Campus News

'Behind the Blue': Building a Legacy With UK’s Hall of Distinguished Alumni

LEXINGTON, Ky. (Oct. 4, 2021) — Discussed as early as 1957, the Hall of Distinguished Alumni of the University of Kentucky Alumni Association was established along with the construction of the Helen G. King Alumni House in 1963. The hall pays tribute to those UK alumni who have distinguished themselves and their alma mater through their contribution to the welfare of the Commonwealth and nation in arts, sciences, business, industry, engineering, journalism, politics, military science, religion, agriculture, labor or other fields of endeavor.

The original selection of inductees of the Hall of Distinguished Alumni included 85 in 1963. Two years later in 1965, 39 inductees were chosen and the first official recognition ceremony of the members took place that year in conjunction with the university’s centennial anniversary.

On this episode of "Behind the Blue," two individuals with unique connections to the hall talk about its impact on the Commonwealth, the country and the world.

Taunya Phillips is a past president of the UK Alumni Association board of directors. Currently, Phillips is the director of the Office of Technology Commercialization (OTC) at UK where she oversees a team of 14 staff managing the university’s intellectual property, licensing and startup portfolios.

Previously, she was the senior associate director of New Ventures & Alliances, where she was focused on overseeing key alliances for OTC and managing support and services for UK and Lexington entrepreneurs and startups.

She has worked at UK since 1999, where her previous positions have been assistant vice president for commercialization and economic development, chief financial officer for Kentucky Technology Incorporated, College of Engineering lecturer, and Minority Engineering program director. Phillips has a bachelor's degree in chemical engineering and MBA, both from the University of Kentucky.

Charles Wethington Jr. was named to the Hall of Distinguished Alumni on April 21, 1995. Wethington, Ph.D., became the 10th president of the University of Kentucky Sept. 18, 1990, serving in that role until June of 2001.

He began his career in higher education in 1965 as an educational psychology instructor on the Lexington campus of the university and two years later was named chief administrator of Maysville Community College. In 1971, he moved to Lexington as assistant vice president, becoming vice president of the Community College System in 1981.

In the university reorganization of 1982, he was named chancellor of the UK Community College System, one of the three major sectors of UK. In 1987, he was given universitywide responsibilities for public and governmental relations in addition to his community college role, and his title was changed to chancellor for the Community College System and University Relations.

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For questions or comments about this or any other episode of "Behind the Blue," email or tweet your question with #BehindTheBlue. Transcripts for this or other episodes of Behind the Blue can be downloaded from the show’s blog page.

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As the state’s flagship, land-grant institution, the University of Kentucky exists to advance the Commonwealth. We do that by preparing the next generation of leaders — placing students at the heart of everything we do — and transforming the lives of Kentuckians through education, research and creative work, service and health care. We pride ourselves on being a catalyst for breakthroughs and a force for healing, a place where ingenuity unfolds. It's all made possible by our people — visionaries, disruptors and pioneers — who make up 200 academic programs, a $476.5 million research and development enterprise and a world-class medical center, all on one campus.   

In 2022, UK was ranked by Forbes as one of the “Best Employers for New Grads” and named a “Diversity Champion” by INSIGHT into Diversity, a testament to our commitment to advance Kentucky and create a community of belonging for everyone. While our mission looks different in many ways than it did in 1865, the vision of service to our Commonwealth and the world remains the same. We are the University for Kentucky.