UPIKE honored the class of 2021 with in-person commencement ceremonies

The University of Pikeville (UPIKE) held in-person commencement ceremonies for the class of 2021 to recognize the academic achievements of 280 students earning degrees in undergraduate and graduate studies. The two evening celebrations were held at the Appalachian Wireless Arena in downtown Pikeville, with students from the College of Nursing & Human Services and the Patton College of Education graduating on Thursday, April 29, and commencement for the Coleman College of Business and the College of Arts & Sciences taking place on Friday, April 30.  

Masks were required at the ticketed events along with additional COVID-19 safety measures for all graduates and guests, including temperature checks and social distancing. Graduates and families who preferred to celebrate virtually were able to watch the ceremonies via livestream.

The keynote speaker for both ceremonies was Nate Morris, Founder & CEO of Lexington, Kentucky-based Rubicon, a software platform that provides smart waste and recycling solutions for businesses and governments worldwide. 

With Morgan County roots, Morris is the first Kentuckian to be named to Fortune Magazine’s 40 Under 40 list and is the youngest person to be inducted into the Kentucky Entrepreneur Hall of Fame, among his many other professional accomplishments.

In his commencement address, Morris, who was presented with an honorary Doctor of Humane Letters degree, challenged students to join him in helping to build a sustainable development of economic opportunity for Eastern Kentucky. Morris also promised seed funding to help UPIKE start a student-led conservation program with objectives, goals and deliverables to be developed before the end of the year.

“Together, we can be leaders in making great things happen.” said Morris. “We are the people who will find opportunity in unlikely places. Opportunity surrounds you and yours could be waiting for you anywhere. Now is your time to think big and dream big.”

Valedictorians for the Class of 2021 were Luke Thomas Adkison of Virgie, Ky., Lacy May Childers of Pikeville, Ky., Megan Renae Claypoole of Flemingsburg, Ky., Madison Leigh Daniels of Hervey Bay, Queensland Australia, Katelyn Fields of Lowmansville, Ky., Charles Isaac Maxwell of Salem, Va., Peyton Grace Morris of Manchester, Ky., Tosha Tanille Rowe of Pikeville, Ky., Taylor M. Sowards of Pikeville, Ky., and Lance M. Tackett of Beauty, Ky. Earning the distinction of Salutatorian was Sarah E. Terry of Paintsville, Ky.

UPIKE President Burton J. Webb, Ph.D., awarded Professor of Nursing Mary Rado Simpson, Ph.D., the Presidential Medallion for her significant contributions to nursing education at UPIKE.

Simpson, who recently announced her retirement, has been with the university since 1997 serving as adjunct faculty and chair of the division of nursing before becoming the founding dean of the Elliott School of Nursing. She oversaw the program for seven years before stepping back into the faculty role, where she was awarded the William Wade and Helen Record Walker Teaching Excellence Award following her first year back in the classroom full-time. During her tenure, she has served on many university committees and led the development and implementation of the post-licensure RN-BSN program in 2011. Simpson has also been a voting member of Pikeville Medical Center’s Board of Directors since 2005.

Also receiving the Presidential Medallion was Assistant Provost Pam Gilliam, Ed.D., MBA, for her decades of dedication to the university’s faculty and students.

With a mind for growth and a passion for student success, Gilliam has carried out her career at UPIKE as an esteemed faculty member prior to her appointment as the university’s first assistant provost, teaching more than 30 different courses over her tenure. After more than 44 years of service with the university, Gilliam announced her retirement, effective July of this year. In addition to serving as a student liaison, Gilliam is a valued resource to faculty and champions a mentoring program for undergraduate professors.  

Graduating social work, nursing and education students were pinned during Thursday’s ceremony. 

School of Social Work Chair Genesia Kilgore-Bowling, Ph.D., presented ten candidates for the master of social work degree and one bachelor of social work degree candidate to be pinned. Dean of the College of Nursing & Human Services Karen Damron, Ph.D., RN, presented 39 associate of nursing degree candidates and 16 RN-BSN candidates for pinning. Dean of College of Arts & Sciences Jennifer Dugan, Ph.D., presented 21 graduate students for teacher leader master’s degrees and 22 for undergraduate degrees in teaching to be pinned in the Patton College of Education.

Mary Rado Simpson, Ph.D., and Michael Holcomb, Ph.D., were honored as first- and second-place recipients, respectively, of the William Wade and Helen Record Walker Teaching Excellence Award.

For more ceremony information, visit upike.edu/commencement.