, founder and executive dreamer of TomTod Ideas, which was described as an innovation incubator for local middle school students. While the commencement mightrepresent a noteworthy achievement for those receiving associate's and bachelor's degrees, Harris reminded them this will be a fleeting moment.

"This moment won't last that long," Harris. "Tomorrow your alarm will go off, life will go on."

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