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Graduates walk into Thompson-Boling Arena for their Fall 2020 commencement ceremony.

Vol for Life Inquoris “Inky” Johnson, known for his inspiring life journey overcoming a tragic football injury, will address University of Tennessee, Knoxville, undergraduate students as the keynote speaker for the 9 a.m. December 10 fall commencement at Thompson-Boling Arena.

Graduate hooding will take place at 4:30 p.m. on Thursday, December 9, at the arena. Doctoral candidate Bikash Bogati, a first-generation college graduate, will address graduates during the ceremony.

The university will award approximately 1,098 undergraduate degrees and 578 graduate degrees and certificates. Three ROTC Air Force cadets will be commissioned during the undergraduate ceremony.

Both ceremonies will be webcast live on the commencement website.

Inquoris “Inky” Johnson

Inky Johnson

On September 9, 2006, what started as a normal college football game in Neyland Stadium changed everything for Johnson. A routine tackle turned into a life-threatening injury, leaving him with a paralyzed right arm and daily pain and physical challenges. Johnson’s dream had always been to play professional sports, but no injury could ever destroy his motivation or crush his spirit.

Johnson could be described as the survivor of an underprivileged past, a refugee of poverty and violence, a success story stained by tragedy. But there’s much more to him. Johnson’s injury didn’t turn him into an inspiration; it just showed the world the inspirational life he had been living all along.

A dedicated UT alumnus, Johnson has a master’s degree in sports psychology. He travels the world as a speaker, hosts the podcast Serendipity with Inky Johnson, and devotes time to mentoring athletes and underprivileged youth.

Executives, professional athletes, church members, and young people have all benefited from the energy and charisma of Johnson’s speaking. Whether the topic is leadership, teamwork, or perseverance, Johnson brings inspiration and transforms lives. He and his wife, Allison, live in Atlanta with their children, Jada and Inky Jr.

Graduate Hooding

Bikash Bogati, a doctoral candidate, will speak at the graduate hooding on December 9.

Bikash Bogati

Bogati grew up in a bucolic village in Nepal and began his studies in a certificate-level laboratory medicine program that could help him get a job and support his family. During his training and later work as a laboratory technician at Dhulikhel Hospital, he became fascinated by the dynamics of health and diseases.

After seeing people suffer and die from easily preventable and treatable infections, Bogati became interested in decoding the arcane language of microbial pathogens and pursued an undergraduate degree in medical microbiology. He came to UT for his doctoral studies, working with Elizabeth Fozo, associate professor in the Department of Microbiology, to investigate genes that can be targeted to limit the growth of E. coli and prevent associated foodborne outbreaks.

After moving to Knoxville, Bogati began volunteering to transport senior citizens and people with disabilities to medical appointments, religious services, and various errands. He believes that no matter where we are, there are always opportunities to serve the community. The decision to help others enabled Bogati to cope with the challenges of graduate school and gave him a sense of belonging. His reflections on his volunteer work were published in the prestigious journal Science in April 2021.

Bogati will receive his PhD in microbiology and continue fighting infectious disease as a postdoctoral researcher studying antibiotic resistance at Emory University.

Parking and Security Information

Graduates and their guests can park free of charge in university student parking areas throughout campus but should avoid parking in staff parking areas. View the UT Parking and Transit website for details.

Guests can 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 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,