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The Faceless Donation
"The Faceless Donation," by freshman Rachel Byrd

KNOXVILLE—After reading The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks, freshman Rachel Byrd created a painting to illustrate Lacks’ great contribution to modern medicine—and the lack of knowledge about her, as a person, in the scientific community.

Byrd’s work was named the top project among the creative responses submitted as part of this year’s Life of the Mind program at the University of Tennessee, Knoxville.

Life of the Mind is a common reading experience that gives first-year students an initial taste of academic life at UT Knoxville. This year, for the first time, Life of the Mind is part of FYS 100, a zero-credit, pass-fail course for all first-year students.

This year’s book is by award-winning science writer Rebecca Skloot. It is the story of an African American woman whose cervical cancer cells, taken during a biopsy and cultured without her knowledge or permission in the 1950s, have been integral in developing the polio vaccine, unlocking secrets of cancer and viruses, helping understand the effects of the atom bomb, and contributing to the development of in vitro fertilization, cloning, and gene mapping. The cells are known as HeLa, a name derived from the initial letters of her first and last names.

To satisfactorily complete FYS 100, students had to read the book, attend Skloot’s lecture, participate in a discussion session, and submit a creative response related to the book’s themes.

This year’s creative response finalists came from a wide range of majors, from engineering to arts and sciences to nursing. The top five winners were recognized at the 50th Anniversary of African American Achievement Grand Gala on September 23, and all finalists will be recognized at a Ready for the World Cafe luncheon on November 15. Several projects were chosen for honorable mention in two categories, “YouTube favorites” and “visual arts.” Students receiving honorable mentions also will be invited to attend the Ready for the World Cafe luncheon.

All finalists will have their artwork displayed throughout Knoxville for the remainder of the semester, including in the Carolyn P. Brown University Center and the downtown YWCA for First Friday.

For her painting titled The Faceless Donation, Byrd, a studio arts major from Germantown, Tennessee, will receive an iPad2 and a $100 gift certificate to the UT bookstore.

The 2011 Life of the Mind program’s top five creative project finalists are, left to right, Rachel Byrd, top winner; Maverick Echivarre, Chelsa Conner, and Eboni Smith. Nathan Sharp was not present for this photo.

The other top five finalists are Chelsea Conner, an animal science major from Kingsport, Tennessee, for her poem, Sometimes; Maverick Echivarre, from Antioch, Tennessee, majoring in materials science and engineering, for writing a musical script, Henrietta’s Life, Death, and Legacy; Eboni Smith, a pre-professional major from Memphis, Tennessee, for her poetic presentation Little Girl Lost on YouTube; and Nathan Sharp, a computer science and engineering major from Hermitage, Tennessee, for his short story, Diffraction. The top five finalists will receive a $100 gift certificate to the UT bookstore.

Remaining top ten finalists are Shea Lowe, a business and marketing major from Douglasville, Georgia, for her essay, Pieces of Me; Emily Pearson, undecided, from Winchester, Tennessee, for her work titled Court Argument; Hunter Todd, from Dyersburg, Tennessee, majoring in architecture, designed a building model for The HeLa Center; Savannah Pickard, studying kinesiology from Nashville, Tennessee, for her artwork in pencil, charcoal and watercolor; and Beatriz Fulgueiro Santana, a biological sciences major from Antioch, Tennessee, for her poetic presentation, Minute Glance at Henrietta Lacks. These top ten finalists will be given a $100 gift certificate to the UT bookstore.

Honorable mentions in the visual arts category include Macy McCarty, undecided, for her pen-and-ink drawing; Leslie Crisp, undecided, for her portrait, Henrietta Lacks; Marina Johnson, a pre-professional major, for her photograph; Kate Libby, studying nursing, for her drawing; and Elise Placher, a pre-professional major, for his pencil drawing, The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks.

Honorable mentions in the YouTube favorites category are by Harper Law, undecided, for his video titled There’s Hope; and Matt Wessner, an electrical engineering major for his video.

C O N T A C TS :

Stephanie Dixon (865-974-2125,

Amy Blakely (865-974-5034,