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Accomplished musicians. A student who knows five languages. Several students who have done significant community service work, including one who organized a 5K run to benefit Cambodia.

These are a few of the credentials of the freshmen who will be the newest class of Haslam Scholars.

The university’s premier, four-year scholarship program, the Haslam Scholars Program admits up to fifteen first-year students each year from the university-wide Chancellor’s Honors Program and supports them with the university’s most generous named scholarships.

“This year’s class of Haslam Scholars, like those who preceded them, are a high-powered group of scholar-leaders. Our expectations for them as a group are as high as the scholars’ expectations for themselves individually,” said Bruce Wheeler, acting director of the Chancellor’s Honors and Haslam Scholars Programs. “They have been a joy to recruit. We anticipate four years of achievement, innovation, and excitement from this group.”

UT alumnus Timothy Hulsey, currently the founding dean of the Honors College at Virginia Commonwealth University, has been named associate provost and director of the Chancellor’s Honors and Haslam Scholars Programs. He will begin on July 1.

The Haslam Scholars selection process began with nominations of high school seniors. From the nominees, sixty were selected and offered interviews. Of those interviewed, thirty were invited to campus for an interview weekend in early March. Selection criteria included scholastic achievement, leadership potential, special talents, maturity, and seriousness of purpose.

Haslam Scholars are part of an intimate academic and leadership group mentored by top 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 students’ honors thesis research and travel to present their work. In addition, each Haslam Scholar will receive a scholarship package that totals $21,500.

The new Haslam Scholars are

  • Alex Brito

    Alex Brito—From Franklin Road Academy in Brentwood, Tennessee, Brito plans to major in biological sciences. In addition to being a two-time French language exchange student in Paris, she is also her school’s volleyball team captain and jazz ensemble guitarist.

  • Esther Choo

    Esther Choo—From Farragut High School in Knoxville, Choo plans to focus on pre-med studies. She has served as the Knoxville Symphony Youth Orchestra’s principle cellist for the past two years and has worked as a research intern at UT’s Scintillation Materials Research Center since last summer.

  • Houston Cookenour

    Houston Cookenour—From Dobyns Bennett High School in Kingsport, Tennessee, Cookenour plans to major in computer science. Recently selected as an All-State tuba player by the East Tennessee School Band and Orchestra Association, he serves as principal tuba player in both the Symphony of the Mountains Youth Orchestra and the Dobyns-Bennett Wind Symphony. In addition to his musical successes, Cookenour was also a finalist in the 2012 UT Pro2Serve FERMAT I Math Competition.

  • Grant Currin

    Grant Currin—From Cleveland High School in Cleveland, Tennessee, Currin plans to major in sociology. Ranked first in his class, Currin is a certified scuba diver and the captain of his school’s cross-country team. He also serves as the head delegate of his school’s Model United Nations and recently directed a 5K run to benefit sustainable infrastructure in Cambodia.

  • Abby Durick

    Abby Durick—From Fred J. Page High School in Franklin, Tennessee, Durick plans to major in wildlife and fisheries science. In addition to playing French horn in several orchestras and band ensembles in Tennessee, Durick is also learning Kiswahili, a language spoken in Africa, and is the president of her school’s National Spanish Honors Society.

  • Robby Ferguson

    Robby Ferguson—From William Blount High School in Maryville, Tennessee, Ferguson plans to major in computer engineering. A Relay for Life team leader and Habitat for Humanity volunteer, Ferguson is also a tennis enthusiast who has captained his high school’s team. He is an alumnus of the Tennessee Governor’s School for Emerging Technologies.

  • Libby Fortunato

    Libby Fortunato—From Knoxville Catholic High School in Knoxville, Fortunato plans to major in mechanical engineering. In addition to being leader of her school’s mock trial team, she has won the prestigious Girl Scout Gold Award and attended Girls State.

  • Ian Francis

    Ian Francis—From Brentwood High School in Brentwood, Tennessee, Francis plans to major in mathematics. He is an alumnus of the Governor’s School for the Sciences and Engineering and has participated in his school’s drum line. In addition, Francis has organized and performed in benefit concerts.

  • Bryson Lype

    Bryson Lype—From Ooltewah High School in Ooltewah, Tennessee, Lype plans to major in political science. In addition to his participation in his school’s mock trial team and Model United Nations team, Lype is a member of several honors organizations and attended Boys State.

  • Patrick McKenzie

    Patrick McKenzie—From Searcy High School in Ward, Arkansas, McKenzie plans to major in biological sciences. He founded and led his high school’s engineering team, which was selected as one of four teams nationwide to participate in a NASA-sponsored competition. In addition, he is the editor in chief of his high school yearbook and has excelled musically, making All-State band twice.

  • Victoria Nelson

    Victoria Nelson—From Bearden High School in Knoxville, Nelson plans to major in accounting. She was a Girls State delegate and is an executive member of the Key Club, National Honor Society, and Student Government Association at her high school.

  • Caitlin Pinkard

    Caitlin Pinkard—From Brentwood High School in Brentwood, Tennessee, Pinkard plans to major in pre-veterinary medicine. Captain of her school’s rugby team and a math tutor, Pinkard is also a National Merit Scholarship finalist.

  • Colleen Ryan

    Colleen Ryan—From Cookeville High School in Cookeville, Tennessee, Ryan plans to major in global studies. In addition to being editor in chief of her high school newspaper and an alumna of the Tennessee Governor’s School for International Studies, Ryan has traveled to China, Ghana, and Western Europe.

  • Anagha Uppal—From Halls High School in Knoxville, Uppal plans to major in computer science. She is proficient in five languages, is the president of her school’s book club, and holds a cancer research internship.
  • Louis Varriano—From White Station High School in Memphis, Varriano is undecided about his major. In addition to being president of his school’s robotics team, he is a Science Olympian and a leader in his school’s Model United Nations program.

The Haslam Scholars Program was created five years ago with $2.5 million from Jimmy and Dee Haslam. Jimmy Haslam is president and CEO of Pilot Flying J. Dee Haslam is CEO of RIVR Media.

Jim and Natalie Haslam contributed an additional $2.5 million to support the program. Jim Haslam is founder of Pilot Corp.

For more information about the Haslam Scholars Program, visit

C O N T A C T :

Sylvia Turner (865-974- 7875,