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Capacity Crowd Expected for UT Arts and Sciences Commencement Honoring Dolly Parton

WHO: The University of Tennessee, Knoxville, will give East Tennessee native and acclaimed musician Dolly Parton an honorary doctorate degree. Governor Phil Bredesen will join acting UT President Jan Simek and Chancellor Jimmy G. Cheek for the commencement. Graduates and their guests are expected to fill the arena to capacity. While normally seating 20,000, as configured for the commencement event, capacity will be about 12,000.

WHEN: 9 a.m., Friday, May 8.

WHAT: Spring commencement exercise for the College of Arts and Sciences. The formal degree of a doctorate of humane and musical letters will be conferred to honor Parton for her dedication to education, young people, life-long learning and significant service to the state and its people. Parton will deliver an inspirational address to the graduates in her own special way.

Due to a tremendous response, we regret that we will be unable to accommodate admission from the general public. UT’s first priority is to accommodate the college’s graduates and their families and guests. The ceremony can be viewed via live feed at the University Center and via the Web at

WHERE: Thompson-Boling Arena, 1600 Phillip Fulmer Way. Media parking will be available in the S-23 parking lot across Lake Loudon Boulevard from the Pratt Pavilion.

Significant road and utility construction around the arena is expected to delay vehicle and pedestrian traffic. We encourage all graduates and guests to allow at least 10 to 15 minutes additional travel time and to take advantage of the free shuttles provided at the corner of Joe Johnson Drive and River Drive on the Agricultural Campus. Shuttles also will be provided from the N-7 parking garage at Volunteer Boulevard West and Andy Holt Avenue (across from the Allan Jones Intercollegiate Aquatics Center). Please see shuttle and parking information here:

MEDIA REQUIREMENTS: Members of the media are required to arrive no later than 8:15 a.m. to set up prior to the ceremony. The media entrance to Thompson-Boling Arena will be the southwest corner of the building, directly across Lake Loudon Boulevard from Lot S-23.

All media representatives must register with UT’s Office of Media and Internal Relations by Wednesday, May 6, in order to be admitted on Friday morning. E-mail Jay Mayfield, UT Media Relations, at or call (865) 974-9409 to register. Our office will need the name and number of people who will be covering the event for your organization.

There will be a brief period of media availability immediately following the ceremony. Because this is a traditional, academic ceremony, there will be restrictions related to filming and photography on the arena floor. Accommodations will be made for the media to ensure the best coverage possible. Specific details will follow.

Video uplink/transmission information for both local and statewide/national media is available at the end of this advisory.

“Because of her career not just as a musician and entertainer, but for her role as a cultural ambassador, philanthropist and lifelong advocate for education, it is fitting that Dolly be honored with an honorary degree from the flagship educational institution of her home state,” said UT Knoxville Chancellor Jimmy G. Cheek.

The only other recipient of an honorary degree from UT Knoxville is former U.S. Sen. Howard H. Baker Jr., who received a doctorate of humane letters in May 2005.

“It is an incredible honor for me to receive this degree from a prestigious university like UT. I’ve been a volunteer all my life and entertained folks around the world with ‘Rocky Top,'” Parton joked. “Seriously, education and the arts are very important to me, and this degree is something that makes me, and would have made my parents, very proud.”

Parton’s philanthropic work has centered on the importance of reading and education in the lives of children. In 1996, she founded the Imagination Library program in Sevier County, which provides children with a new age-appropriate book every month from birth to 5 years of age. In 2004, Gov. Bredesen established the Governor’s Books from Birth Foundation to replicate the Imagination Library program across Tennessee. Today, the program serves 1,000 communities in 46 states, the United Kingdom and Canada, including all 95 counties in Tennessee. By mid-2009, the Dollywood Foundation will have distributed more than 20 million books.

Parton also has provided incentives for graduation and college scholarships for area students for more than 30 years. This effort has provided many students with opportunities beyond high school and a chance for a college education.

Among Parton’s numerous achievements are the Woodrow Wilson Award for Public Service from the Smithsonian Institution, the Kennedy Center Honors, the National Medal of Arts, the Living Legend award from the Library of Congress, membership in the Country Music Hall of Fame, the Songwriters Hall of Fame and the Grand Ole Opry, along with seven Grammy Awards, 10 Country Music Association Awards and two Oscar nominations.

This ceremony is one of 14 to be held on the UT campus as part of a full week of commencement activities. Details about all college ceremonies and the Kickoff to Commencement event can be found at

For more information about Parton, visit For more information about commencement visit
For more information about this ceremony, visit


Jay Mayfield (865-974-9409,
Karen Collins (865-974-5186,

Video Uplink/Transmission Information

For Knoxville media:

During the event, a live multi-camera feed will be made available in the microwave transmission room at Thompson-Boling Arena. This feed may be transmitted by local media who have transmission capabilities from the arena that normally are used for sporting events.

For statewide and national media:

After the event, from 1:15 to 2 p.m. Eastern Time on May 8, UT Video and Photography Services will uplink highlights from the event. This will consist of footage from the multi-camera feed taken at the event itself, and is free for reuse by media outlets. Downlink information follows:

Friday, May 8
1:15 p.m. – 2:00 p.m. ET
Horizons 2 (Ku analog)
Transponder – 19
Downlink Frequency: 12140 V
Audio Frequency: 6.2 & 6.8
Trouble numbers: 865-974-5069/865-974-2680