Professional News

Wildcat Wednesday: Joyce Hamilton Berry, First Black Woman to Earn a Ph.D. From UK


LEXINGTON, Ky. (Feb. 2, 2022) — To commemorate Black History Month, University of Kentucky Public Relations and Strategic Communications is highlighting alumni from the UK Alumni Association’s Pioneer Project throughout the month of February. Be sure to check UKNow each "Wildcat Wednesday" this month to learn more about a UK alum who left an important legacy at our university.

On this “Wildcat Wednesday,” UK honors Joyce Hamilton Berry — the first Black woman to earn a Ph.D. from UK.

Originally from Lexington, Berry finished high school in three years, and started college at age 16 at Hampton University. She went on to earn her master’s degree in special education from the UK College of Education in 1967, and her doctoral degree in guidance and counseling in 1970.

As a clinical psychologist, Berry has a private practice in Washington, D.C. Her commentary has been included in Ebony and Essence magazines, and she has appeared on television to give advice and counsel.

Berry previously served as a member of the Congress of Racial Equality and the Urban League and has a history of speaking out against discrimination. In a 2010 interview with the Louie B. Nunn Center for Oral History in UK Libraries, she discussed growing up in Lexington, her experiences at UK and her connections to the civil rights movement in Lexington, as well as her career as a psychologist.

Last year, Berry connected with current students in the College of Education, giving a first-hand account of what it took for her to blaze a trail at UK more than 50 years ago.

In 2015, she was inducted into the UK Alumni Association’s Hall of Distinguished Alumni.

You can learn more about Berry and other alumni from the Pioneer Project here

To learn more about how the university is celebrating Black History Month visit  


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.