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An award-winning author and educator, a best-selling author of children’s books, and an Air Force commander were among the 17 Volunteers honored at this year’s UT Knoxville Alumni Board Awards.

More than 200 alumni, spouses, families, and special guests gathered to celebrate the honorees at a gala on September 7 at Cherokee Country Club. Susan Crunk (’80), president of the UT Knoxville Alumni Board of Directors as well as managing partner and senior financial advisor at Williams Hunter Wealth Group, served as master of ceremonies.

University of Tenenssee Alumni Awards Gala at Cherokee Country Club on September 7, 2018.
The 2018 Alumni Awards winners are, from left to right, General Mike Holmes, Chris Grabenstein, Patricia Bell-Scott, Ken May, Jenneen Kaufman, James Newsome III, Erin Hauck, Douglas McCarty, UT Knoxville Alumni Board of Directors President Susan Crunk, Gregory Cox Jr., Rachel Park Hurt, Tom Edwards, and Rick Kuhlman.

The evening culminated with three alumni receiving the top honor, the Distinguished Alumnus/Alumna Award:

  • Patricia Bell-Scott (’72,’73,’76) is an award-winning author and cofounder of both the University of Georgia Teaching Academy and the National Women’s Studies Association. “When I came to the UT campus in September of 1968, I was one of perhaps 100 African American freshmen. This formative experience set me on a path toward university teaching, research, cofounding an academic journal, a teaching academy, a professional society, as well as writing The Firebrand and the First Lady, which is a book about the interracial friendship between Eleanor Roosevelt and the human rights activist and priest Pauli Murray. I’m humbled to be a Distinguished Alumna Award recipient. For me, this award is a tribute to the broad training, inspiring professors, and close friendships I made at UT,” she said.
  • Chris Grabenstein (’77) is a New York Times best-selling author with 22 books co-authored with James Patterson. “Everything I do today started with what I did at UTK. I am honored and grateful for this award,” he said.
  • General Mike Holmes (’81) is the commander of Air Combat Command, Joint Base Langley-Eustis, Virginia. He said, “I am incredibly thankful for the foundation I was able to build here at UT and truly grateful for the impact this university continues to have on the lives of the many young—and not so young—ambitious people that walk this campus.”

Read more about this year’s Distinguished Alumnus/Alumna Award winners.

Several other awards were presented at the gala:

The Alumni Professional Achievement Award went to Fred Dixon Jr. (’91), CEO of NYC & Company, the official marketing and tourism organization of New York City; Jenneen Kaufman (’92), vice president and CFO of the Tennessee Titans; Ken May (’94), executive chairman of Urban Air Adventure Park and former executive at FedEx/Kinkos, Krispy Kreme, and TopGolf; James Newsome III (’76, ’77), CEO and president of the South Carolina Ports Authority; and Kimberly Schlapman (’92), founding member of the award-winning country band Little Big Town.

The Alumni Service Award went to Gregory Cox Jr. (’95, ’96), financial analyst for Georgia Pacific; Tom Edwards (’72), owner of Olympic Industries; Ralph Heath (’70, ’75), former president of Lockheed Martin; Rick Kuhlman (’73), founding director of Knoxville Fellows and retired colonel in the US Air Force; and Douglas McCarty (’72), president and CEO of architecture firm McCarty, Holsaple, McCarty.

The Alumni Promise Award went to Erin Hauck (’07), founder and senior director of digital investment and senior director of audience planning of Hearts & Science, an OMD subsidiary; Rachel Park Hurt (’07), partner at law firm Arnett, Draper & Hagood LLP; Lydia Criss Mays (’01, ’02), president and CEO of See Beautiful; and Conrad Ricamora (’12), distinguished actor.


Mallorie Mendence (, 865-974-5801)