Featured Speakers at Commencement Ceremonies May 12–14

A lineup of inspirational speakers will address graduates at this spring’s commencement ceremonies.

Nearly 3,500 undergraduates and 1,386 graduate and professional students will participate in the ceremonies, which will include students who are completing their degrees this spring and summer.

All spring ceremonies will be held at Thompson-Boling Arena. Each will be webcast to watch live and via archive.

Below is a list of the ceremonies and speakers.

Thursday, May 12

 8:30 a.m.—College of Agricultural Sciences and Natural Resources

UT Alumnus Jim Herbert, CEO of Neogen Corp. Speaker for the College of Agricultural Sciences and Natural Resources Spring Commencement 2016.

Jim Herbert

Speaker is UT alumnus Jim Herbert, CEO of Neogen Corporation, a publicly held company located in Lansing, Michigan, and focused on the development, manufacturing, and marketing of products for food and animal safety.

Founded by Herbert in 1982, Neogen has pioneered rapid diagnostic testing, and its test kits have gained worldwide use as the gold standard for numerous domestic and international regulatory agencies and industries. Neogen has been named one of Forbes magazine’s 200 Best Small Companies in America and one of Fortune Magazine’s 100 Fastest-Growing Small Companies in America.

Herbert graduated from UT in 1963 with a double major in animal science and journalism.

11:30 a.m.—College of Communication and Information

Joan Cronan, women's athletics director emeritus, and speaker at the College of Communication and Information's Spring Commencement 2016.

Joan Cronan

Speaker is Joan Cronan, longtime UT women’s athletics director.

Cronan retired from UT in 2014. She served as women’s athletics director from 1983 to 2012 and then spent two years as advisor to Chancellor Jimmy G. Cheek. Cronan coached at UT from 1968 to 1970. In between her stints at UT, she was athletics director at the College of Charleston in South Carolina.

2:30 p.m.—College of Law

Speaker is Edward L. Stanton III, United States Attorney for the Western District of Tennessee.

A US Attorney since 2010, Stanton is the chief federal law enforcement officer within the 22 counties that comprise the Western District of Tennessee. He has launched a number of successful initiatives, including forming a dedicated Civil Rights Unit that has become a nationally recognized leader for its efforts in prosecuting sex trafficking crimes.

7:00 p.m.—Graduate Hooding

Thom Mason, Oak Ridge National Laboratory director and adjunct professor in UT's Department of Physics and Astronomy.

Thom Mason

Speaker and honorary degree recipient is Thom Mason, director of Oak Ridge National Laboratory and president and CEO of UT-Battelle LLC, which manages ORNL for the US Department of Energy.

Lab director since 2007, Mason has been at the helm while the lab has contributed to breakthroughs including the discovery of new elements of the periodic table, production of fuel for NASA missions, and the development of advanced materials and manufacturing processes. In recent years, the lab has garnered attention for producing a 3-D-printed car and house.

Mason was involved in the launch of the Spallation Neutron Source and the creation of the Bredesen Center for Interdisciplinary Research and Graduate Education, a program that benefits both ORNL and UT.

Mason also was a key player in discussions that led to the creation of the Institute for Advanced Composites Manufacturing Innovation—a $259 million venture managed by the UT Research Foundation and supported by the US Department of Energy, six states, and more than 120 companies.

Friday, May 13

 8:30 a.m.—Haslam College of Business

Fred Smith, founder of FedEx Corp. Speaker and honorary degree recipient, Haslam College of Business Spring Commencement 2016

Fred Smith

The speaker and honorary degree recipient is Fred Smith, chairman, president, and CEO of FedEx Corporation. Smith will receive an honorary doctorate in business.

While studying at Yale University, Smith wrote a term paper—which received only an average grade—outlining a business model for an overnight delivery service designed to accommodate time-sensitive shipments. After graduating and serving a stint in the US Marine Corps, he pursued his business idea and founded FedEx in 1971.

Today, FedEx is a $45-billion-a-year global transportation, business services, and logistics company. It is the largest overnight shipper in the world, with customers in more than 220 countries and territories. FedEx is also the largest publicly traded company headquartered in Tennessee.

In addition, FedEx is recognized around the world for its customer service, employee satisfaction, and commitment to diversity and social responsibility.

10:30 a.m.—Chancellor’s Honors Program

Mary Anne Hitt, director of the Sierra Club’s Beyond Coal campaign, will speak. Hitt, along with her co-director Bruce Nilles, was recently recognized in the Politico 50 list, billed as a guide to thinkers, doers and visionaries transforming American politics in 2015.

Hitt, a former College Scholar participant, received a bachelor’s degree in environmental science and policy from UT in 1997. She later completed her master’s degree at University of Montana.

12:30 p.m.—College of Nursing

Anna Becraft

Anna Becraft

The speaker is graduating student Anna Becraft, of Memphis, who is receiving a Bachelor of Science in Nursing with a second major in Hispanic Studies. She has been active in the Student Nurses’ Association and currently serves as president. Becraft is a member of Chi Omega sorority and is the Mortar Board Honor Society secretary. During her sophomore year, she spent a semester studying abroad in Spain, where she taught English at a middle school. Throughout her time at UT, she has volunteered with various organizations including Centro Hispano and Thrive Lonsdale. Becraft will begin her career on the cardiac floor at Le Bonheur Children’s Hospital in Memphis.

4:00 p.m. College of Social Work

Students will be selected to speak.

7:00 p.m.—College of Architecture and Design

Robin-Klehr-Avia

Robin Klehr Avia

The speaker and honorary degree recipient is alumna Robin Klehr Avia, a regional managing principal and chair of the executive committee of the board of directors for Gensler, an integrated architecture, design, planning, and consulting firm. Avia will receive an honorary doctorate in fine arts.

Avia is recognized as a driving force in the world of architecture and design. Since joining Gensler in 1980, she has helped to grow the Northeast and Latin America Regions from a single office of twenty-four people to nearly a thousand professionals in eight offices. She has also helped to lead Gensler into new markets in Canada and in Central and South America.

She has directed award-winning projects that include the New York Times headquarters and Condé Nast’s headquarters at One World Trade Center.

Avia earned her degree in interior design from UT in 1976.

Saturday, May 14

 9:00 a.m.—College of Arts and Sciences

Dottie Habel

Dottie Habel

Speakers are UT faculty members Dorothy (Dottie) Habel and Jeff Becker.

Habel is a professor of art history, a Distinguished Professor in the Humanities, and director of the School of Art. She is a scholar of seventeenth-century Italian art whose research focuses on the architecture and city planning of papal Rome.

Habel, who has been at UT since 1980 and will be retiring this year, has received research funding from the National Endowment for the Humanities, the Samuel H. Kress Foundation, and the Graham Foundation for Advanced Studies in the Visual Arts.

Jeff Becker

Jeff Becker

Becker, who has been at UT since 1972 and will also be retiring this year, is the David and Sandra White Endowed Professor, Chancellor’s Professor, and head of the Department of Microbiology. He is a fellow of the American Academy of Microbiology and the American Association for the Advancement of Science.

Becker is an expert in the structure and function of peptides and their receptors, membrane transport, and medical mycology. He has received almost continuous funding from NIH for thirty-nine years He has served on many NIH grant review panels and been a consultant to many pharmaceutical companies, including Eli Lilly and Merck.

He lists as one of his proudest accomplishments training more than thirty-five doctoral and master’s students and mentoring more than 200 undergraduate students on research projects in his lab.

2:00 p.m.—College of Engineering

Randy Boyd -- UT alumnus, commissioner of the Tennessee Department of Economic and Community Development; former special advisor to Gov. Bill Haslam on Higher Education; founder of Radio Systems Corp.

Randy Boyd

Speaker is alumnus Randy Boyd, commissioner of the Tennessee Department of Economic and Community Development.

In 2013, Boyd took a year leave of absence from his company, Radio Systems Corporation, to serve Tennessee Governor Bill Haslam in a volunteer role as special advisor on higher education, assisting in the development of the Drive to 55 initiatives and the Tennessee Promise.

Boyd, who received a bachelor’s degree in industrial management from UT in 1979 at the age of nineteen, founded Radio Systems Corporation. The Knoxville company has more than 700 associates worldwide with offices in seven countries. The company produces more than 4,600 pet products under brand names such as Invisible Fence, PetSafe, and SportDOG. It is a privately held corporation with sales of over $370 million.

Boyd is also the owner of Boyd Sports LLC, which owns the Tennessee Smokies Baseball team, the AA affiliate of the Chicago Cubs, and the Johnson City Cardinals, a rookie league affiliate of the Saint Louis Cardinals.

5:30 p.m.—College of Education, Health, and Human Sciences

Crissy Haslam, Tennessee's First Lady (wife of Gov. Bill Haslam) Speaker at College of Education, Health and Human Sciences Spring Commencement 2016

Crissy Haslam

Speaker is alumna Crissy Haslam, Tennessee’s first lady.

She has served on numerous civic and community boards, and currently serves as chair of the Tennessee Executive Residence Foundation and Commission. As the state’s first lady, Haslam has focused on improving literacy.

Born in Houston, Texas, Haslam moved to Memphis when she was eight. She graduated from Emory University in 1980 with a double major in finance and marketing.

After marrying Bill Haslam and moving to Knoxville in 1981, she worked as the assistant director of admissions for UT and completed her master’s degree in education in the College Student Personnel program.

CONTACT:

Amy Blakely (865-974-5034, ablakely@utk.edu)