Campus News

Alumni Association announces award winners

Alumni Association award winners 2024
Left to right: Katy Bennett, Michaela Taylor, Janie McKenzie-Wells, Michael L. Hawks, D.M.D., and Antoine Huffman. (Not pictured Todd Lanham.) Photo by Scott Hayes.

LEXINGTON, Ky. (July 5, 2024) — The University of Kentucky Alumni Association announced the recipients of the Distinguished Service Awards and the Joseph T. Burch Award on June 21. The awards are presented annually to honor and recognize those who have provided extraordinary service to the university, the association and the community.

Distinguished Service Award Winners

The UK Alumni Association’s Distinguished Service Award recognizes up to five recipients as selected by the Board of Directors awards committee. Nominees for this prestigious award should have:

  • Demonstrated a history of diligent work for the UK Alumni Association and/or a local alumni club.
  • Contributed to the accomplishments of the UK Alumni Association and/or a local alumni club.
  • Provided leadership and dedication to university and association programs.
  • Provided meaningful service to alumni and friends of the university, community and profession.

The 2024 Distinguished Service Award recipients are Katy Bennett, Michael L. Hawks, D.M.D., Antoine Huffman and Todd Lanham.

Katy Bennett, a native of Catlettsburg, Kentucky, is a 2003 graduate of the UK College of Communication and Information with a bachelor’s degree in integrated strategic communication. After graduation, she worked with UK’s Robinson Scholars Program for first-generation college students from Eastern Kentucky counties then joined UK’s Marketing Brand Strategy team and is now the assistant marketing director. She helps the university recruit students as the communication director for enrollment management. Bennett joined the board of directors of the Fayette County UK Alumni Club after graduating. Bennett has served as young alumni president, secretary, club president and basketball ticket distribution coordinator. She is the unofficial chief of staff for club president (and her dad), Charlie. Bennett is a 2015 Leadership Lexington graduate and served on the Leadership Lexington Youth Program steering committee. She also volunteers with Delta Gamma Fraternity, locally on the house corporation board and recruitment records advisor and as the advisory team chair for the Delta Omicron chapter at Morehead State University. She has two dogs, Gabe and Bruno, and enjoys going to UK sporting events or anywhere Disney-related.

Michael L. Hawks, D.M.D., a Fulton, Kentucky, native, earned a bachelor’s degree in biology in 1981 and a dental degree from the UK College of Dentistry in 1985. While at UK Hawks was a member of Sigma Nu Fraternity. He opened Hawks Family Dentistry in 1988. Hawks is a member of the American Dental Association, the Academy of General Dentistry, the American Orthodontic Society, Tennessee Dental Association and the Kentucky Dental Association. Hawks invests time with community organizations such as the Fulton Bank Advisory Board and he organizes and coaches youth sports leagues. He served as three-time past president of the Fulton County UK Alumni Club. During his time as past president, the Fulton County Alumni Club successfully provided local students UK scholarships. Hawks is a Life Member of the UK Alumni Association. He and his wife Melanie have two sons Corbin (’13 AFE, ’17 DE) and Harrison, who is a 2018 graduate from Ole Miss.

Antoine Huffman earned his bachelor’s degree in telecommunications from the UK College of Communication and Information in 2005 while also being a three-year starter for the Wildcats football team. His senior year Huffman was the school’s first Black student crowned UK Homecoming King. Huffman was a member of the UK Athletic Association Board of Directors and two-year chair for the UK Athletics Outreach Committee. A finalist for the ARA Sportsmanship Award and the Wuerffel Trophy, an award given to a college football athlete who exemplifies community service and academic achievement, Huffman supported his community through involvement with organizations such as Habitat for Humanity. He was a four-time SEC and NCAA Academic Honor roll member and an NCAA Academic All-American. Huffman served as past president of the UK Alumni Association and lives in Texas with his wife Jessica (’04, ’06 ED), and sons Jayden and Adonis. He is a regional sales director for a medical equipment provider. Both he and his wife are Life Members of the UK Alumni Association.

Todd Lanham grew up in Springfield, Kentucky, and earned his associate’s degree in business from Lexington Community College, then part of the University of Kentucky, in 1997. He earned his bachelor’s degree from Eastern Kentucky University in insurance and risk management. He is a partner with USI Insurance Services and holds designations as a Certified Insurance Counselor and a Certified Risk Manager. Lanham is the former board chair of the Salvation Army Louisville Command, a graduate of Leadership Louisville, Bingham Fellows, Ignite Louisville, LEAD GLI and Leadership Kentucky. In 2009 Lanham was honored by Risk and Insurance Magazine as a Power Broker and 40 under 40. Todd has served 10 years with the Greater Louisville UK Alumni Club where he’s held the roles of treasurer, secretary, vice chair and chair. During his term as chair, from 2020–22, he oversaw the club’s annual UK football and basketball luncheons during COVID. The club hosted both events virtually while bringing in record donations for the UK scholarship fund. Lanham lives in Louisville with his wife Stephanie (’02 BE, ’04 PH), and their three children. Their oldest daughter, Makena, will attending UK as a freshman this fall.

Joseph T. Burch Young Alumni Award

The Joseph T. Burch Young Alumni Award is named for a long-time UK administrator who spent the better part of his life in service to UK students. The purpose of the award is to honor a select number of young alumni who are active members of the University of Kentucky Alumni Association and currently work on behalf of young people through the university, the association, their club or in the local community. This year’s inductee brings the total to 25 honorees.

Nominees for this prestigious award should have:

  • Raised funds for scholarships and/or awarding scholarships for students to attend UK
  • Worked with local high school students who are interested in attending UK, through club-sponsored events and/or university-sponsored preview nights
  • Worked to educate youth in the local community, whether through tutoring, coaching or other means to keep them interested in learning
  • Assisted in efforts to support the student alumni association through mentoring or other means

Michaela Taylor is a 2019 graduate of UK where she earned her bachelor’s of health sciences in clinical leadership and management. During her time as an undergraduate, she was active with the Wildcat Marching Band, Alpha Gamma Delta, the UK Alumni Ambassadors and she served a single term as vice president of the UKSGA. In 2023, she graduated from the College of Public Health with her master’s in health administration and from the University of Kentucky J. David Rosenberg College of Law where she received her J.D. She has started her legal career as an associate at Bricker Graydon, LLP in the firm’s employee benefits and executive compensation practice group. She continues to be actively involved in the alumni association as an LAC member and serves on the Dragonfly Foundation Ambassador Board in Cincinnati. She got engaged to her fiancé Dillion Sheppard (EN ’21) in front of Memorial Hall last summer. They have two dogs, Woodford and Weller.

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.