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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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.