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

At the banquet, the largest UT honors event of the year, Chancellor Jimmy G. Cheek saluted the accomplishments of key members of the campus community.

Among the top awards presented were:

Jan Simek receives the Macebearer Award from Chancellor Jimmy G. Cheek at the 2012 Chancellor's Honors AwardsMacebearer: Jan Simek, president emeritus and distinguished professor of anthropology, was honored for his contributions to the university in administrative leadership, scholarship and teaching. The university’s Macebearer — the top faculty honor — leads the faculty in processionals during commencement exercises.

His leadership roles include interim president of the university, interim dean of the College of Architecture and Design, and Anthropology department head. While serving in these administrative positions, Simek continued his research on caves and cave art. Last fall, he returned to his first calling of educating and mentoring students by teaching a general-education course.

Alexander Prize: Thomas J.A. Heffernan is the interim director of the new University of Tennessee Humanities Center and a professor of English and adjunct professor of Religious Studies. He is a senior medievalist who specializes in manuscript studies, medieval philosophy and sacred autobiography. Internally renowned for his scholarship, he also consistently receives praise from students and is one of the English department’s most charismatic professors. Named for former UT president and now Sen. Lamar Alexander and his wife, Honey, the award recognizes superior teaching and distinguished scholarship.

Jefferson Prize: Penny J. White is a professor of law and director of the College of Law’s Center for Advocacy and Dispute Resolution. She has helped establish new experiential learning courses and significantly enhanced the center’s curriculum. A former associate justice of the Tennessee Supreme Court, she is a sought-after speaker and an influential scholar and one of the college’s most prominent faculty members. The Jefferson Prize honors the principles of Thomas Jefferson and his pursuit of freedom and knowledge.

L.R. Hesler Award: Randall “Randy” Small is an associate professor of ecology and evolutionary biology who has taught a wide variety of courses from freshmen general-education to advanced graduate -level seminars. Fellow faculty members say that he has a knack for sharing his broad knowledge of biology and creating an engaging learning environment. Students say his enthusiasm and openness encourages them to learn. The Hesler Award is named for the long time department head and dean of the College of Arts and Sciences.

UT students receive Torchbearer awards at the 2012 Chancellor's Honors AwardsThe Torchbearer is the highest honor given to a student and is based on academic achievement, leadership and outstanding service. Cheek presented the 2012 Torchbearers with medals, and they participated in the ceremonial “passing of the torch” at the event.

The new honorees are:

Lauren Charles is an audiology major from Brentwood, Tenn. She is described as a “leader among leaders.” She has been a dedicated leader for Student Alumni Associates and played a critical role as the co-chair of a national conference for similar student organizations. She is active in Panhellenic, and serves as an executive officer in Delta Delta Delta sorority. She is a member of Mortar Board and the Chancellor’s Honors Program and chair of All Campus Events programming committee. Born with mild to moderate hearing loss, Lauren plans to pursue a doctorate in audiology to work with patients facing similar challenges and to help improve their quality of life.

Aeron Glover is a senior in industrial engineering from Memphis and a member of the inaugural class of Haslam Scholars. He is a resident assistant in the business college’s Venture learning community and on the weekends, he is a “big brother” to area children. He has studied abroad in Spain and China and represented the university on a broader scale by winning a national MTV-sponsored business competition. The entrepreneurial idea he conceived with a business partner, also a UT student, is now a new company in UT’s Business Incubator. He has interned with Google, Exxon-Mobil and FedEx and completed a summer management program at Harvard Business School.

Andrew “Drew” Shapiro is a senior in history from Germantown, Tenn., who has served as an executive officer in his fraternity and the Interfraternity Council and as a member of the Knoxville Mayor’s Student Advisory Board. He helps others through mission trips to Appalachia and volunteering locally at the Love Kitchen and Habitat for Humanity. As Student Government Association (SGA) student services director, Shapiro recognized the need to address student safety concerns and, as part of a broader restructuring, is developing a committee to focus on campus safety issues. He has pursued a rigorous curriculum combining science, history and business to prepare for medical school in the future.

Jayanni Webster is a College Scholars student from Memphis who was also honored with the Gene Mitchell Gray Pioneer Award for cultural enrichment on campus. Webster is a first-generation college student who has been a summa cum laude student for her entire undergraduate career. She served as an Ignite team leader and member of the Provost’s Student Advisory Committee. Last year, she was selected to participate in the PBS 50th anniversary -reenactment of the 1961 Freedom Rides. When she returned it campus she was passionate about sharing her experience and its value with others. One of her nominators says “all of us on campus are richer because she is here.”

Courtney Vick, a journalism and electronic media major from Lebanon, Tenn., has served the university through her work with SGA as president of the Mortar Board honor society; a Panhellenic executive council member and with the Volunteer Channel Network. In her work with TeamVOLS, Vick serves as corporate event and development chair for Dance Marathon. In this role, she goes into the community to request sponsorships that support Dance Marathon and Children’s Hospital. She visits businesses at least once a week to ask for support of Dance Marathon. After graduation she will serve as a member of Teach for America.

Mark Walker, a nuclear engineering major from Oak Ridge is a scientist, a talented musician and a dedicated leader committed to local and global issues. Walker has been a research assistant at Oak Ridge National Laboratory, and completed an internship at the U.S. Department of Energy in Washington D.C. In 2011, Walker was one of only about 300 students nationally to be named a prestigious Goldwater Scholar. He has worked in leadership roles with engineering organizations to help recruit students into the field and organized and moderated panels to broaden people understanding of issues related to global nuclear security. He is an accomplished pianist and cellist and a member of the Knoxville Opera Board. In his spare time, he travels to Washington to advocate for Middle East Peace initiatives.

Chelsea Knotts, a senior from Ripley, W.Va., is finishing her degree in cellular and molecular biology. She is a member of the inaugural Haslam Scholars Program, the sole endorsed candidate for the Rhodes Scholarship, a Robert C. Byrd and National Merit Scholarship recipient, and a member of the Lady Vols Track and Field team. Perhaps most noteworthy is her leadership of the recent Haslam Scholars Program Community Service Project. Knotts led hundreds of UT students in an effort to end chronic homelessness, particularly in the Fort Sanders neighborhood. She began a running group for homeless men and women, organized a 5K benefit run, and regularly befriends people who are without shelter and stability.

The full list of all faculty, staff and student awards is available online at

C O N T A C T :

Beth Gladden (865-974-9008 or 865-771-1284,