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The Fall 2018 Undergraduate Commencement Ceremony

UT’s undergraduate commencement and graduate hooding ceremonies will be held May 8–11.

The university will award 4,228 degrees—3,253 undergraduate degrees, 783 graduate degrees, 110 law degrees, and 82 veterinary medicine degrees. Some ROTC cadets also will be commissioned during their undergraduate ceremonies.

Ceremonies held in Thompson-Boling Arena will be livestreamed. For more information about the ceremonies and links to the livestreams, visit the commencement website.

All ceremonies will be held in Thompson-Boling Arena unless otherwise noted.

Wednesday, May 8

4 p.m.—Audiology and Speech Pathology
These students are graduates of a joint program between the Department of Theory and Practice in Teacher Education at UT and the Department of Audiology and Speech Pathology at UT Health Science Center. Students representing each of the three degree programs—Jackson Marshall representing undergraduates; Abbey Stigers representing audiology graduate students; and Nolan Sexton representing speech language pathology graduate students—have been elected to speak.

Thursday, May 9

9 a.m.—Tickle College of Engineering
The speaker is alumna Jerry L. Johnson, a founding member and partner of the private equity firm RLJ Equity Partners. Johnson also served as a special assistant to the secretary of defense as a White House Fellow under President George W. Bush. After completing his bachelor’s degree in chemical engineering at UT, he went on to earn his MBA from Harvard Business School. He was recognized with UT’s Distinguished Alumnus Award in 2009.

12:30 p.m.—Herbert College of Agriculture
Bill Johnson is president and CEO of Farm Credit Mid-America, a $23 billion agricultural cooperative serving over 100,000 farmers, agribusinesses, and rural residents in Indiana, Ohio, Kentucky, and Tennessee.

4 p.m.—College of Communication and Information
The speaker is alumna Missy Wallen, chairman at Pinnacle Financial Partners Inc. She has a bachelor’s degree in speech and theatre from UT and a graduate degree from Louisiana State University–School of Banking of the South. She has served on the College of Communication and Information Board of Visitors and serves on the Alumni Association board.

7:30 p.m.—Graduate Hooding
The speaker is Jamie Greig. Originally from Scotland, Greig is receiving his PhD in communication and information, focusing on electric cooperatives as a solution to broadband access in rural areas. He has a master’s degree in communication and information from UT and a bachelor’s degree in journalism from the Robert Gordon University in Aberdeen, Scotland. Greig has served as both senate chair and vice president of the Graduate Student Senate. After graduating, he will manage a community broadband project in Tennessee and will connect this work to UT through a research fellowship at the Howard H. Baker Jr. Center for Public Policy.

Friday, May 10

8:30 a.m.—College of Education, Health, and Human Sciences
The speaker is Keith Carver, chancellor of UT Martin. He previously served as executive assistant to the UT System president and has held roles at UT campuses in Knoxville, Martin, and Memphis. After graduating from the University of Memphis, he earned his master’s degree in college student personnel and educational leadership and his doctoral degree from UT Knoxville.

10:30 a.m.—Chancellor’s Honors Program, Student Union Auditorium
The speaker is UT Honors alumnus Drew Holcomb, best known as the singer–songwriter who fronts the band Drew Holcomb and The Neighbors. After graduating from UT, Holcomb, a Memphis native, went on to attend the University of St. Andrew’s in Scotland, where he earned a master’s degree in divinity. Holcomb married fellow UT honors alumnus and musician Ellie Bannister in 2006. Shortly after marrying, Drew Holcomb and The Neighbors was formed. To date, the group has released 12 studio albums.

Noon—College of Law
The speaker is alumnus Ali Safavi, who has held positions with Hewlett-Packard, Sara Lee, Levi’s, Haagen-Dazs, Proctor and Gamble, and Walt Disney Studios before becoming a full-time real estate investor. Safavi’s success in real estate investment allowed him to retire before age 40. Safavi received his bachelor’s degree in sociology from UCLA and a juris doctor degree and MBA from UT.

3:30 p.m.—Haslam College of Business
The speaker is John C. Compton, a 1983 graduate of the college, who is a partner for Clayton, Dubilier and Rice, a leading private investment firm, at which he serves as chairman of three companies. A native of Greeneville, Tennessee, he spent the majority of his career with PepsiCo and was named global president in 2011. He has been actively involved in the Haslam College of Business and has served on its Dean’s Advisory Board for the past 15 years. He is now chair of the UT Board of Trustees.

7:30 p.m.—College of Nursing
Two students, Kayla Leko and Jennifer Shearer Miller, will be speaking. Leko is a graduating senior from Knoxville. She is president of the UT Student Nurses Association. She has accepted a position at CHI Memorial Hospital in Chattanooga in the medical/surgical telemetry track. Shearer Miller is a PhD candidate in nursing. She graduated with a bachelor’s degree in nursing from UT and a master’s degree in nursing from Tennessee State University. Shearer Miller is a registered nurse with experience in neonatal intensive care. Her long-term goals include pursuing a faculty position and continuing her research to explore and improve outcomes in newborns with neonatal abstinence syndrome.

Saturday, May 11

9 a.m.—College of Arts and Sciences
The speaker is alumna Nancy-Ann DeParle, a partner and co-founder of Consonance Capital Partners. She is a director of CVS Health and HCA Healthcare, as well as Consonance portfolio companies Enclara Pharmacia, Turn-Key Health, and Psychiatric Medical Care. She served for two years as assistant to the president and deputy chief of staff for policy under President Barack Obama, and she spearheaded the implementation of the Affordable Care Act. DeParle was study body president at UT and graduated with a bachelor’s degree as part of the College Scholars program. DeParle went on to earn her law degree from Harvard Law School. She also received a bachelor’s degree and a master’s degree in politics and economics from Balliol College of Oxford University as a Rhodes Scholar.

10 a.m.—College of Veterinary Medicine, Cox Auditorium, Alumni Memorial Building
Karen Tobias, professor of small animal surgery, along with Abigail Geick and Andrew Jordan, co-presidents of the Class of 2019, will speak at the ceremony. Kathleen Kunkel, chair of the college’s alumni council, will present awards recognizing distinguished alumni. Danny Walker, president of the Tennessee Veterinary Medical Association, will welcome the Class of 2019 to the profession.

1:30 p.m.—College of Social Work
Two students—Mackenzie Hunter, a first-generation student who is receiving a bachelor’s degree in social work, and Morgan Booker, who is receiving a master’s degree in veterinary social work—will be the featured speakers. Interim UT System President Randy Boyd will also make remarks.

4:30 p.m.—College of Architecture and Design and Hooding Ceremony
Alumna Sheila Dial-Barton is a principal with EOA Architects in Nashville. After studying interior design at the Art Institute of Atlanta, Dial-Barton earned her bachelor’s degree in architecture from UT in 1997 and studied urban planning through UT’s foreign exchange program in Krakow, Poland.

Parking and Security

Graduates and their guests may park free in university student parking areas throughout campus but should avoid parking in staff parking areas.

The arena’s large-event security protocol will be enforced at both ceremonies. Guests may enter the arena with one clear plastic bag no larger than 12 inches by 6 inches by 12 inches.

Walk-through metal detectors will be in place and operational at all arena entrances. Please allow additional time for entry.

Smoking, including e-cigarettes, is prohibited in and on all university property, including in private vehicles parked or operated on university property.

For more information on what items are allowed and prohibited in the arena as well as the security policy, visit the commencement website or contact the Thompson-Boling Arena management office at 865-974-0953.


Amy Blakely (865-974-5034,