- Diversity, Equity, & Inclusion
By Ryan Clark
CHS Communications Director
Lyman T. Johnson, a teacher at Central High School in Louisville, Ky. for 33 years, was best known for breaking the color barrier at the University of Kentucky.
In 1949, he became the first African-American to attend classes here. He then became the most vocal public school teacher in denouncing discrimination and being involved in issues concerning minorities. Johnson fought to end unequal pay for black teachers, and he also served for nearly 10 years as assistant principal and school board member in the Jefferson County Public Schools.
During the Civil Rights movement, Johnson piloted the struggle to integrate Jefferson County neighborhoods, swimming pools, schools and restaurants. Also, he strongly defended the belief that all men and women were created equal. Johnson was awarded an honorary doctorate from UK, the Governor’s Distinguished Service Medallion for Volunteerism and the City of Louisville’s first Freedom Award.
It only makes sense, then, that his memory should live on in a very special way.
Each year, UK selects one African-American graduate to receive the award, which is named after Lyman, whose faith, hard work, and determination have positively impacted people’s lives. In the 31st year of the Award, Geoffrey Staton won the Torch of Excellence.
Staton earned his master’s degree in athletic training in 2010 and serves as head athletic trainer for the University of Kentucky men’s basketball team.
Originally from Greensboro, N.C., Staton has worked with athletes in numerous sports in creating collaborative strategies to ensure all aspects of student-athlete health and performance are considered. During his first season with UK, his hands-on injury management and treatment plans helped guide the Wildcats through a rash of injuries early in the season and kept UK on track to win the 2020 SEC championship.
During a challenging and unprecedented 2020-2021 season, Staton was tasked with the day-to-day management of the team’s COVID-10 safety protocols and return-to-play execution. He oversaw the testing and compliance of all players, coaches and staff to ensure individuals remained healthy and safe during the global pandemic. The team made it through the season with minimal issues and only one UK-related postponement.
Staton is a National Athletic Trainers Association Board of Certification Certified Athletic Trainer and a member of the National Athletic Trainers’ Association.
“It was very special to receive the Lyman T. Johnson Torch of Excellence Award and be recognized by the College of Health Sciences," Staton said. "Very seldom are athletic trainers recognized for all the work they do. We work diligently and tirelessly behind the scenes to provide quality healthcare for our student-athletes to keep them safe and doing what they love. It is also one of the most rewarding professions when you see the positive daily impact you make in the lives of those you care for and see them overcome adversity to reach their goals."
Staton also recognized the importance of receiving an award named after Johnson.
"As a UK alum, it is also a great honor to be connected to an award named for someone whose life’s work advanced education and equality for African Americans," he said. "The significance of having a master’s degree from the University of Kentucky means more knowing that the opportunity was made possible by Lyman T. Johnson and his contributions dating back to 1949. I truly appreciate this award and hope to continue to have a positive impact on the lives of others that reflects the faith, hard work and determination of Lyman T. Johnson’s legacy."
But Staton wasn't the only one honored.
Casey Carter won the Torch Bearer Award. A senior human health sciences major from Columbia, S.C., her passion for science innovation and medicine led her to participate in the Science Olympiad team in elementary school and to partner with a university while still in high school to test a helmet prototype created to help prevent concussions – a design for which she is currently pursuing a patent.
While at UK, she serves as one of the lead undergraduate research assistants in the BioMotion Lab, where she collects and processes complex biomechanics data on people with knee injuries. Carter serves as the executive chair for the College of Health Sciences Student Ambassador program and played a vital role in developing the CHS Diversity Healthcare Program, a guided mentorship experience that assists diverse high school students in learning about healthcare professions and navigating higher education systems. She helped design, secure grant funding and launch the program at a local high school.
Carter is involved in the Student Government Leadership Development Program, Air Force ROTC, American Medical Student Association, Hues in Medicine, Silver Wings and two Living Learning Communities: STEMCats and Interprofessional Healthcare Residential College.
“It was truly such an honor to be the awardee of the Lyman T Johnson Torch Bearer award for 2022," she said. "I’m truly humbled that my plight on this campus has been recognized and I’m grateful to the supportive community that has helped me to achieve my goals. The legacy of Mr. Lyman T Johnson is one that I’m very proud to have the ability to contribute to with my pursuits towards equity. To be among such driven and distinguished individuals during the program was such an inspiring moment that I will always cherish."
Congratulations to both of these inspiring individuals.