Deno Curris to Address Graduating Class

Contact: Ralph Derickson

Photo of Constantine W. Curris
Constantine W. Curris


For more details about all UK Commencement 2005 events, including the individual ceremonies for each of the colleges, please see the Commencement Calendar .



LEXINGTON, Ky. (April 28, 2005) -- Constantine W. “Deno” Curris, former president of Murray State University and president of the American Association of State Colleges and Universities (AASCU), will address the 138th University of Kentucky Commencement set for 2 p.m. Sunday, May 8, in Rupp Arena.

Curris, who has both a Bachelor of Arts in political science and an education doctorate degree from UK, will address a graduating ceremony honoring a record-breaking 6,272 candidates for degrees, 252 more than the number honored in 2004.

The candidates for degrees include 3,960 students who completed their work this spring semester; 939 who completed their work in the summer session of 2004; and 1,373 who completed their degree requirements in December 2004.

In October 1999, Curris became the fourth chief executive for AASCU, a national association of more than 400 public colleges and universities. He was president of Murray State University for 10 years, president of the University of Northern Iowa for 12 years, and president of Clemson University for four years.

Graduates also will be addressed by one of their own at Commencement, Rachel Lee Watts, two-time Student Government Association president and a voting member of the UK Board of Trustees.

Watts majored in integrated strategic communications in the College of Communications and Information Studies and minored in sociology with a cumulative grade-point average of 4.0. She is a member of Phi Eta Sigma Honor Society and Alpha Delta Pi Sorority, where she held numerous leadership positions and served as a mentor in UK’s Emerging Leaders Institute.

Among persons who will be recognized and given special awards during the graduation ceremony are an honorary doctorate recipient, three Algernon Sydney Sullivan Medallion winners, the winner of the William B. Sturgill Award for graduate research, and the Albert D. and Elizabeth H. Kirwan Memorial Prize winner.

An honorary doctorate in science will be presented to Stanley Platek, a pioneer in aluminum production and recycling. Platek is vice president of research and development for the Commonwealth Aluminum Corporation, a company which has profoundly changed aluminum production in partnership with UK.

Platek invented a continuous-casting process that reduced energy consumption and emissions in aluminum production while producing a more durable and quality-controlled product. He is a 1960 graduate of Pennsylvania State University with a bachelor’s degree in mechanical engineering and holds seven U.S. patents for his aluminum processing ideas.

A citizen in the community and a male and a female graduating student will each receive Sullivan Medallions which recognize their outstanding community service. The 2005 Sullivan Medallion winners are:

-- Brandon Edward Leo Fenley of Frankfort, the graduating male student. Fenley was selected for his efforts to create community forums to address the issue of Lexington’s indigent population.

-- Megan Sonya Thomas of Lexington, the graduating female student. Thomas’ selection was based on her service to Lexington’s Big Brothers/Big Sisters, Relay for Life, and God’s Pantry.

-- Judy Harrison of Lexington is this year’s non-student Sullivan Medallion winner. An employee in UK’s Training Resource Center, Harrison has for more than 30 years provided foster care to children with severe and frequently life-threatening conditions, including nonfunctional organs and malformations. While several of her foster children have defied doctors’ prognoses and survived to adulthood, others have, as Harrison describes it, been “rocked into heaven” while in her home.

The William B. Sturgill Award, which carries a $2,000 cash prize, will be presented to John Van Willigen, professor of anthropology and behavioral science in the College of Arts and Sciences.

Van Willigen has won many teaching awards at the schools where he has worked, including the UK Chancellor’s Award for Outstanding Teaching and the Standard Oil Distinguished Teaching Award at the University of Wisconsin-Parkside.

The Albert D. and Elizabeth H. Kirwan Memorial Prize, which carries a $5,000 prize, will be presented to Louis Barry Hersh, chair of the Department of Biochemistry and director of the Kentucky Center for Structural Biology.

Hersh’s research on human diseases at the molecular level is widely recognized and cited, bringing significant visibility and recognition to UK. Research funding for Hersh’s work includes $3 million in 2004 from the National Institute on Aging.

His recent work focuses on decreasing the brain’s accumulation of amyloid beta peptide, which is the neurotoxin widely believe to be the causative agent of Alzheimer’s disease.

The first graduates from one of UK’s most prestigious scholarship programs, the E.O. Robinson Scholars Program, will be recognized during the Commencement. Twenty-five students in this program, which began in 1997 with the induction of 162 rising ninth-graders selected from 29 Eastern Kentucky counties, will receive their degrees.

Tuition, student fees, room and board, and a monthly stipend is given to Robinson Scholars from funds derived from timbering in UK’s E.O. Robinson Forest in Eastern Kentucky and coal mining on UK-owned property near the forest. Students are selected on academic potential, essays and interviews and must be the first in their families to seek a four-year college degree.

The E.O. Robinson Forest, consisting of more than 10,000 acres of virtually untouched Eastern Kentucky timberland, was given to UK in trust in 1922 by E.O. Robinson, a land developer from Cincinnati.

For more details about all UK Commencement 2005 events, including the individual ceremonies for each of the colleges, please see the Commencement Calendar .

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