Campus News

UK to Award 5 Honorary Degrees at May Commencement Ceremonies

LEXINGTON, Ky. (April 29, 2019)  Five citizens who have distinguished themselves in their careers and community service will receive honorary doctorates from the University of Kentucky at May 2019 Commencement Ceremonies. The UK Board of Trustees has approved the honorary degrees for Stephen B. Bright, Yvonne Giles, Jim Host, Howard L. Lewis and Reese Terry.

Bright, Giles and Host will be recognized at the 10 a.m. Friday, May 3 ceremony, and Lewis and Terry will be recognized at the 2 p.m. Sunday, May 5 ceremony. All ceremonies will take place at Rupp Arena in Lexington.

Stephen B. Bright to receive Honorary Doctor of Laws. A Boyle County, Kentucky native, Bright earned his bachelor's degree in political science in 1971 and a law degree from UK in 1974. During his time at the university he was active in the Student Government Association and served as its president. He became an important part of campus debates about the Vietnam War and is credited with helping to lead the university through a difficult time.

Upon graduation from law school, Bright began what would become a lifetime of work in the public interest. He is recognized for his work on death penalty and race and class discrimination cases within the United States justice system. Bright was instrumental in the American Bar Association’s Death Penalty Representation Project, and he has received numerous honors for his work including the Bar Association’s Thurgood Marshall Award in 1998 for his commitment to civil rights. In 1991, Bright was given the Roger Baldwin Medal of Liberty from the American Civil Liberties Union, honoring his contributions to civil liberties in the United States. He is a member of UK's Hall of Distinguished Alumni.

Over the course of his career, Bright has served as executive director of the District of Columbia Law Students in Court program, director and president of the Southern Center for Human Rights, and currently holds teaching positions at Yale Law School, Georgetown University Law Center and the Georgia State University College of Law. Bright has authored numerous articles published in law journals and has argued several cases in state and federal court, four of which were argued before the Supreme Court of the United States.

Yvonne Giles to receive Honorary Doctor of Humane Letters. Giles, a Lexington native, graduated from UK with a home economics degree in 1967. She worked for several years as a dietitian​ at Good Samaritan Hospital at which time she earned a master's degree from UK in food science and nutrition. Giles then began working for the Extension Service and became the first African-American extension agent in Oldham County. After retiring from the Extension Service, she remained in Oldham County and was elected as the first African-American woman on the LaGrange City Council, and she chaired the Main Street Historic District Commission. Eventually, Giles returned to Lexington and worked in the gift industry. Upon her retirement there, she embarked on a self-taught career in historical research.

Giles sought information about her own family’s genealogy, and that eventually expanded into in-depth research of Lexington's African-American history. Over the last 20 years, Giles has worked with the cooperation and support of others to rediscover and illuminate the history and accomplishments of African Americans in Lexington dating as far back as when Kentucky's first settlers arrived. She has dedicated her life to uncovering and documenting those buried and/or forgotten in the city, specifically at Lexington’s African Cemetery No. 2.

Giles’ accomplishments over the years include founding a museum named in honor of Lexington sculptor Isaac Scott Hathaway, publishing a book based on African Cemetery No. 2, and unveiling the African-American Heritage Trail in downtown Lexington.

W. James "Jim" Host to receive Honorary Doctor of Humane Letters. Host was born in Pennsylvania and moved to Ashland, Kentucky, as an eighth grader. He later received one of the first two full baseball scholarships to UK in 1955 and became a standout pitcher. While earning a degree in radio arts, he did sports play-by-play on UK's student radio station and at WVLK in Lexington. Graduating in 1961, Host pursued a professional baseball career with the Chicago White Sox before an arm injury ended his playing career.

During the 1960s, Host ran the Kentucky Central UK Sports Network, one of five major outlets originating radio broadcasts of UK sports events. He also owned a real estate and insurance agency, all while continuing to be a radio commentator for UK and local high school sports. In 1967, Host became the youngest member of Gov. Louie Nunn’s cabinet as commissioner of the Department of Public Information. He went on to found Jim Host and Associates, which became Host Communications. The company acquired exclusive rights to broadcast UK sports in 1974, then acquired the radio rights to the NCAA Basketball Tournament a year later, a move which proved to be a key step in transforming the event into the major spectacle it is today.

Host has maintained an active community service career, serving in many capacities including president of the Lexington Rotary Club, chair of the Greater Lexington Chamber of Commerce and president of the Bluegrass Council of Boy Scouts. He received the Kentuckian of the Year Award from the Chandler Foundation, the Champion of Diversity Award from the Louisville Urban League, and the Kentucky Broadcasters Association’s Distinguished Kentuckian Award. In addition, he is a member of both the UK Hall of Distinguished Alumni and the UK Athletics Hall of Fame.

Howard Lewis to receive Honorary Doctor of Humane Letters.  Born into poverty, Lewis endured a childhood of abuse and hardship. After his father's death, his family moved to Covington, Kentucky, where he worked during middle and high school while excelling at his studies. Not intending to go to college, Lewis credits a UK admissions recruiter with convincing him to enroll at the UK Northern Community College in Covington. After completing two years there, he transferred to UK's main campus in Lexington and graduated in 1970 with a bachelor’s degree in business administration. Lewis later earned an MBA from Xavier University.

Lewis had a successful career in management at a number of companies before starting his own insurance company in 1989, Family Heritage Life Insurance Company of America, that focused on life insurance and supplemental health insurance policies beyond traditional health insurance. By 2012, the company had won dozens of industry awards and served over 250,000 American families. That same year, Torchmark Corporation became the principal owner of Family Heritage, where Lewis serves as chairman emeritus.

Lewis has spent his life providing help to young people because he understands the transformative impact a helping hand can make in a young person’s life. He has served on boards or as special adviser to Big Brothers of Greater Cincinnati, Harvest for Hunger, Boy Scouts of America, St. Jude’s Research Hospital, and more. An avid supporter of his alma mater, Lewis served as volunteer chair of UK Gatton College of Business and Economics’ successful philanthropic campaign, which resulted in raising $71 million to completely fund the renovation and expansion of the Gatton College Building.

Reese S. Terry Jr. to receive an Honorary Doctor of Engineering. Terry, from Mt. Sterling, Kentucky, earned his bachelor's and master's degrees in electrical engineering from UK. He began his professional career at Cordis Corporation, a heart pacemaker manufacturing company and later joined Intermedics Inc., a medical device and electronics company, where he continued his interest in pacemakers and co-developed the first programmable dual chamber pacer in 1980. Eventually, Terry moved into the neurological medical technology area and co-founded Cyberonics Inc. to develop, manufacture and market neuromodulation therapies for patients with epilepsy and other neurological disorders. He helped develop Vagus Nerve Stimulation Therapy, a breakthrough seizure reduction treatment for epilepsy, which was later approved to treat depression and migraine headaches.

Terry is recognized internationally for his work. He holds numerous patents and was recognized twice for making one of the top 100 inventions in a year by Industrial Research Inc. and received both the Professional Career Achievement Award by the Engineering in Medicine and Biology Society and the World Changer Award by the Epilepsy Foundation of America in 2012.

Through all of his success, Terry has made it a priority to give back. Among his philanthropy efforts, his company helped establish a fund to pay for travel expenses for needy epilepsy patients and their families to reach appropriate treatment centers, and he endowed a professorship in UK’s Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering. Terry has worked tirelessly on behalf of the UK Alumni Association and was honored with its Distinguished Service Award in 2018. He is a member of the College of Engineering’s Hall of Distinction and the UK Hall of Distinguished Alumni.