Extraordinary Eight Return

Eight outstanding alumni return to campus to fanfare, honors, and celebration

Last September the College of Arts and Sciences had the privilege to celebrate and reconnect with eight extraordinary alumni who have made significant contributions to their careers, communities, and fellow citizens.

Pictured left to right: Jennifer S. Stanley, Margaret Scobey, Nancy-Ann DeParle, John C. Cullum, Jason Houser, Crista Martinez Padua, and Bruce Bursten at the alumni reception on September 10 in McClung Museum.

These alumni represent a variety of disciplinary interests ranging across art, theater, history, psychology, sociology, and political science. Not only are they inspirations to current students, they are also living examples that an arts and sciences degree can equip one to succeed in any endeavor.

The University of Tennessee’s Office of Alumni Affairs joined with the college in honoring these outstanding people with top alumni awards. The Distinguished Alumni Award, the highest honor given to UT alumni, recognizes an alumnus or alumna who has attained extraordinary distinction and success in his or her field. Distinguished Alumni Award recipients have achieved national and international excellence, and their accomplishments have brought credit to the university and benefit to society. Two of the four UTK alumni honored with this year’s Distinguished Alumni Award were graduates of the College of Arts and Sciences.

  • Actor John C. Cullum (B.A. ’53, speech and theater) is currently starring in the world première of The Scottsboro Boys at the Vineyard Theatre in New York City, a show that is now moving to Broadway. He was inducted into both the East Tennessee Hall of Fame for the Performing Arts and the American Theatre Hall of Fame, and he won Tony awards in 1975 and 1978. While visiting UT for the weekend, Cullum attended Amadeus at Clarence Brown Theatre and spent some time with members of the Department of Theatre faculty.
  • Nancy-Ann DeParle (B.A. ’78, College Scholars—history), director of the White House Office of Health Reform, was the first female president of the student body at UT Knoxville. She studied at Oxford as a Rhodes Scholar and holds a J.D. from Harvard Law School. She has served as a senior investment advisor to J.P. Morgan Partners and as an adjunct professor at the Wharton School of Business of the University of Pennsylvania. During her visit to her alma mater, she spent the afternoon with College Scholars and Honors students.

Another honor given to UT alumni is the Accomplished Alumni Award, which invites noteworthy alumni back to their alma mater to share their individual paths to success. Alumni honored with this award spend time on campus teaching students, conferring with the faculty, and engaging with other alumni and friends of the university. The following three people were honored with the Accomplished Alumni Award:

  • The Honorable Margaret Scobey (B.A. ’71 and M.A. ’73, history), the current U.S. Ambassador to Egypt, has served as U.S. Ambassador to Syria, political counselor in Baghdad, deputy chief of mission at the U.S. Embassy in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, and director of Arabian Peninsula affairs in the Department of State, as well as in many other key positions throughout her career. On September 10, Ambassador Scobey presented a highly informative lecture on Middle Eastern politics at the Howard Baker Center Ambassadorial Lecture Series and spent much of her day with students and faculty members of the college.
  • Two graduates of the School of Art—Bill FitzGibbons (BFA ’72, sculpture and art history) and Creighton Michael (BFA ’71, studio art)—were honored on September 16 at the lecture and opening reception of their joint exhibition “Filament,” which showed in the Ewing Gallery of the Art and Architecture Building during October. FitzGibbons has received more than 30 public art commissions in five countries as a sculptor and public artist. His work has appeared in venues such as the Lab Gallery in New York City and the San Antonio Museum of Art. He is currently the executive director of Blue Star Contemporary Art Center in San Antonio, Texas, and a member of the board of the International Sculpture Center.Michael has been honored with a variety of awards, including a Pollack-Krasner Foundation grant and a New York Foundation for the Arts fellowship in sculpture. Michael’s work is held in a number of private and public collections including the National Gallery of Art, the Brooklyn Museum, the High Museum, and the Denver Art Museum. He is currently a faculty member in painting at Hunter College in New York City.

Pictured left to right: Bruce Bursten, Bill FitzGibbons, and Creighton Michael at the opening reception of their joint exhibition, “Filament,” on September 16 at the Ewing Gallery in the Art and Architecture Building.

A new award, the Alumni Promise Award, recognizes UT alumni no older than 40 who have demonstrated distinctive achievement in a career, civic involvement, or both. This award celebrates alumni who are making an impact early in their careers. Three alumni from the College of Arts and Sciences received this year’s Alumni Promise Award.

  • Jason Houser (B.A. ’02, sociology) is the assistant director of legislative affairs for the Department of Homeland Security. Houser has an extensive background in Democratic Party campaigns and politics, having worked for a variety of candidates and issue groups around the country. During his academic career, Houser was a research assistant at the United States Institute for Peace, where he co-wrote a white paper, “The Aftermath of War,” with USIP fellow Col. Roger Cloutier.
  • Crista Martinez Padua (B.A. ’92, psychology, and M.S. ’96, social work) has advanced her education and career, providing leadership, strength, and growth for the social service agencies in which she has worked. She is the CEO of Families First Parenting Programs, a Boston-area nonprofit that provides evaluation and support to disenfranchised families struggling to improve their lives. She also serves as an adjunct professor at the Boston College Graduate School of Social Work.
  • Jennifer S. Stanley (B.A. ’95, political science) was a member of the first class of Whittle Scholars at UT Knoxville and a recipient of the Rhodes scholarship. To date, Stanley remains the most recent Rhodes Scholar from UT Knoxville. She is president of OX1 Consulting and serves as an adjunct faculty member in the Department of Marketing and Entrepreneurship at UT Chattanooga. She also serves as chair of the College of Arts and Sciences’ Dean’s Advisory Board.

The diverse careers of these alumni and their individual paths to success reflect these graduates’ commitment to lifelong learning and their ability to adapt effectively to rapid change in their professional environments, qualities cultivated by a liberal arts education. The College of Arts and Sciences is unique in that it offers its students a chance to become broadly educated critical thinkers with a set of intellectual skills that can be readily applied in wide variety of fields, preparing them for a lifetime of productive work and service to society.

“We couldn’t be more proud and honored to have these eight remarkable alumni, along with the many others achieving excellence in their careers, representing our college around the world,” said Bruce Bursten, dean of the College of Arts and Sciences. “They are the vanguard of our college’s academic success, and their extraordinary accomplishments remind us of the privilege we have in spending our time educating and mentoring the next generations of leaders and scholars.“

—Sara Collins Haywood