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Record Number of Students Receive Degrees at 136th Commencement

Contact: Ralph Derickson

“We all learn from each other, from differing perspectives and assorted traditions... In holding open the doors of opportunity for students from all backgrounds, we are building a stronger and more vibrant democracy.”

-- Mary Sue Coleman, UK Commencement speaker, former UK faculty member, recently installed 13th president of the University of Michigan 

Video of Commencement
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"Creating Your Own Hoops," 2003 Commencement address of President Mary Sue Coleman, University of Michigan

2003 Commencement address of Carissa Lee Curry, graduate in Sociology

Photo of Todd at platform
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With the platform party behind him, University of Kentucky President Lee T. Todd Jr. opens UK's 136th Commencement.

Photo of President Lee T. Todd Jr. and University of Michigan President Mary Sue Coleman
University of Kentucky President Lee T. Todd Jr. presents University of Michigan President Mary Sue Coleman with an honorary doctorate degree Saturday during UK's 136th Commencement. Coleman was commencement speaker.

Photo of a group of graduating UK students celebrating
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A group of graduating University of Kentucky students celebrates outside Memorial Coliseum on Saturday as friends and family members take photographs.

Photo of Mary Sue Coleman, President of the University of Michigan
Mary Sue Coleman, President of the University of Michigan, addresses the 2003 graduating class at the University of Kentucky.

May 10, 2003 (Lexington, Ky.) -- A record number of spring graduates – 4,148 – received degrees at the University of Kentucky's 136th Commencement today in Memorial Coliseum.

About 10,000 students, parents, UK faculty and other guests participated in Commencement.

Also honored at Commencement were students who completed requirements for their degrees last August (1,339 students) and students who completed requirements for their degrees last December (1,991 students).

The Commencement speaker was Mary Sue Coleman, a former UK faculty member, who was recently installed as the 13th president of the University of Michigan. A native of Richmond, Ky., Coleman previously served seven years as president of the University of Iowa.

A graduate of Grinnell College with a doctorate in biochemistry from the University of North Carolina, Coleman was a professor in the UK Department of Biochemistry for 19 years. She also served as an assistant director for administration for the UK Markey Cancer Center, where her research focused on the immune system and malignancies.

In a speech titled “Creating Your Own Hoops,” Coleman spoke of the importance of cultural diversity in our society. She talked about a spiritual concept of the Native American Lakota tribe called the “sacred hoop.” “The beauty of the sacred hoop is its linkage of all aspects of life: nature, humanities, and spirituality,” she said.

She noted she is now leading a university that is defending affirmative action which she described as a “policy that has provided access to students from a variety of cultures, who otherwise might not have had the opportunity to attend our universities.”

“We are engaged in an historic struggle to preserve admissions policies that serve the widest possible array of communities within the United States,” she said. She noted the University of Michigan argued its case before the U.S. Supreme Court last month.

“We asked the court to affirm America by re-affirming affirmative action,” Coleman said.

“We all learn from each other, from differing perspectives and assorted traditions,” she added. “In holding open the doors of opportunity for students from all backgrounds, we are building a stronger and more vibrant democracy.”

Coleman was among three persons who received honorary degrees at Commencement. She received an Honorary Doctor of Science degree. The other honorary doctorate recipients were William S. Farish, U.S. Ambassador to the Court of St. James, United Kingdom, and Michael Lee Mullins, who has served more than 25 years as executive director of the Hindman Settlement School in Hindman, Ky. Farish will receive an Honorary Doctor of Laws degree and Mullins will receive an Honorary Doctor of Letters degrees.

The student speaker for the Commencement was Carissa Lee Curry, who is graduating with a bachelor’s degree in sociology. Curry, of Flatwoods, Ky., is a graduate of Raceland-Worthington High School in Raceland, Ky.

Curry works at the Crestwood Christian School in Lexington, where she introduced a Spanish program. In her volunteer action, Curry taught Special Olympics tumbling classes and volunteered at the Lexington Humane Society.

Other awards and honors presented at Commencement included three Sullivan Medallions, which are presented for outstanding public service to an individual not associated with UK, a graduating male student, and a graduating female student.

This year's Sullivan Medallion recipients were Andrea Joy Murray, the female graduate; Jonathan Dewaal "Finn" Green, the male graduate; and Curtis William Absher, the non-student.

Murray was recognized for volunteering in both community and campus activities, including a recent campuswide project offering free AIDS testing. She was a founder and leader of Girls for Christ, a mentoring program for young women.

Green, an older, non-traditional student, was recognized for his fund-raising efforts on behalf of renovations for the UK men's baseball facilities. He came to UK after a business failure and successful recovery from alcoholism. Green documented both his and his daughter's struggles as part of an undergraduate research project that was published last fall in Kaleidoscope, a journal of undergraduate scholarship published by the UK Department of Undergraduate Studies. He is a Gaines Fellow and a member of the UK Honors Program. He completed his degree requirements in December.

Absher, who retired in November after 34 years of service in UK's Cooperative Extension Program, was recognized for his work with Bosnian refugee families, Hispanics in Jessamine County, and Habitat for Humanity. Absher was a founding member of the Jessamine County Education Foundation.

In addition to the three Sullivan Medallion winners, two other members of the UK community received special recognition at the May 10 Commencement with awards for research, scholarship and community service.

Joseph Chappell, professor of agricultural biotechnology, Department of Agronomy, College of Agriculture, received the 2003 Albert D. and Elizabeth H. Kirwan Memorial Prize, a $5,000 award for distinguished research on plant metabolism and enzyme engineering. For seven years, Chappell has focused on genetically engineering plants to resist bacterial and fungal pathogens, establishing himself as a leading expert in the nation.

Chappell's research has been published in more than 45 research publications, including Science, Nature, and Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. He has served on editorial boards of Plant Physiology and Archives of Biochemistry and Biophysics and has been an associate editor of Plant Physiology. He also has served on the executive committee of the American Society of Plant Physiologists, and organized and co-chaired the eighth International Congress on Plant Biochemistry and Molecular Biology for the United States and Mexico.

Dale Bauer, professor of English, College of Arts and Sciences, received the $2,000 William B. Sturgill Award which is presented to a graduate faculty member each year for outstanding contributions to graduate education at UK.

Bauer was nominated by three students in The Graduate School for being "unwaveringly enthusiastic and committed to academic excellence… She is an amazing scholar, teacher and mentor." Her peers call her "enthusiastic, supportive, savvy and extremely helpful, while maintaining the highest degree of professionalism and effort from students." Bauer received the William J. Tuggle and Nina B. Tuggle Research Professorship in English in 2002.

Among the record number of students who received degrees at Commencement were UK's first two graduating Beckman Scholars -- Robin Theresa Petroze and Garrett Sparks. These scholars each will receive not one, but two degrees. Petroze will be awarded a Bachelor of Science degree in biology and a Bachelor of Arts degree in chemistry with a minor in English.  Sparks graduated with a Bachelor of Science in biology and a Bachelor of Arts in English.

Last year, Petroze and Sparks received the first Arnold and Mabel Beckman Foundation scholarships awarded by UK. These prestigious scholarships provide funding of $17,600 to support undergraduate work of students conducting research in chemistry, biochemistry, biological and medical sciences over the course of 14 months.


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