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KNOXVILLE — Fifteen of the nation’s top students have accepted the invitation to attend the University of Tennessee, Knoxville, as the 2009-2010 class of Haslam Scholars.

The Haslam Scholars Program, launched last year, is a premier honors program akin to the Jefferson Scholars Program at University of Virginia and the Morehead-Cain Scholars Program at University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill.

More than 1,100 students met the eligibility criteria for the Haslam Scholars program, 250 students conducted initial interviews with the program director and associate director, and 30 finalists were invited to interview in March.

The 2009-2010 Haslam Scholars are:

– Desiree Ancar of Munford High School, Munford, Tenn. Ancar, who plans to major in pre-medicine, is a three-sport athlete and alumna of the Tennessee Governor’s Schools for the Sciences and Engineering.

– Daniel Aycock of Sullivan South High School, Kingsport, Tenn. Aycock, who plans to major in business, is a member of the All State Band and president of his church youth choir.

– Charlie Borenstein of Benjamin Franklin High School, New Orleans, La. Borenstein, who plans to major in materials science and engineering, is captain of his school’s swim team.

– Ethan Cansler of Franklin High School, Franklin, N.C. Cansler, who plans to major in aerospace engineering, is an alumnus of the Summer Ventures in Science and Math Program at East Carolina University.

– Madelyn Crawford of Farragut High School, Farragut, Tenn. Crawford, who plans to major in chemistry, is “fascinated by science, intrigued by language and inspired by music.”

– Daniel Hamm of McNairy Central High School, Selmer, Tenn. Hamm, who is undecided as to major, is an alumnus of the Tennessee Governor’s School for the Humanities and the Lott Leadership Program at the University of Mississippi.

– Blair Kuykendall of Mount Paran Christian, Kennesaw, Ga. Kuykendall, who plans to major in political science, is an alumna of Emory University Mock Trial and is interested in a career in law.

– Matt Olive of Centennial High School, Franklin, Tenn. Olive, who plans to major in biology, is an alumnus of the Tennessee Governor’s Schools for the Sciences and Engineering and is vice president of his school’s student government.

– Zana Operta of Dobyns Bennett High School, Kingsport, Tenn. Operta, who plans to major in political science, was born in Sarajevo, Bosnia, and says, “Human rights are my passion.”

– Hannah Parks of The American School of Dubai, Dubai, United Arab Emirates. Parks, who plans to major in English, has lived and studied in Dubai, United Arab Emirates, for six years, and is a member of her school’s varsity volleyball team and co-president of the Girls’ Choir.

– Sarah Russell of The Westminster Schools, Atlanta, Ga. Russell, who plans to major in vocal performance and musicology, is the elected president of the Westminster Ensemble, her school’s audition-only international touring choir.

– Hunter Tipton of Maryville High School, Maryville, Tenn. Tipton, who plans to major in biology and pre-medicine, is captain of three athletic teams and one of only 12 Wendy’s Heisman National Finalists.

– Brooke Watson of White Station High School, Memphis, Tenn. Watson, whose major is undecided, competed in the 2008 U.S. Olympic Swim Trials in Omaha, Neb., and is a USA Swimming Scholastic All-American.

– Iby Wellborn of Gatlinburg-Pittman High School, Gatlinburg, Tenn. Wellborn, who plans to major in psychology, biology or environmental science, is an alumna of the Tennessee Governor’s School for the Humanities and a black belt in Isshin-Ryu Karate.

– Akshitha Yarrabothula of Germantown High School, Germantown, Tenn. Yarrabothula, who plans to major in biomedical engineering, immigrated from India at age 7 and hopes one day to work for the United Nations’ World Health Organization.

“We are thrilled to have these 15 students as Haslam Scholars,” said Steven P. Dandaneau, associate provost and director of the Chancellor’s Honors and Haslam Scholars Program. “They are an extraordinary group whose scholarly interests are as diverse as their varied life experiences. They look forward to being a part of UT, and we know UT will benefit from having them.”

Selection criteria included scholastic achievement, leadership potential, maturity and seriousness of purpose, and special talents.

Haslam Scholars will be part of an intimate study group mentored by top UT faculty. Program benefits include a $1,500 laptop computer and a study-abroad experience valued at $4,000, as well as up to $5,500 to support a senior research thesis and travel to present their work.

Haslam Scholars also will receive a Chancellor’s scholarship — now the top academic scholarship — which provides annual award amounts between $7,000 and $10,000.

The UT program was created with $2.5 million from Jimmy and Dee Haslam. Jimmy Haslam is president and CEO of Pilot Travel Centers. Dee Haslam is CEO of RIVR Media and also chairs the UT Development Council. The Haslams chair the Campaign for Tennessee for the Knoxville campus.

Jim and Natalie Haslam contributed an additional $2.5 million to support the program. Jim Haslam is chairman of the board of Pilot Travel Centers LLC and chairman of the board and president of Pilot Corp.

For more information about the Haslam Scholars program and the 30 finalists, see

NOTE: Photos of the Haslam Scholars are available upon request.

C O N T A C T :

Amy Blakely (865-974-5034,