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Herbert College of Agriculture Commencement
Herbert College of Agriculture Commencement inside Thompson-Boling Arena on May 09, 2019. Photo by Steven Bridges.

UT’s fall undergraduate commencement and graduate hooding ceremonies will be held December 12 and 13.

Graduate hooding will take place at 4:30 p.m. December 12 and undergraduate commencement at 9 a.m. December 13, both in Thompson-Boling Arena.

The university will award 1,191 undergraduate degrees, 1,171 graduate degrees and certificates, and one law degree to students who completed their studies in the summer or fall. Six ROTC Army cadets will be commissioned during the undergraduate ceremony.

During the undergraduate ceremony on December 13, UT alumnus Theotis Robinson Jr. will be awarded an honorary doctorate in social work for his lifetime of work to advance social justice.

UT alumnus Clayton M. Jones will address students as the keynote speaker.

Theotis Robinson Jr.

One of the first African American undergraduates to attend UT, Robinson has diligently served the university since working to open its doors for African American undergraduates.

UT alumnus Theotis Robinson Jr. will be awarded an honorary doctorate in social work.

Robinson applied to attend UT and had meetings with university administrators, including then-President Andy Holt, which led to the Board of Trustees changing the university’s admissions policy in November 1960. He became the first African American undergraduate student admitted and enrolled on January 4, 1961. Two other students joined him.

Ten years later, Robinson became the first African American representative elected to the Knoxville City Council in more than a half century. Following his time in public office, he served as vice president of economic development for the 1982 World’s Fair. After teaching a course in political science, Robinson took a position in the UT purchasing department before becoming special projects coordinator in the Office of Government Relations. In 2000, Robinson was named vice president of equity and diversity for the UT System and served in that role until he retired in 2014. He still occasionally gives lectures at UT. Robinson writes political opinion columns for the Knoxville News Sentinel and the USA Today Network–Tennessee.

Robinson is a charter member of UT’s African American Hall of Fame and was named by Metro Pulse newspaper as one of the 100 most influential Knoxvillians of the 20th century. In 2015, he received the prestigious Whitney M. Young Lifetime Achievement Award from the Knoxville Area Urban League. The UT Knoxville Alumni Board of Directors recognized Robinson as a Distinguished Alumnus in September 2019.

He is married to the former Jonida DeVelle and has four surviving children, nine grandchildren, and two great-grandchildren.

Clayton M. Jones

UT alumnus Clayton M. Jones will address students during the undergraduate commencement ceremony.

Clayton M. Jones served for 11 years as chairman and CEO of Rockwell Collins Inc., an aviation electronics and communications equipment company based in Cedar Rapids, Iowa. Jones graduated with a degree in political science and was honored as a Torchbearer, the highest honor a student can receive. He served for eight years as a fighter pilot in the US Air Force, then began his 34-year career with Rockwell International. In 1982, he served a fellowship in the White House Executive Exchange program, where he was assigned to the Environmental Protection Agency. He earned an MBA from George Washington University in 1986.

As an alumnus, Jones remains heavily involved with the university. He served on the UT Knoxville Alumni Board of Directors for six years, including a year as president. He regularly visits campus, speaks to classes, and serves as a mentor to students. In 2009, Jones and his wife, Debbie, established an endowment to support student initiatives in the Center for Leadership and Service. The center was renamed the Clay and Debbie Jones Center for Leadership and Service in April 2019 in recognition of their support.

Graduate Hooding

Camera Foster, a doctoral candidate, will speak at the graduate hooding on December 12.

Doctoral candidate Camera Foster will speak at the graduate hooding.

Foster first came to UT as an undergraduate. She received a bachelor’s degree in materials science and engineering in 2015 before continuing her education as a doctoral student. While pursuing her PhD, Foster has worked as a graduate research assistant with a focus on the synthesis and characterization of single crystal scintillators for applications in medical imaging. In her position with UT’s Scintillation Materials Research Center, she worked closely with industry representatives to develop novel materials for radiation detection applications. In recognition of her outstanding research and academic accomplishments, Foster was named a Tennessee Doctoral Scholar by the Tennessee Higher Education Commission in 2016.

A Knoxville native, Foster finds that being a Vol—in every sense of the word—comes naturally. During her graduate studies, she mentored undergraduate researchers on projects in the laboratory and served as a high school mentor at the Oak Ridge Chapter of ASM International’s annual Materials Camp. Last spring, she received the Department of Materials Science and Engineering Graduate Student Award for Excellence in Service.

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. View a campus map and student 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. Binoculars, cameras, and video cameras are permissible without cases.

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.


Maddie Stephens (865-974-3993,​