Campus News

27 to be Inducted Into UK Hall of Distinguished Alumni

photo of UK Hall of Distinguished Alumni plaque
This Friday, the University of Kentucky Alumni Association will honor 27 former students for their meaningful contributions to the Commonwealth, nation and the world. The Hall of Distinguished Alumni induction ceremony is held every five years.

LEXINGTON, Ky. (Sept. 28, 2021) — This Friday, the University of Kentucky will induct 27 former students into the 2020 Hall of Distinguished Alumni. The alumni will be honored for their meaningful contributions to the Commonwealth, nation and the world. 

The prestigious event, held every five years, was postponed last year due to pandemic restrictions. 

“This is a great group that we’re putting forward,” said Taunya Phillips, 2019-20 UK Alumni Association national president who served on the selection committee for the 2020 inductees. “The university has a wealth of people we could nominate for this honor, and some of the people who are going to be recognized this year I think really stand out. They have done great things in the world of arts, acting, education, engineering and all sorts of different areas. UK produces great people, and (the Hall of Distinguished Alumni) allows us to recruit students, faculty and staff from everywhere — they want to come here and be a part of the University of Kentucky. It also encourages our current students and others to look at these people and aspire to their achievements.”

The 2020 inductees include:

Henry B. “Bub” Asman Jr. B.A. ’71 — Telecommunications, College of Communication and Information

Henry B. “Bub” Asman Jr. of Union, Kentucky, is a two-time Academy Award-winning sound editor. He spent 38 years editing the sound for more than 30 films for filmmaker Clint Eastwood and about 40 more films for various other directors in Hollywood. He and his co-editor Alan Murray received six Academy Award nominations for sound editing, winning Oscars in the category of Best Achievement in Sound Editing for the films “Letters from Iwo Jima” and “American Sniper,” both directed by Eastwood. The other nominations were for “Eraser,” “Space Cowboys,” “Flags of our Fathers” and “Sully.”

Steven L. Beshear B.A. ’66 — History, College of Arts and SciencesJ.D. ’68 — Law, J. David Rosenberg College of Law

Steven L. Beshear of Lexington, Kentucky, served as the 61st governor of Kentucky from 2007 to 2015. He also served as attorney general from 1979 to 1983, lieutenant governor from 1983 to 1987 and was a member of the Kentucky House of Representatives from 1974 to 1979. While at UK, he was the student body president, a member of Phi Beta Kappa and served as an editor for the Kentucky Law Journal. Additionally, he served as a visiting scholar at the University of Kentucky College of Public Health in 2018.

Dana R. Canedy B.A. ’88 — Journalism, College of Communication and Information

Dana R. Canedy of New York City is a Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist and the senior vice president and publisher of Simon & Schuster. She previously ran the Pulitzer Prizes, serving as a board member, selecting prize jurors, and announcing the winners. She was recently named one of Fortune Magazine’s Most Powerful Women. Canedy was a lead writer and editor on The New York Times series, “How Race is Lived in America,” which won the 2001 Pulitzer Prize for national reporting. She is the author of “A Journal for Jordan” which has been made into a movie to be released by Sony in theaters this Christmas, directed by Denzel Washington and starring Michael B. Jordan. The book tells the story of her fiance, 1st Sgt. Charles Monroe King, and the 200-page journal he left for their son, Jordan, written before being killed in Iraq.

Jon C. Carloftis B.A.’86 — Communication, College of Communication and Information

Jon C. Carloftis of Lexington, Kentucky, is an award-winning rooftop gardener and garden designer. After moving to New York City in 1988, he became one of America’s pioneers in rooftop/small space gardening as he designed and installed rooftop gardens all over Manhattan for such celebrities as Julianne Moore, Edward Norton and Mike Myers.

Carloftis was a contributing editor of Garden Design magazine and his gardens have been featured in more than 250 national magazines. He restored the Kentucky Governor’s Mansion Formal Gardens and the historic garden at the president’s home at the University of the Cumberlands. He is the author of “Beautiful Gardens of Kentucky in 2010” and has been named the Salonniere Top 100 Best Party Hosts in America for three years in a row.

Joe Cross Creason* B.A. ’40 — Journalism, College of Arts and Sciences

Joe Cross Creason of Louisville, Kentucky, was a journalist for The Courier-Journal. During his time at UK, Creason served as sports editor for both the Kentucky Kernel and The Kentuckian and was president of his fraternity, Alpha Tau Omega. After graduation, the Benton, Kentucky, native worked at several newspapers in Western Kentucky before accepting a writing position at The Courier-Journal in 1941. Except for a two-year period from 1944-1946 when he served as an officer in the U.S. Navy in the Pacific theater, he would work at The Courier-Journal for the next 34 years developing relationships with citizens from across the Commonwealth of Kentucky. In 1975, the University of Kentucky and the Bingham Enterprises Foundation created the annual Joe Creason Lecture Series bringing prominent journalists to Lexington to speak and meet with students and the public. Creason passed away in 1974 at the age of 56.

James C. Duff B.A. ’75 — Philosophy, Political Science, History, College of Arts and Sciences

James C. Duff of Bethesda, Maryland, is executive director of the Supreme Court Historical Society. He was director of the Administrative Office of the U.S. Courts from 2006 to 2011 and again from 2015 to 2021 where he also served as secretary of the Judicial Conference of the United States. From 1996 to 2000, Duff served as counselor to Chief Justice William H. Rehnquist and was his liaison with Congress, the executive branch, and various state and federal organizations involved in the administration of justice. Duff is a member of Phi Beta Kappa, a graduate of the UK Honors Program, and was a walk-on on the UK basketball team in 1971-1972.

O. Gene Gabbard B.S. ’61 — Electrical Engineering, College of Engineering

O. Gene Gabbard of Cary, North Carolina, and Naples, Florida, has worked as a private investor and entrepreneur since 1993. He’s worked on more than 25 startups, invested in more than 40 start-up companies on a personal basis and served on more than 20 boards. He is a venture partner in Ballast Point Ventures, venture capital funds, based in Tampa, Florida. During his career, he served as executive vice president and chief financial officer (1990-1993) of MCI Communications Corp. (now Verizon Business); was on the board of directors (2005-2014) of COLT Telecom Group SA, Luxembourg, a provider of telecommunications and data center services to businesses throughout Europe; and became a member of the board (2010) of NetCracker Technology Corp., Waltham, Massachusetts, a leading provider of management and support systems and services to telecommunication carriers throughout the world.

F. Joseph Halcomb III B.S. ’74 — Mechanical Engineering, College of EngineeringM.D. ’78 — Medicine, College of Medicine

F. Joseph Halcomb III of Camarillo, California, is a physician, engineer and private equity investor with a distinguished career as an executive in the medical device and biotechnology industries. He is founder and CEO of Phoenix Initiãre and a partner at Telegraph Hill Partners. Both firms are dedicated to helping life science, medical device and health care companies achieve their growth objectives. In 2010, Halcomb established the Halcomb Endowed Fellowship in Medicine and Engineering at UK. After a larger commitment to the endowment in 2016, the Department of Biomedical Engineering became the first named department at the university. He also holds a M.S. degree in engineering from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. He received the degree of Honorary Doctor of Engineering from UK in May 2021.

John G. Heyburn II* J.D. ’76 — Law, J. David Rosenberg College of Law

John G. Heyburn II was nominated to the United States District Court as a United States District Judge for the Western District of Kentucky by President George H. W. Bush in 1992. His opinions were known for his indefatigable sense of fairness, respect for litigants and commitment to clear, logical and thoughtful rulings. His passions for the rule of law fueled his rise to leadership in the Federal Judiciary. He sought “to ever improve the legal system considered the envy of the world.” Heyburn presided over 7,645 cases in his 23 years on the bench. He served as the Chief Judge of the Court between 2001 and 2008. He passed away in 2015 at the age of 66.

Ashley T. Judd B.A. ’07 — French, College of Arts and Sciences

Ashley T. Judd of Franklin, Tennessee, and Cambridge, Massachusetts, is an award-winning actor, writer, humanitarian and activist. Her work as both an artist and advocate began right here on the UK campus. Her film and stage career has spanned 30 years and includes indie gems like “Ruby in Paradise” which won the Sundance Film Festival, and box office smashes such as “Double Jeopardy.” Since 2004, Judd has traveled to 22 countries in her capacity as a global ambassador for nongovernmental organizations such as Population Services International and UNFPA, the United Nations Population Fund. In 2020, Judd was recognized by the United Nations as Global Advocate of the Year. She was the first actor to go on the record about Harvey Weinstein`s serial predation and is a leader of the #MeToo movement and co-founder of Time's Up. Her book “All That Is Bitter & Sweet” was a New York Times best seller and in 2010, Judd earned an M.P.A. from the Harvard Kennedy School of Government.

Elmer T. Lee* B.S. ’49 — Electrical Engineering, College of Engineering

Elmer T. Lee of Frankfort, Kentucky, joined the Air Force in 1942 where he flew on missions as a radar bombardier on a B-29 Superfortress. In 1946, he was honorably discharged and returned home to study electrical engineering at UK. He graduated with honors in 1949 and proceeded to take a position with George T. Stagg Distillery in Frankfort (renamed Buffalo Trace in 1999). Initially a maintenance engineer, Lee was promoted to plant superintendent in 1966. In 1969, he held the dual titles of plant manager and master distiller, becoming the distillery’s first master distiller. He would continue to hold both titles until his retirement in 1985. In 1984, Lee created Blanton’s Single-Barrel Bourbon which became the first single-barrel bourbon to be sold commercially. Lee passed away in 2013 at the age of 93.

Alan C. Lowe B.A. ’86 — History, College of Arts and Sciences; M.A. ’89 — History, College of Arts and Sciences

Alan C. Lowe of Knoxville, Tennessee, is director of the American Museum of Science and Energy and the K-25 History Center, both located in Oak Ridge, Tennessee. Previously, he held positions at the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library in California and the Office of Presidential Libraries at the National Archives in Washington. He served as director of the Franklin D. Roosevelt Presidential Library in New York and the Howard H. Baker, Jr. Center at the University of Tennessee. From 2009 to 2016, Lowe was the founding director of the George W. Bush Presidential Library in Dallas, Texas, and from 2016 to 2019 was executive director of the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library in Springfield, Illinois. Currently Lowe serves on the board of Childhelp Tennessee and on the advisory board for the UK Department of History. He co-hosts "American POTUS," a popular podcast about the presidency, and hosts "AMSEcast," a podcast dedicated to science, engineering, and technology.

Davis Marksbury B.S. ’80 — Civil Engineering, College of Engineering

Davis Marksbury of Lexington, Kentucky, co-founded Exstream Software in 1998 providing customer relationship document software solutions to enterprises around the world. Marksbury served as CEO of Exstream until it was acquired by Hewlett Packard in 2008. Marksbury is a pioneer in the document software industry, with Exstream being the third company he successfully launched to address complex technology challenges in the industry. He currently serves as chairman of the Marksbury Family Office and Family Foundation. Generosity from his family foundation to the UK College of Engineering helped construct the Davis Marksbury Building and donations to UK Athletics has provided funding for facilities.

Sally K. Mason B.A. ’72 — Zoology, College of Arts and Sciences

Sally K. Mason of Hilton Head, South Carolina, is senior fellow and executive search consultant for the Association of Governing Boards. She is president emerita at the University of Iowa, having served as the 20th university president (2007-2015). Trained as a cell/developmental biologist, she also retired as professor emerita from the UI Department of Biology. Mason served two consecutive terms as a presidential appointee to the National Medal of Science Committee, including a term as chair. Initially appointed to this committee in 2006 by President George W. Bush, she was reappointed by President Barack Obama in 2008. Mason is currently a trustee for two private universities, Des Moines University and Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University. She received an honorary degree from UK in 2012.

Martha M. McCarthy B.A. ‘66 — Elementary Education, College of Education; M.A. ‘69 — Elementary Education, College of Education

Martha M. McCarthy of Marina Del Rey, California, is a presidential professor in the School of Education at Loyola Marymount University in Los Angeles. She is also a chancellor’s professor emeritus at Indiana University (IU), where she served as associate dean of the faculties and was founding director of the Indiana Education Policy Center and the High School Survey of Student Engagement. Her research focuses primarily on education law and policy, and the evolution and reform of leadership preparation programs. McCarthy has written or co-authored more than a dozen books and more than 350 articles or chapters. Among other recognitions, she was named the first female Living Legend by the International Council of Professors of Educational Leadership.

L. Stanley Pigman B.S. ’81 — Mining Engineering, College of Engineering

L. Stanley Pigman of Wilmington, North Carolina, is an entrepreneur who began his early professional career after college as a project engineer with a new mining company, Sierra Coal, a subsidiary of General Electric. Later in 1992, he joined two colleagues to form Sugar Camp Coal. Eventually, Pigman formed his own company, Pigman Coal Sales, providing sales services to an independently owned start-up company for a new mining project in Western Kentucky. Pigman routinely initiates and financially supports programs that connect high school youth with engineering and technology. A longtime advocate for Project Lead the Way in Eastern Kentucky schools, Pigman and his wife, Karen, recently committed to funding 16 new high school chapters of the Kentucky Technology Student Association. He and his family also provide scholarships for 70 UK engineering students each year. Their scholarship has benefited more than 200 Pigman Scholars thus far, including 20 first-year students this fall. UK awarded him an Honorary Degree of Humane Letters in 2017.

Eugene Poole Jr. A.S. ’80 — Hopkinsville CC; B.A. ’85 — Architecture, College of Design

Eugene Poole Jr. of District Heights, Maryland, is the jurisdiction executive and the senior project executive of the U.S. Capitol Building in Washington, D.C. The Hopkinsville, Kentucky, native is an architect and certified project construction manager with over 30 years of professional design/construction management executive-level experience. His work includes Air Force defense initiatives and Joint Air Force/Navy, and Air Force/Army Mil-Con construction projects overseas and within the United States. Poole is a decorated former United States Air Force officer who was honorably discharged after serving three tours of duty. His private industry architectural work includes hotel resorts, high schools, colleges, high-end mixed-use and retail buildings, casino and gaming resorts, private residences, urban planning, civic and religious facilities, health care facilities, airfield runway restoration repair and pilot training support facilities. His more recent government projects include the globally iconic U.S. Capitol Dome Restoration project, U.S. Supreme Court, Library of Congress, Senate and House Office Buildings, design/construction for three U.S. Presidential Inaugural ceremonies, the ongoing design/management of the new U.S. Capitol Visitor Center Exhibition Hall Museum, and he currently serves on numerous professional industry boards.

Tommy L. Preston B.A. ’56 — Journalism, College of Communication and Information

Tommy L. Preston of Nashville, Tennessee, founded The Preston Group in 1968, a consulting services firm that expanded into 42 states and D.C., leading to many national recognitions. Preston began his career as the youngest Kentucky newspaper editor in 1956 at the Carrollton News-Democrat, where he was born, and used unusual strategies and tactics to impact results for clients representing corporations, institutions and themselves as circumstances dictated. Later, his training in the U.S. Army proved beneficial for subsequent counterterrorism efforts, and he founded Preston Global, a companion firm, for strategies and training to attenuate violence at schools and other venues. He was senior advisor to Gov. and U.S. Sen. Wendell Ford and appointed executive director of the Kentucky Office of Homeland Security by Gov. Steve Beshear. He became the first such director to complete the U.S. Army War College National Security Program.

Laura M. Schwab J.D. ’98 — Law, J. David Rosenberg College of Law

Laura M. Schwab of San Clemente, California, is the global sales and marketing officer of Rivian, the electric car company launching several new vehicles this year and electrifying Amazon’s worldwide delivery fleet. From 2015 to 2020, she was president of Aston Martin the Americas, the first female to serve in the role in the company’s history and one of only two women to ever hold this title in the automotive industry. She was responsible for overseeing sales, service, marketing and communications to dealers and customers across two continents. Throughout her career, Schwab has championed the empowerment of women in the workplace and has spent her time helping to advance the careers of others along the way.

William E. Seale B.A. ’63 — Chemistry, College of Arts and Sciences; M.S. ’69 — Agricultural Economics, College of Agriculture, Food and Environment; Ph.D. ’75 — Agricultural Economics, College of Agriculture, Food and Environment

William E. Seale of Annapolis, Maryland, and Key Largo, Florida, is a partner in the ProFunds Group. As chief investment officer, he developed the financial models and investment techniques that direct the investments of the over 200 ProShares and ProFunds. Seale is a professor emeritus of finance at George Washington University, where he had been chairman of the Department of Finance and senior associate dean of the business school. He also was engaged in a consulting and expert witness practice through his firm, Financial Markets Group Inc. Seale was a commissioner on the Commodity Futures Trading Commission, worked as government relations vice president for a New York futures exchange and was a senior legislative assistant to U.S. Sen. Walter D. Huddleston.

Charles L. Shearer B.S. ’64 — Accounting, Gatton College of Business and Economics; M.A. ’67 — Economics and International Diplomacy, Gatton College of Business and Economics

Charles L. Shearer of Louisville, Kentucky, is the former president of Transylvania University in Lexington, Kentucky. He served as Transylvania’s 24th president and is the longest-serving president in the university’s history after 27 years in office. Shearer helped grow the institution’s student enrollment by more than 75%, with corresponding growth in the number of faculty members and majors offered. Shearer was named vice president for finance at Transylvania University in 1979 before becoming president in 1983. Shearer also holds a master’s degree and Ph.D. in economics from Michigan State University. He was awarded an honorary Doctor of Letters degree from UK in 2012 for his lifetime service to higher education.

Valerie Still B.S. ’00 — Animal Sciences, College of Agriculture, Food and Environment

Valerie Still of Palmyra, New Jersey, is a former professional basketball player and coach, author and musician. She also earned a master’s degree in African and African American studies and is finishing her Ph.D. in sports humanities at The Ohio State University, where she was a graduate research and teaching associate. She was a member of the UK women’s basketball team (1979-1983) and holds UK career records (men and women) in scoring (2,763) and rebounding (1,525). Still played professional basketball in Italy, hosted her own television show and was a TV commentator for men’s basketball. Later in the USA, she played in the American Basketball League, winning two world championships with the Columbus Quest and earning MVP for both championship series. She then joined the Women’s National Basketball Association (WNBA) and became a WNBA assistant coach with the Mystics and Orlando Miracle. She founded the Valerie Still Foundation, a nonprofit organization that assists youth in their development, and launched STILL Java, a socially-conscious gourmet coffee company to assist charities and women and children in underdeveloped countries.

Gregory L. Summe B.S. ’78 — Electrical Engineering, College of Engineering

Gregory L. Summe of Naples, Florida, is the co-founder and co-chairman of NextGen Acquisition Corp. II, a special purpose acquisition company, which has announced a pending merger with Virgin Orbit. He was also the co-founder of NextGen Acquisition Corp I, which has merged with Xos Inc., a leading manufacturer of electric commercial vehicles. Summe is also the founder and managing partner of Glen Capital Partners LLC, a value-oriented hedge fund. He was managing director and vice chairman of Global Buyout at the Carlyle Group (2009-2014) and responsible for the buyout funds in financial services, infrastructure, Japan, the Middle East and Africa. He was also the chairman, CEO and president of PerkinElmer Inc. (1998-2009) and a senior advisor to Goldman Sachs Capital Partners (2008-2009).

Paul C. Varga B.B.A. ’85 — Finance, Gatton College of Business and Economics

Paul C. Varga of Louisville, Kentucky, was elected president and chief executive officer of Brown-Forman Corporation in 2005 and became chairman of the company in 2007 before retiring in 2018. He has been a member of the company’s board of directors since 2003. Prior to becoming CEO, he served as president and CEO of the company’s Brown-Forman Beverages subsidiary and served as senior vice president and chief marketing officer for Brown-Forman Beverages. During Varga’s tenure at Brown-Forman, he partnered with UK’s Alcohol and Health Education Office to support alcohol awareness and education programs on campus. Varga is a charter member of the UK Tennis Hall of Fame and a Kentucky Tennis Hall of Fame inductee. He was a two-time All-SEC performer (both athletically and academically), became UK’s second player to ever qualify for NCAA singles competition and is the second winningest player in the school’s history.

Paul R. Wagner B.A. ’70 — English, College of Arts and Sciences; M.A. ’72 — Communication, College of Communication and Information

Paul R. Wagner of Charlottesville, Virginia, is an Academy Award and Emmy Award-winning independent filmmaker, who has received multiple grants of support from the National Endowment for the Arts and the National Endowment for the Humanities. Wagner’s documentaries and dramatic features have premiered at the Sundance, Toronto, Telluride and Rotterdam film festivals. His films include “Miles of Smiles, Years of Struggle,” about the first African American labor union; “Signature: George C. Wolfe,” a portrait of the New York theatrical writer and director; “Thoroughbred,” an inside look at the world of big-time horse racing produced for Kentucky Educational Television; and “Out of Ireland,” a history of Irish emigration to America featuring Liam Neeson and Gabriel Byrne. In 2018, “Black in Blue” told a story of triumph and tragedy about UK football players Nate Northington, Greg Page, Houston Hogg and Wilbur Hackett, the men who broke the color line in the SEC. His current film project is a feature documentary about the artist Georgia O’Keeffe.

John A. Williams B.S. ’62 — Accounting, Gatton College of Business and Economics

John A. Williams of Paducah, Kentucky, is the founding executive of Computer Services Inc., headquartered in Paducah and is now chairman emeritus. His career also includes accounting and management consulting with Arthur Andersen & Co. in St. Louis; and serving in the U.S. Army Signal Corps (1963-1965) directing development of experimental data processing systems at the 7th Army Headquarters in Germany. He has been active in many organizations, such as the Association of Financial Technology (president), Boy Scouts Kentucky/Tennessee (president), Kentucky Chamber of Commerce (vice president), Federal Reserve — Louisville (chairman), among others. Williams also lectured on banking technology at UK, Louisiana State University, University of Nebraska and University of Georgia, and he was a faculty member at Paducah Community College.

Terry Woodward B.S. ’63 — Commerce, Gatton College of Business and Economics

Terry Woodward of Owensboro, Kentucky, is the owner and CEO of Wax Works Inc., one of the nation’s leading authorized wholesale home entertainment distributors. Located in Owensboro, Wax Works is one of the largest video distributors in America, servicing online and retail accounts nationwide. Woodward has long been of service to the business community. He was chairman of the International Bluegrass Music Association (IBMA) during the first three years of its existence; a board member of the Country Music Association; a board member and chairman of the National Association of Recording Merchandisers; and a trustee and chairman of the International Bluegrass Music Museum (renamed the Bluegrass Music Hall of Fame & Museum in 2018). Inc. magazine named him Entrepreneur of the Year in 1990, he was awarded the IBMA Distinguished Achievement Award in 2005 and was inducted into the IBMA Bluegrass Hall of Fame in 2018.

To read full bios of this year’s inductees, visit www.ukalumni.net/s/hall-of-distinguished-alumni.

With the addition of the 2020 honorees, the total number of alumni honored to date is 333, since the hall was created in 1965. To learn more about the Hall of Distinguished Alumni and previous inductees, visit www.ukalumni.net/s/hall-of-distinguished-alumni.

The University of Kentucky is increasingly the first choice for students, faculty and staff to pursue their passions and their professional goals. In the last two years, Forbes has named UK among the best employers for diversity, and INSIGHT into Diversity recognized us as a Diversity Champion four years running. UK is ranked among the top 30 campuses in the nation for LGBTQ* inclusion and safety. UK has been judged a “Great College to Work for" three years in a row, and UK is among only 22 universities in the country on Forbes' list of "America's Best Employers."  We are ranked among the top 10 percent of public institutions for research expenditures — a tangible symbol of our breadth and depth as a university focused on discovery that changes lives and communities. And our patients know and appreciate the fact that UK HealthCare has been named the state’s top hospital for five straight years. Accolades and honors are great. But they are more important for what they represent: the idea that creating a community of belonging and commitment to excellence is how we honor our mission to be not simply the University of Kentucky, but the University for Kentucky.