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Accomplished faculty, staff, and students were honored Wednesday evening at the annual Chancellor’s Honors Banquet, the university’s largest recognition event of the year.

Seven seniors—Natalie Bennett, Savannah Clay, Joshua Dobbs, Carson Hollingsworth, Elisabeth Logan, Monil Mehta, and Louis Varriano— were recognized for their academic achievement, leadership, and outstanding service with the university’s highest student honor, the Torchbearer award. Read more about them here.

Read more about all of the faculty, staff and students who received awards at the Chancellor’s Honors Banquet here.

The following professors received the evening’s top faculty awards:

Macebearer: Michael Handelsman

Distinguished Professor of Humanities Michael Handelsman was named Macebearer, the highest faculty honor.

He was honored for several decades of contributions to Latin American studies. Also a major proponent of service-learning, Handelsman has placed about 150 students with advanced knowledge of Spanish in venues such as East Tennessee Children’s Hospital, Centro Hispano, Project Grad, the UT College of Law Legal Clinic, Catholic Charities, Head Start, and Inskip Elementary School.

He developed the East Tennessee Collaborative on Latin American Studies for K­–12 teachers, directed the Spanish section of the Tennessee Governor’s Academy for foreign language teachers, and served on the board of the Tennessee Foreign Language Teaching Association.

Handelsman is a faculty associate of the Howard H. Baker Jr. Center for Public Policy, director of the College of Arts and Sciences Global Studies program, and faculty director of UT’s Office of National Scholarships and Fellowships.

The Macebearer leads the faculty during commencement ceremonies, carrying UT’s ceremonial mace for a full academic year in recognition of their achievement.

Alexander Prize: Benjamin J. Blalock

Benjamin J. Blalock, the Blalock-Kennedy-Pierce Professor of Analog Electronics in the Department of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science, received the Alexander Prize.

Blalock directs the Integrated Circuits and Systems Laboratory and focuses on analog circuitry for extreme environments. He and his research students, working with NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, have designed a microchip that controls robotic movement in the Mars rover Curiosity. He does similar work with the Exploration Technology Development Program, a NASA-funded team of universities and companies developing circuitry that can operate reliably on the moon. He is developing space-based avionic systems for exploring ocean worlds in the outer solar system and improving power modules for hybrid and electric vehicles.

Blalock, who is a UT alumnus, is a supporter of student scholarship programs and of the first Big Orange STEM Symposium to promote UT’s Tickle College of Engineering to high school students.

The Alexander Prize is named for former UT president and US Senator Lamar Alexander and his wife, Honey.

Jefferson Prize: Michelle Brown

Michelle Brown, an associate professor in the Department of Sociology, received the Jefferson Prize for her groundbreaking research in the criminal justice field.

She has studied how cultural media like film and television represent incarceration. Her next book will examine how the US criminal justice system might be transformed through social justice–oriented alternatives to mass incarceration. She is also creating a virtual archive of the work of activists seeking to abolish the death penalty.

In 2016, Brown received the American Society of Criminology’s Critical Criminologist of the Year Award.

The Jefferson Prize honors a tenured or tenure-track faculty member who has demonstrated excellence in research and creative activity. It was made possible by an anonymous donor to honor the principles of the third US president.

L. R. Hesler Award: Christopher Craig

Christopher Craig, a professor whose career in the Department of Classics spans nearly four decades, received the L. R. Hesler Award for exceptional teaching and service.

Craig is considered one of the top Ciceronian scholars in the country. For years, he has been UT’s liaison with secondary Latin programs in Tennessee, helping to establish a network of committed Latin teachers and organizing his department’s annual outreach activity, Latin Day. He has served as a National Endowment for the Humanities panelist and as president of the Classical Association of the Middle West and South, where he received an Ovatio, or lifetime achievement award.

He is credited with revitalizing the program as department head from 2011 to 2016.

The L. R. Hesler Award, named for a longtime head of the botany department and dean of the College of Arts and Sciences, was established as a memorial by Hesler’s students, colleagues, and friends.

Read more about faculty, staff, and students who received awards at the Chancellor’s Honors Banquet here.


Amy Blakely (865-974-5034,