LEXINGTON, Ky. (April 1, 2014) ― The University of Kentucky will present honorary Doctor of Humanities degrees at its 147th Commencement to an alumnus and benefactor, along with a former college president who had once dreamed of attending UK but was denied the opportunity.
Harrison B. Wilson Jr., who led Norfolk State University with distinction for 22 years, and UK alumnus, corporate leader and philanthropist Paul W. Chellgren, will receive honorary degrees at the 9 a.m. Graduate and Professional Commencement Ceremony.
Nearly 70 years ago, Wilson, a Pendleton County native, returned from serving in the U.S. Navy in World War II, only to be denied admission to UK because of the color of his skin.
He instead enrolled at Kentucky State University, a historically black college and at that time one of few higher education options available to African-American students. Two years later, the University of Kentucky would finally admit Lyman T. Johnson as the first African American to attend the UK graduate school.
Wilson became an honors graduate of Kentucky State University. He earned a Master of Science and doctoral degrees, both with distinction, from Indiana University in Bloomington, and performed postdoctoral work at the University of Michigan at Ann Arbor.
Following service as a faculty member and very successful tenure as men's basketball coach at Jackson State University in Mississippi for 16 years, Wilson went on to higher eduation appointments at Tennessee State University, then Fisk University in Nashville, before being selected as president of Norfolk State University in 1975. Under his outstanding leadership, the university experienced transformative growth in all areas: student enrollment, budget, curriculum, campus size, physical facilities and status as a doctoral-granting university. He retired from Norfolk State in 1997.
His grandson, Brandon R. Wilson, is scheduled to receive his master's degree in history from UK during the same ceremony May 10.
Chellgren, a 1964 graduate of UK, also earned advanced degrees from Harvard University and Oxford University. From 1968-70, Chellgren served his country as a First Lieutenant in the U.S. Army.
His business career accomplishments include serving as chairman and CEO of Ashland Inc., a global diversified energy and chemical company; operating partner in a leading venture capital firm, Snow Phipps; and co-owner of several businesses ranging from a horse farm, to restaurants, and an art dealership.
In addition to being a major supporter of the arts throughout the Kentucky region, Chellgren has given considerably of his time, talent and resources in support of higher education. He serves on the Board of Trustees at Centre College and served multiple terms on UK's Board of Trustees. His educational service extends to his adjunct teaching at Northern Kentucky University.
Chellgren's educational philanthropy includes considerable funding in support of student scholarships and other initiatives at colleges and universities across Kentucky. At UK, evidence of his generosity can be found in buildings, such as the William T. Young Library, the renovated Main Building, and the current renovation and expansion of the Gatton College of Business and Economics; support of educational programs that benefit faculty and students, including the Chellgren Center for Undergraduate Excellence; and direct financial assistance to students.
UK's May 10 Commencement includes a 9 a.m. ceremony for graduates receiving master's and doctoral degrees and 1 p.m. and 6 p.m. ceremonies for graduates receiving bachelor's degrees. For more information, go to www.uky.edu/Commencement.
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