Alumni Honored at Annual College Awards Ceremony

Alumni Awards Group Shot

Members of the University of Tennessee, Knoxville, College of Arts and Sciences celebrated alumni achievements and philanthropy during the Eighth Annual College of Arts and Sciences Alumni and Philanthropy Awards Celebration Friday, September 29, 2023, in the UT Conference Center. Interim Executive Dean Robert Hinde served as emcee for the event and Katie Cole, chair of the Dean’s Advisory Board, presented awards to each honoree.

The first award presented was the Promise Award, which recognizes alumni who have achieved significant levels of accomplishment in the early to middle stages of their careers. This year, the college recognized two alumni who are “rising stars”: Jordan T. Roach and Ericka Walker. 

Jordan Roach (‘16) graduated summa cum laude from the College of Arts and Sciences with an undergraduate honors degree in biochemistry and cellular and molecular biology. Roach is a physician-scientist trainee in the Division of Brain Tumor Research at St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital. As an aspiring pediatric neurosurgeon-scientist, he has a keen interest in pediatric neurosurgical oncology and the cellular and molecular features associated with some of the most aggressive forms of childhood brain cancer. 

jordan roach

Roach works to identify novel therapeutic vulnerabilities in patient-derived tumor models of pediatric high-grade glioma. These efforts are part of a broader collaborative initiative that Roach participates in with the Broad Institute of MIT and Harvard and the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute aimed at bringing together world-class expertise to accelerate discoveries for childhood brain tumors and other malignancies. 

Apart from his laboratory-based research, he is committed to capacity building efforts that enhance access to neurosurgical care for children with central nervous system tumors in low- and middle-income countries. He currently works with members of the Department of Global Pediatric Medicine on projects pertaining to the World Health Organization’s Global Initiative for Childhood Cancer. 

“My years as an undergraduate student at UT were, without question, some of the most enriching and memorable years of my early professional development,” Roach said. “The dual experiences of being exposed to basic science in faculty labs and spending a lot of time volunteering at East Tennessee Children’s Hospital helped me evolve my interests, but also pursue a career path where I could incorporate science to identify cures for some of the most devastating forms of pediatric brain cancer. It’s really a privilege and I am thrilled to be presented with this alumni promise award tonight in the natural sciences.”

Ericka Walker (’10) graduated from the College of Arts and Sciences with a Master of Fine Arts (MFA) from the School of Art. She lives in Nova Scotia, Canada, where she is an associate professor at the Nova Scotia College of Art and Design – NSCAD University. Her work was included in the recent Knoxville Museum of Art exhibition Landfall Press: Five Decades of Printmaking.

ericka walker

In addition to her work as a printmaker, Walker extends her commitment to a publicly engaged practice through the painting of large-scale murals, a natural extension of her work as a printmaker. Her work on murals includes a recent project in Milwaukee commissioned by the Milwaukee Art Museum. Working with Curator of Prints and Drawings Nicki Otten, Walker created a limited edition print in conjunction with “Always New: The Posters of Jules Chéret,” a major exhibition of Chéret’s posters held last summer. Walker was one of 25 artists in Canada selected for the 2019 long-list for the Sobey Art Award, which is the pre-eminent annual prize for contemporary Canadian art. 

Walker has exhibited her prints widely throughout North America and other continents, and her work has found homes in multiple public collections. Her work appeared recently in exhibitions at the Huron Arts Gallery in San Francisco; the Civic and Cultural Center Numancia in Santander, Spain; the Novosibirsk Graphic Arts Triennial at the Novosibirsk State Art Museum in Russia; and the International Print Center in New York City. Walker won the Grand Prize at the 2018 Okanagen Print Triennial in Kelowna, British Columbia. 

“I am in the middle of my career and thinking more and more every day about how I can shape my field and my discipline to make it something sustainable for the people coming after me so they can continue to do the work that all of you are doing and the careers you have shaped, like mine and Jordan’s,” Walker said. “What a wonderful night. I am honored to receive this award from the college.”

Next, Dean Hinde presented the Professional Achievement Award, which recognizes alumni who have achieved a high degree of success in their chosen field, a record of notable accomplishments, and a history of outstanding contributions to their discipline and/or creative pursuits. This year, the college honored Stephanie McCarter and Dele Ogunseitan. 

Stephanie McCarter (’00) graduated summa cum laude with undergraduate degrees in classics and English before going on to earn her PhD in classics from the University of Virginia in 2007. She was a first-generation college student and member of Phi Beta Kappa. She started a successful career at the University of the South (Sewanee), where she was promoted to associate professor in 2014 and professor in 2021. 

stephanie mccarter

McCarter’s greatest professional achievement is as a masterful translator of Latin poetry, for which she has gained world renown. She has produced two hefty volumes of translations, with introductions and notes, of Horace’s Epodes, Odes, and Carmen Saeculare (published by the U. of Oklahoma Press in 2020) and of Ovid’s epic poem the Metamorphoses (published by Penguin Classics in 2022). Another book titled Women in Power: Classical Myths and Stories from the Amazons to Cleopatra is in press, and McCarter is now preparing a translation of the poems of Catullus. 

McCarter is the first female classicist to have translated all of Horace’s poems and the first woman in 60 years to have translated Ovid’s Metamorphoses. Importantly, McCarter is sensitive to the female perspective in Horace’s love poems and Ovid’s stories of divine rapes of female characters. Whereas previous male translators often “romanticized” sexual assault or made light of it, even suggesting female consent, McCarter’s choice of words makes the violence explicit and invites discussion of power and gender relations in Roman times as well as in the present. Her unflinching translations demonstrate the continuing relevance of the classics to today’s world.

McCarter’s work has received rave reviews in international journals such as Cambridge’s Classical Review, Spain’s Exemplaria Classica, and Bryn Mawr Classical Reviews.  Her translation of Ovid’s Metamorphoses, one of The New Yorker’s best books of 2022, this year received the Harold Morton Landon Translation Award from the Academy of American Poets. In one glowing review of that work, Richard Tarrant, Pope Professor of Latin at Harvard, notes that “As a vehicle for serious engagement with Ovid’s poem in English, McCarter has no rival.”

Her works have also received major media coverage and she has presented invited seminars around the world. It is no exaggeration to state that Stephanie McCarter has become one of the world’s leading translators of Latin poetry.

“Classics professors nurtured my intellectual development, while also helping build my confidence in ways both big and small,” McCarter said. “My classics professors continue to be a guiding beacon as demonstrated by my presence here tonight made possible because they thought me deserving of this award. I am deeply touched once again by their kindness and readily give them every bit of the credit. I really do owe them and this university everything I have achieved in my career.”

Dele Ogunseitan (’88) received his PhD in microbiology working with Gary Sayler and is described by his nominators as “a visionary, international leader who has successfully designed and implemented policies and strategies for planetary stewardship to benefit human health.” 

dele ogunseitan

He went on to receive his Master of Public Health degree from the University of California, Berkeley, and was then a global environmental assessment faculty fellow with the Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs at the Kennedy School of Government, Harvard University. He is board certified in both environmental science and public health. 

Ogunseitan, who was an active member of the UT Department of Microbiology Board of Visitors, also helped establish and lead the fields of one health and global health, so this award is quite timely given the establishment at UT of the One Health Initiative and the college’s new undergraduate biological sciences concentration in Global Health. Ogunseitan is a leading co-author on a 2023 One Health Workforce-Next Generation Consortium publication describing the needs and perspectives on One Health Training and Empowerment. 

A professor of public health and social ecology and founding chair of the Department of Population Health & Disease Prevention at the University of California, Irvine, Ogunseitan has dedicated his career to conducting and applying research at the complex intersections of microbiology, industrial development, environmental quality, environmental justice and sustainability, human health, and international public policy. 

He serves on the board of directors of both the University of California Global Health Institute and the Association of Schools and Programs in Public Health. In 2016, he was named a Jefferson Science Fellow of the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. His extensive accomplishments are not limited to the scientific and policy realms; he also has been an influential mentor and instructor. 

“We are celebrating community tonight,” he said. “When I flew in from California, my first thought was fighting jet lag so I could go up to the Hill and reconnect with the places and people in my memories from UT. This is my academic homecoming. The award is the best thing I could ever hope for, and I will continue being a good ambassador to the University of Tennessee.”

The College Philanthropist Award is the epitome of the extraordinary impact that volunteer service and philanthropic giving can have on our college. 

Julie Paque (’79) received her bachelor’s of science degree in geology. She was accepted into the doctoral program at the California Institute of Technology and worked as a research scientist at Caltech studying trace elements in meteorites. Her scientific career directly utilized her degree and brings honor to the College of Arts and Sciences. She even gave her name to a newly described mineral, a calcium-titanium-aluminum silicate called paqueite. 

julie paque

While working as a research scientist, Paque supported her alma mater faithfully for 31 years, primarily giving to the Department of Earth and Planetary Sciences, and recently, honoring her long time mentor by establishing the Dr. Hap McSween Fellowship in Earth and Planetary Sciences.

“Residing far away in California, it would have been easy for Julie to forget her undergraduate roots at the University of Tennessee; but through the decades she has donated consistently to the Department of Earth and Planetary Sciences,” wrote McSween in his letter supporting her nomination. “Julie has discouraged personal recognition for her philanthropy, and perhaps even for her scientific achievements. She is a remarkable scientist, just now past the apex of her career, and her life’s work reflects positively on her undergraduate education at UT. When Julie was a student here, science as a profession was not as supportive of women as it is now, and there were not many women geology majors – a situation which has now improved considerably. Our institution should also appreciate her as an early role model for women in science.”

The impact of her philanthropy is significant to the department and the university’s quest to retain and support its best faculty. Chris Fedo, the current Hap McSween Fellow, has been able to use endowment funds to further his research program involving both master’s and doctoral students engaged in understanding depositional environments on Mars, specifically related to aspects of the Mars Science Lab mission.

“Dr. Fedo has also used the funds to conduct studies of weathering processes on rocks in analogous environments on Earth, such as lake and delta systems in the southern California and Nevada region,” said Alycia Stigall, head of the Department of Earth and Planetary Sciences. “The availability of these funds has greatly enhanced the training and scientific achievements of students within Dr. Fedo’s research group.”

In her acceptance speech, Paque shared how a girl from Wisconsin ended up in Tennessee in 1976. During the 1960s, her mom taught at the Aramark School of Arts and Crafts almost every summer, which meant her family vacations were in Gatlinburg. 

“In 1969, we were here for a special week – the week that man landed on the moon. We were allowed to stay up late and watch it and it was wonderful!” Paque said. “That really made a difference in my life in terms of my interest in planetary science. Also, I started swimming competitively, so when I was looking for college, I wanted a geology department and a swim team and decided Tennessee was one of my choices.”

When Paque sold her house in California, she decided to give back to UT because of everything the university, faculty in the department, and specifically, Professor Hap McSween, did for her. 

“Philanthropic investments such as these so often make a critical difference in our ability to attract and retain talented faculty,” Hinde said. “We are humbled by Julie’s generosity and honored to recognize her this evening.”

The final award of the night was the Dean’s Distinguished Alumnus Award, which acknowledges alumni successes that brings honor to the college and promotes the value of a liberal arts education.

John Hubbard (’83) earned his PhD in psychology and is a recognized leader in research and development for life sciences, with more than 35 years of experience in the biopharmaceutical and pharma-tech services industries and clinical research organizations. 

Hubbard served as president and chief executive officer of Bioclinica, a leading provider of medical imaging, clinical technology, and development services, until it was sold in 2016. Under his leadership, Bioclinica doubled in size, completed several acquisitions, and significantly expanded its customer base.

Before his work at Bioclinica, Hubbard was senior vice president and worldwide head of development operations at Pfizer, where he directed and led global clinical operations and oversaw the initiation of more than 450 clinical studies per year. At Pfizer, he also served as a member of the Portfolio Strategy and Investment committee, chair of the Enterprise Precision Medicine Steering Committee, and member of the Worldwide Research and Development Executive Leadership Team. Earlier, he was Group President of the Global Clinical Research Services Division of ICON PLC.

Hubbard and his wife, Jeanne, were unable to attend the awards ceremony and sent their regrets. “My wife Jeanne and I love Knoxville, but we’ve had this trip planned for some time. One of our goals following my partial retirement was more travel. Then COVID-19 hit and that delayed our trips by two years, so we have a large amount of travel for this year to make up for lost time.” Patrick Grzanka, divisional dean for social sciences, accepted the award on Hubbard’s behalf.