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KNOXVILLE — Faculty, students and staff were recognized at the annual University of Tennessee Chancellor’s Honors Banquet Wednesday at the Carolyn P. Brown Memorial University Center.

At the banquet, the largest UT honors event of the year, Interim Chancellor Jan Simek saluted the accomplishments of key members of the campus community.
Among the top awards presented were:

Macebearer: Dr. Lee Riedinger has served as professor of physics since 1971. No one has done more to enhance the collaboration between UT and the Oak Ridge National Laboratory. In the past 25 years, he has initiated or been an integral part of every major joint program between the two organizations. Riedinger is also an accomplished researcher in experimental nuclear physics, having published more than 240 refereed works and holding many positions within the nuclear physics field, including serving as a member of the federal government’s Nuclear Science Advisory Committee. The university’s Macebearer — the top faculty honor — leads the faculty in processionals during commencement exercises.

Alexander Prize: Dr. Arun Chatterjee, professor of civil and environmental engineering, joined the faculty in 1974. His consistently high student evaluations, popularity as a mentor to other faculty, and impressive research record have distinguished him as a “master teacher.” Named for former UT president and now Sen. Lamar Alexander and his wife, Honey, the award recognizes superior teaching and distinguished scholarship.

Jefferson Prize: Dr. Michael Handlesman, distinguished professor of humanities in the Department of Modern Foreign Languages and Literature, joined the faculty in 1976. Handlesman serves as director of the Latin American Studies Program, and is internationally recognized as an expert in Latin American studies. He co-developed the global studies initiative at UT and has been integral in the success of that program. Made possible by an anonymous donor, the Jefferson Prize honors the principles of Thomas Jefferson and his pursuit of freedom and knowledge.

L.R. Hesler Award: Dr. Jeff Kovac, professor of chemistry, is noted by his colleagues and former and current students for his dedication to teaching. He also serves as director of undergraduate studies in the Department of Chemistry, chapter president of Phi Beta Kappa Honor Society and director of the Tennessee Governor’s Schools for Science and Engineering. The award is named for the long time department head and dean of the College of Arts and Sciences.

The Torchbearer is the highest honor given to a student. Simek presented the 2008 Torchbearers with medals, and they all participated in the ceremonial “passing of the torch” at the event.

The new honorees are:

Blake Adam Brown, a journalism and electronic media major from Athens, Tenn. Brown has served in a variety of campus roles, including chairman of the Senior Gift Challenge, UT Ambassador, Orientation Leader, president of the Mortar Board Honor Society, secretary and 2007 Member of the Year for the Student Alumni Associates, trip leader for Alternative Fall Break, and member of the Mayor’s Advisory Board, All Campus Events, and the Provost’s Student Retention Panel. His leadership and academic excellence also have earned him numerous awards, including the African American Achiever Scholar, Claude Tomlinson Scholarship, Johnson Control Foundation Scholarship and the Vic Davis/Earl Zwingle Scholarship.

Catherine Elizabeth Cocke, an exercise science major from Somerville, Tenn. Cocke currently serves as president of Chi Omega fraternity and is a member of the Chi Omega National College Advisory Board, the Panhellenic Council President’s Roundtable, the Mayor’s Advisory Board and the Senior Gift Committee. She also has been very involved in several charitable organizations, including service as facilities chair, president and entertainment director for East Tennessee Children’s Hospital Dance Marathon, and a volunteer for the Read-A-Loud program, the Dream Connections program and the East Tennessee Children’s Hospital Telethon. She will continue her philanthropic service as she moves to New York City next year to teach inner-city children through Teach for America.
John Noel Rader, a College Scholars student from Cookeville, Tenn. A 4.0 student, Rader serves as president of the Student Government Association and executive secretary/treasurer of the Intrafraternity Council. He is a member of the Chancellor’s Selection Committee, the UT Strategic Planning Committee, the National Alumni Association Board of Governors and the Baker Scholars Program, along with 14 other committees and boards. He has studied abroad on two occasions and has served as an intern for the U.S. Government twice. His freshman year, he founded the Dippin’ for Dollars charity, which has raised more than $10,000 for charity. His leadership and accomplishments are exemplified by his selection as one of only 12 Rhodes Scholar finalists throughout three states.

Anna Rachel York, a global studies and political science major from Crossville, Tenn. York’s leadership has led to numerous changes for UT students. As vice president of the Student Government Association, she worked to institute a study-abroad fee for all students, resulting in an additional $270,000 in scholarships. As an SGA senator, she passed a bill requesting to reinstitute the lost tradition of Aloha Oe for graduating seniors. Close to 1,000 students and family members attended the event that she helped plan and promote. York also created the Global Studies Society in order to strengthen the global studies major. As a reflection of these accomplishments and her dedication to the university, she was also elected by the student body to serve as a student representative on the Board of Trustees. York also is an active member of Mortar Board and Delta Delta Delta sorority.

The full list of all faculty, staff and student awards is available online at
Archived video of the event also will be available at this site.

Contact: Beth Gladden,, 865-974-9008 or 865-771-1284.