Skip to main content
John Noble Wilford
John Noble Wilford

UT alumnus and Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist John Noble Wilford will receive an honorary doctorate during commencement ceremonies.

Wilford, a 1955 journalism graduate, will receive an honorary doctorate of letters and science at the College of Communication and Information ceremony on May 7. He headlines the list of accomplished speakers at this spring’s college ceremonies, which begin May 7 and run through May 10. More than 3,800 undergraduate and graduate students will receive degrees at thirteen college ceremonies this spring.

One of the country’s most renowned science journalists, Wilford got the entire front page of the New York Times to himself on July 21, 1969, for his biggest story, “Men Walk on Moon.”

He later became an assistant national editor and then director of science news at the New York Times and helped launch its popular weekly Science Times section. After he returned to writing, he won two Pulitzer Prizes for national reporting, in 1984 and 1987.

Wilford retired from the New York Times in 2008. He is the author, editor, or co-author of ten books, including We Reach the Moon, The Mapmakers, The Riddle of the Dinosaur, Mars Beckons, and The Mysterious History of Columbus.

The honorary degree is the sixth UT has awarded. Others have gone to John Seigenthaler, Howard H. Baker Jr., Dolly Parton, Al Gore, and Charles O. “Chad” Holliday.

Below is a list of other commencement ceremonies and speakers. All events take place in Thompson-Boling Arena unless otherwise specified:


  • 8:30 a.m.—College of Agricultural Sciences and Natural Resources. Julius Johnson, Tennessee’s thirty-sixth commissioner of agriculture, will speak.
  • 1:00 p.m.—College of Engineering. The speaker is Kathy Caldwell, a UT alumna who has served the White House as a Champion of Change for Transportation and is on the Board of Directors of Engineers Without Borders and the American Association of Engineering Societies.
  • 4:30 p.m.—College of Communication and Information. Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist John Noble Wilford will speak.


  • 8:30 a.m.—College of Social Work. Karen Sowers, dean of the College of Social Work, will speak.
  • 11:00 a.m.—Audiology and Speech Pathology. Cox Auditorium in Alumni Memorial Building.
  • 1:00 p.m.—College of Education, Health, and Human Sciences. The speaker is Tony Brown, UT alumnus and executive director of Heart of Los Angeles, an afterschool program that provides underserved youth with programs in academics, athletics, and the arts.
  • 4:30 p.m.—Graduate Hooding. Jodi Lynn Rightler-McDaniels, who will graduate with a doctorate in communication and information, will speak.


  • 9:00 a.m.—College of Arts and Sciences. Ann Taylor, who anchored NPR’s “All Things Considered” from 1989 to 2011, will speak.
  • 2:00 p.m.—College of Business Administration. The speaker is Dave Ramsey, personal money-management expert and popular national radio personality.
  • 5:00 p.m.—College of Law. Justice Sharon Lee, UT alumna and member of the Tennessee Supreme Court, will speak.


  • 9:00 a.m.—College of Nursing. Rita Freeman Silen, who was a member of the first class to earn a nursing degree at UT, will speak.
  • 10:00 a.m.—College of Veterinary Medicine. Cox Auditorium in Alumni Memorial Building. Professor Emeritus James J. Brace, known internationally for his past work in veterinary nephrology, will speak.
  • 1:00 p.m.—College of Architecture and Design Hooding Ceremony. The speaker is alumnus Bill Heitz, who recently retired as CEO and president of Heery International Inc., an Engineering News Record top-twenty firm providing architecture, engineering, interior design, and construction management services.

Find a full list of commencement ceremonies, times, locations, and parking information on the commencement website.

C O N T A C T :

Amy Blakely (865-974-5034,