Sarah Geegan

UK Celebrates December Class of 2012

Published: Dec 14, 2012

LEXINGTON, Ky. (Dec. 14, 2012) — While Memorial Coliseum is usually a place reserved for UK athletes, today students will celebrate a victory of another kind, officially becoming University of Kentucky alumni. UK's third December Commencement ceremonies, taking place in Memorial Coliseum, will honor students who earned their degrees in August or December. Graduate and professional degrees will be conferred at 1:30 p.m. Undergraduate degrees will be conferred at 6 p.m.


Nearly 750 undergraduates and 170 graduate and professional students are expected to participate in Friday's exercises.


UK President Eli Capilouto will deliver remarks at both ceremonies. In addition and keeping with university tradition, a student will also address the crowd at the undergraduate ceremony.


Luis Orta, a graduating senior and student athlete from Caracas, Venezuela will deliver the commencement address. Graduating with a dual degree in international studies and Hispanic studies, Orta came to the University of Kentucky in 2008, without a full scholarship but determined to earn one through his athletic performance. After selling his truck to purchase his plane ticket to America, Orta ran his way through the record books, breaking UK freshman records in three different events: the 3,000-meter steeplechase, the indoor 5,000-meter run and the indoor 3,000-meter run.  


His path to the record books was not always triumphant, however; Orta finished dead-last in his first SEC competition. After lots of hard work and perseverance, in 2012 Orta secured SEC championships in both the 3K and 5K races, all while maintaining a high GPA despite not being fluent in English when he arrived at UK. He was also named Southeastern Conference Indoor Track Athlete of the Year in 2012 and holds the Venezuelan national record for the mile.


"It was a lot of hard work, because running track and going to school is not easy," Orta said. "From the time I wake up to the time I go to bed, I'm going to class and then to practice, then to class again and to practice again, so it's pretty hard. But I love what I do, and I feel like if you love what you do, then it becomes easy. It's not work for me, it's my passion, and it's what I do every day."  


See video


Orta will deliver the student commencement speech to an audience that will include his parents; this will be their first time visiting him in America.


The University of Kentucky will celebrate many graduates who have overcome tough obstacles on their paths to the stage today. Among them is Lisa Rudzinski. Despite a nearly 20-year distinguished career with the Kentucky State Police where she has achieved the rank of captain and now serves as commander of KSP's Post 7 in Richmond, Rudzinski wanted to complete the higher education journey she had begun in 1986.  The Bowling Green, Ky., native said there were many starts and stops along the way, but she never lost sight of her goal, and she wants to set an example for others.


After having attended UK in 2007-2008, Rudzinski re-enrolled in January 2012, taking 18 hours in the spring semester and six hours over the summer in order to graduate in August.  As a proud member of UK's Class of 2012, she said it is important for her to walk in the ceremony.


"First and foremost, I walk for my parents.  They never pressured me to finish this degree, but I know they are very proud of me for doing so," Rudzinski said.  "I also chose to share the experience with my fellow classmates.  We come from different backgrounds, but shared a common goal.  I am honored to celebrate this day with each of them.  Lastly, I am going to walk across that stage for me.  It is the physical act of finishing my journey that began many years ago." 


Rudzinski earned a Bachelor of Science degree in community communications and leadership development from the UK College of Agriculture.


In addition to these students, the university will award honorary doctorates to three individuals.


James Dee ("J.D.") Crowe, a native of Lexington and resident of Nicholasville, Kentucky began playing the banjo when he was 12 years old and was informally apprenticed to the late bluegrass music great, Earl Scruggs. Crowe is universally recognized as a great ambassador for Kentucky, and for bluegrass music.


David L. Lollis is the past president of Appalbanc an award- winning Community Development Financial Institution and is the past president of the Federation of Appalachian Housing Enterprises (FAHE). Lollis has worked for over 40 years in both the public and private sectors.


Charles L. Shearer, a native of Louisville, earned a bachelor of science degree in accounting, followed by a master's in diplomacy and international commerce, both from the University of Kentucky. He was selected as president of Transylvania in 1983, beginning what would become a long and distinguished tenure at the helm of the 16th oldest college in the United States.




The UK Graduate School will hold a reception to honor its graduates following the 1:30 p.m. graduate and professional ceremony. The graduates will recess to the Singletary Center for the Arts where the reception will be held. Parents and guests should make arrangements to meet their graduate at the reception.


The UK Alumni Association will host a Commencement Open House at the King Alumni House both before and after the Commencement activities. The association will provide: free refreshments, a free gift for graduates and individuals who join the association, access to any supplies students may need for the ceremony, such as bobby pins, safety pins, etc., the opportunity to update contact information, and a display of the UK Class Ring Collection. For more information, click here.


Other receptions include:


College of Design: Friday, December, 14, 3:30-5 p.m.: Pence Hall, Room 207.


College of Engineering: Friday, December 14, 3-5 p.m.: Marksbury Building Lobby and Auditorium.


College of Nursing pinning ceremony: December 14, 11 a.m.:Singletary Center, reception afterward.


Watch the live stream


Friends and family of graduates who cannot make it to Lexington do not have to miss out on this special event. UK is utilizing social media and other technology to bring Commencement directly to one’s computer or mobile device.


Both the graduate and professional students and undergraduate Commencement ceremonies will be live-streamed online at, the university’s daily news website. Fifteen minutes prior to each ceremony's beginning, “Live from the Blue Carpet” will air and feature students, faculty and special guests as they prepare for Commencement and will be hosted by UK students.


The graduate and professional student ceremony begins at 1:30 p.m., with the preshow starting at 1:15 p.m. The undergraduate ceremony begins at 6 p.m., with the preshow beginning at 5:45 p.m. Both ceremonies will be carried live on UK's Insight Cable channel 16.


Followers of UK’s Twitter account ( can follow along with the Commencement activities via live tweets prior to and during the event. Twitter users are also encouraged to use the hashtag #ukgrad to honor all our graduates.


Graduates can view the ceremonies the week after Commencement, on the university’s YouTube site at


To view videos of more of UK's December Class of 2012 graduates, click on the playlist below:






Parking will be available in university parking lots in the vicinity of Memorial Coliseum. 


The following lots are off patrol for the duration of the day, December 14: E, R, K and C. PS5 opens at noon. Commencement attendees should take extra notice that R6/Wildcat Coal Lodge parking lot WILL be on control, and will only be open to those with regular parking permits for that lot. 


Guests must still pay to park at meters, or display a pass for disabled parking.  Individuals may not park anywhere other than between solid white lines (i.e. no red, yellow, green, blue, etc.), and still must observe specially marked spaces.




MEDIA CONTACT: Sarah Geegan, (859) 257-5365;

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