Professional News

UK to Award Honorary Degrees at May 2021 Commencement Ceremonies

LEXINGTON, Ky. (May 6, 2021) — The University of Kentucky Board of Trustees has approved honorary degrees for four citizens who have distinguished themselves in their careers and community service. The recipients are W. Harry Clarke, F. Joseph Halcomb III, Deirdre Lyons and Carl F. Pollard. 

Clarke, Halcomb and Lyons will receive their honorary doctorates at the UK May 2021 Commencement Ceremonies next week. Pollard, who is unable to attend next week's ceremonies, will be honored at a later date.

Honorary degrees will be presented at the following ceremonies:

  • W. Harry Clarke: noon Friday, May 14
  • F. Joseph Halcomb: 6 p.m. Friday, May 14
  • Deirdre Lyons: noon Sunday, May 16

All ceremonies will take place at Rupp Arena in Lexington.

W. Harry Clarke to receive Honorary Doctor of Humane Letters. In 1965, Clarke joined the UK community as the first teaching assistant for the UK Marching Band while he worked toward a Ph.D. in music education, but his involvement at UK quickly grew as he took up the role of director of Bands in 1968. He served in that capacity for 21 years. During this time, he grew the Wildcat Marching Band from 80 members to 300; transitioned the band to include women; and established the band’s reputation as one of the best in the country.

Clarke later served for 14 years as the director of UK’s School of Music, leading the school to its designation as one of UK’s “Areas of Excellence.” He also taught in the music education program, training band and orchestra directors, working with student teachers, and transforming the music education curriculum. Throughout his career at UK, he taught students of every interest and career goal, helping shape their paths toward successful lives.

After 46 years at UK, Clarke retired in 2011, at which time his involvement in the Lexington community started growing. He has served as an elected Lexington-Fayette Urban County Council member serving on the Planning and Public Safety, and General Government committees. He has been a board member for the Friends of the Arboretum and America in Bloom and a member of the Picnic with the Pops Commission. Clarke currently serves on the Lexington Tree Board, the Water Quality Fees Board, the MoonDance Association, and the planning entity, Board of Adjustment. He is also president-elect of OperaLex.

Clarke earned his bachelor’s degree in music education at Delta State University in 1959, and a master’s in music education at the Vanderbilt University George Peabody College for Teachers in 1963.

F. Joseph Halcomb III to receive Honorary Doctor of Engineering. As the son of a small-town family physician in southern Kentucky, Dr. Halcomb grew up around the practice of medicine. He enrolled at UK in 1969 and began his college career with a visionary concept: he wanted to pursue an academic program that combined medicine and engineering. With the help of two UK professors, Halcomb began a study plan that prepared him for a groundbreaking career in the emerging medical device and biotechnology industries.

He earned a bachelor’s degree in mechanical engineering in 1974, and a medical degree in 1978. In his fourth year of medical school, he also enrolled in the graduate mechanical engineering program at MIT. By the time he completed his MIT degree and medical residency at UK, he recognized the need for mechanical engineering in orthopedics and began his career in the orthopedic industry.

In 1980, Dr. Halcomb joined Zimmer, a world leader in orthopedic and surgical products. Five years later he became vice president of product development, leading the development of joint replacement implants that revolutionized the industry. By 1993, he was president of Zimmer’s Hall Surgical Division. In 1995, he was recruited by biotechnology company Amgen to apply his medical device expertise in building a venture in cell therapy. Within a decade, Halcomb became Amgen’s vice president for drug product and device development and directed a team that launched revolutionary products and expanded the company’s reach worldwide. 

In 2010, Dr. Halcomb established the Halcomb Family Endowed Fellowship in Medicine and Engineering at UK as a special tribute to his father. After a larger commitment to the endowment in 2016, the Department of Biomedical Engineering became the first named department at the university. His fellowship provides opportunities for graduate students to engage in premier interdisciplinary research in biomedical engineering. And the department now offers a unique undergraduate major in biomedical engineering.

Deirdre Lyons to receive Honorary Doctor of Humane Letters. Deirdre Lyons co-founded global animal health company Alltech with her husband, Pearse Lyons, in 1980 to help farmers feed the world, raise healthy animals and protect the environment through natural, nutritional innovation. Today, Alltech is a more than $2 billion company with over 5,000 team members in 120 countries supporting its vision of Working Together for a Planet of Plenty. Lyons is Alltech’s director of corporate image and design.

Lyons has achieved national and international accolades on behalf of Kentucky through her work on many important projects including the historic Alltech FEI World Equestrian Games in 2010; various arts initiatives, including the annual Alltech Vocal Scholarship Competition and Alltech Celebration of Song; humanitarian endeavors as far away as Haiti and as close as local primary schools’ science laboratories; and her service on numerous leadership boards in Kentucky, including the Kentucky Chamber of Commerce, the Kentucky Horse Park Foundation, the Kentucky Equine Humane Center, the UK Sanders-Brown Center on Aging, and the Lexington Convention Center.

Lyons also works to support the Pearse Lyons ACE Foundation, a nonprofit foundation that supports the philanthropic endeavors of Alltech and the Lyons family, from disaster relief to educational initiatives, to aid for underserved communities.

In 2010, Pearse and Deirdre accepted the BCA 10 award for Best Companies Supporting the Arts in America. And as ardent supporters of tourism in the Bluegrass, Lyons and her son Mark (who now serves as president and CEO of Alltech) were recognized with VisitLEX’s SharetheLEX award in 2019 for their love and passion for Lexington and their efforts to promote the region. 

Carl F. Pollard to receive Honorary Doctor of Humane Letters. Carl F. Pollard was born in Lancaster, Kentucky, and graduated from the University of Kentucky in 1960, as a first-generation college student, with a bachelor of science in commerce. He began his career as a partner for the Louisville accounting firm Yeager, Ford & Warren, which is now owned by PricewaterhouseCoopers.

In 1968, he joined Extendicare and was instrumental in developing it into the Fortune 500 health care company, Humana. Pollard held various senior positions there and was chairman and chief executive officer of the hospital division, which later became Columbia Healthcare Corporation, where he served as chairman of the board until his retirement in 1994.

A lifelong horse racing enthusiast, Pollard served as chairman of Churchill Downs from 2001 through 2011. He is a former principal owner of noted Hermitage Farm, a thoroughbred breeding operation located in Goshen, Kentucky, and continues to be actively involved in the thoroughbred business through his company, CFP Thoroughbreds. He also serves as president of the C.F. Pollard Foundation.

Pollard endowed the Carl F. Pollard Professorship of Health Economics in the Gatton College of Business and Economics and the Carl F. Pollard Scholarship Fund, which has awarded over $1 million in scholarships to benefit first-generation college students like himself. He recently expanded the fund to $12 million to provide educational opportunities for even more students.

In recognition of his career achievements, Pollard was named to the UK Alumni Association Hall of Distinguished Alumni in 1995 and the UK Gatton College of Business and Economics Alumni Hall of Fame in 1994. He has served as a member of numerous UK boards including the Markey Cancer Foundation Board of Trustees, the Development Council, and the Business Partnership Foundation. Pollard also was a director and member of the Executive Committee of National City Bank-Kentucky and served on the Board of Directors of the Kentucky Derby Museum.

The UK Commencement Ceremonies will take place May 14-16, at Rupp Arena in Lexington. The ceremonies are only open to graduates and their guests, and tickets are required. All ceremonies will be livestreamed on UKNow, via the university’s YouTube channel. For more information, visit

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.