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UK Celebrates 141st Commencement

Media Contacts: 

  • Kathy Johnson, 859-257-1754/559-5396 
  • Carl Nathe, 859-257-1754, x238 

LEXINGTON, Ky. (May 4, 2008) - A record 6,500 candidates for degrees were honored during the University of Kentucky's 141st Commencement today in Lexington's Rupp Arena. This total includes students who earned degrees in August 2007 and December 2007, along with candidates for degrees in the 2008 spring semester.

Beverly Kirk, a UK alumna and award-winning TV and radio news reporter based in Washington, D.C., and Admiral Mike Mullen, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff addressed the graduates.

Kirk, a native of Burkesville, Ky., graduated from UK's Patterson School of Diplomacy and International Commerce.  She also earned her bachelor's degree in history and broadcasting from Western Kentucky University.  A former news reporter and anchor at WLEX-TV in Lexington, Kirk's resume includes work for National Public Radio, as well as NBC News in Washington.  Currently, Kirk is a news anchor for NewsChannel 8, similar to a local version of CNN for our nation's capital and surrounding metropolitan area.

In her address, Kirk reminded the graduating students that today is a starting point, not an end point, and she encouraged them to take bold risks and confront their fears. "Life is not a dress rehearsal.  Don't be afraid to live right now.  Go after whatever you decide you want and be who you want to be," she said.  "Feel the fear and do it anyway because ultimately, everything always works out in the end."

A Los Angeles native, Mullen graduated from the U.S. Naval Academy in 1968 and later earned his master's at the Naval Postgraduate School. His career includes commanding three ships, a cruiser-destroyer group, the George Washington carrier battle group, and the U.S. 2nd Fleet.  He was commander of NATO Joint Force Command Naples and U.S. Naval Forces Europe, before becoming the chief of Naval Operations in 2005.  Mullen was named chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff in September 2007.

He stressed to the graduates the importance of service and being a good citizen of the world.  Mullen urged them to "reach deep down and measure the full extent of your character.  Now is the time to leave your mark, make a difference, give back, think big, act big."

The graduating senior who spoke on behalf of the Class of 2008 was Christine Tillman, a nursing major from Paducah, who served as president of her graduating nursing class and was an active member of the University Nursing Activities and Advisor Council.  She also volunteered with the Violence Intervention and Prevention Center on campus and served as a resident adviser.

Tillman's message focused on how "people can make seemingly impossible things happen" with hard work and passion.  "Cultures can be changed, mountains can be moved, and you can leave the world better than it was," she said.

Three honorary doctorates were awarded during the commencement ceremony.  The recipients are: Former UK faculty member Gifford Blyton, longtime director of the university's debate program and UK Faculty Senate parliamentarian for 35 years; UK mechanical engineering alumnus and former governor of the Commonwealth of Kentucky Paul Patton; and, Orlando "Tubby" Smith, who served as head coach of the UK men's basketball team from 1997 to 2007, piloting the squad to the NCAA Championship in 1998.

Another highlight of the university's Commencement ceremony was the presentation of the Kirwan Memorial Prize, which recognizes a full-time faculty member for outstanding contributions to original research or creative scholarship.  The 2008 recipient is UK ophthalmologist and professor of physiology, Dr. Jayakrishna Ambati, an international authority on age-related macular degeneration.  He holds the Dr. E. Vernon Smith & Eloise C. Smith Endowed Chair in Macular Degeneration Research. The award, which was named in honor of former UK President Albert D. Kirwan and his wife, Elizabeth, carries a $5,000 cash prize.

Lynne A. Hall, the Marcia A. Dake Professor of Nursing Science and associate dean for research and science in the UK College of Nursing received the Sturgill Award as part of the Commencement ceremony. The Sturgill Award, named in honor of former UK Board of Trustees member and chairperson William B. Sturgill, recognizes a graduate faculty member for outstanding contributions to graduate education at UK. The award carries a $2,000 prize.

Two student leaders in UK's "DanceBlue" benefit and a man who operates a free health care clinic in a rural eastern Kentucky community received the 2008 Algernon Sydney Sullivan Medallions.

The recipients are graduating senior female Megan K. Tolley of Louisville, graduating senior male Joseph David Ritchie of Bardstown, and non-student William R. Grimes of Morehead.

The Sullivan Medallion recognizes individuals whose outstanding commitment to community service shows a spirit of love for and helpfulness to other men and women.

Page last updated: 11/19/2013 4:18:16 PM