BRISTOL, Tenn., April 29, 2023 — More than 200 students achieving degrees at the associate’s, bachelor’s and master’s levels were celebrated today during King University’s 2023 commencement ceremony.
“Attaining a college degree is something that happens not only through individual commitment, but also with the support of community,” said Matt Roberts, Ed.D., provost of King. “Today we celebrate our graduates whose dedication to academic practice has resulted in this crowning achievement. We also recognize those family members and friends who have provided assistance and encouragement throughout this process, and are honored to welcome many guests to campus today.”
The Honorable James E. McPherson, former Under Secretary for the Army and former Acting Secretary of the Navy, delivered the commencement address. He is the only individual in recent history to serve in secretarial roles for both branches of service.
A native of San Diego, California, McPherson is a 1977 graduate of San Diego State University with a bachelor’s degree in public administration. He received a Juris Doctor in 1981 from the University of San Diego School of Law, and in 1991 he was awarded a Master of Laws in Military Law from The Judge Advocate General’s Legal Center and School in Charlottesville, Virginia.
McPherson rose through the ranks of the Navy, serving in country and overseas, until he assumed duties as the 39th judge advocate general of the Navy in 2004. After leaving active duty, he served as general counsel for the Department of Defense Counterintelligence Field Activity, followed by service as the executive director of the National Association of Attorneys General.
In 2018, Mr. McPherson was selected as the 22nd General Counsel of the Army, during which time he provided legal counsel to the Secretary of the Army and senior members of the Army Secretariat.
In March 2020, he was sworn in as the 34th Under Secretary of the Army, and in April 2020, he was appointed Acting Secretary of the Navy.
His military decorations include the Distinguished Service Medal, the Legion of Merit (two awards), the Meritorious Service Medal (four awards), the Army Commendation Medal, and the Navy Achievement Medal (two awards).
As part of the ceremony, King presented McPherson with an honorary Doctor of Laws degree, a recognition that the University reserves for individuals whose lives reflect King’s mission and standards of excellence in service to others.
King also recognized The Honorable David L. Coffey, an alumnus of the Class of 1955, with an honorary Doctor of Laws degree. After Coffey graduated from King, he enrolled at the University of Tennessee at Knoxville to pursue an advanced degree. He then entered the business world and for the next half-century, made an incredible impact on numerous organizations as an entrepreneur. In addition to founding multiple businesses and serving on the boards of many others, he was also repeatedly elected to the Tennessee General Assembly to serve as a representative for the Oak Ridge District.
A staunch advocate of post-secondary education, Coffey helped to secure state funding for the Roane State Community College campus, and his overall support of King has benefited numerous aspects of the University. His long list of awards and honors stretches back to 1965 when he was recognized as the Oak Ridge Young Man of the Year and the Tennessee Young Man of the Year. His additional honors include being named Entrepreneur of the Year by Coopers & Lybrand, as well as recognition from the House of Representatives of the State of Tennessee for meritorious service and commitment to public service.
Additionally, in 2022, he was inducted into the Tennessee Independent Colleges and Universities Association (TICUA) Hall of Fame for his outstanding contributions to higher education.