UPIKE honors Class of 2023 in various celebrations during commencement week

More than 400 University of Pikeville (UPIKE) students celebrated their achievements by earning their degrees during the spring commencement ceremonies for undergraduate, graduate and health professions on Saturday, May 6, at the Appalachian Wireless Arena. Graduates and their families were able to attend the in-person ceremonies or watch virtually via livestream.

undergraduate students in their seats at commencement

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Kentucky College of Osteopathic Medicine and Kentucky College of Optometry 
KYCO and KYCOM graduates walking to their seats for commencement

The twenty-third commencement for the Kentucky College of Osteopathic Medicine (KYCOM) and, for the fourth time, the Kentucky College of Optometry (KYCO) recognized a tremendous group of physicians and optometric servants. 

In the days leading up to commencement, award ceremonies were held to honor top-performing KYCOM and KYCO students. 



The College of Nursing and Human Services held pinning ceremonies to honor nursing and social work graduates. 

Elliott School of Nursing Pinning Ceremony
Nursing students standing on the stage for their pinning ceremony

The University of Pikeville Elliott School of Nursing recognized 39 new nurses during the 39th annual nurse’s pinning ceremony on May 4, in Booth Auditorium. 

Karen Damron, Ph.D., RN, dean of the College of Nursing and Human Services, addressed the graduates, praising their dedication and congratulating them on their achievements. 

“Tonight we are here to honor your accomplishments and recognize your commitment to the nursing profession,” said Damron. “You are about to embark on a journey filled with challenges, triumphs and unforgettable experiences. May you continue to shine as you begin this new chapter in your nursing journey.”  

Zachary Runyon of Canada, Ky., was the recipient of the Elizabeth Akers Elliott Award, selected by the nursing faculty as a student who “best exemplifies the very essence of nursing, that combines qualities of critical thinking, professional judgment and caring, and that exceeds what is expected of a new graduate.” The award also holds special significance for the family of Elizabeth Akers Elliott, as they established a trust fund to launch the nursing program in her memory. Runyon also received the Spirit of Nursing Award, an honor bestowed by fellow classmates to the nursing student they would most like to have care for themselves or their family.

Cailtyn Williamson of Pikeville, Ky., received the Vivian Day Award, presented to the graduate who achieved the highest grade point average in nursing courses.

School of Social Work Pinning Ceremony
social work students standing on the stage during their pinning ceremony

During the ninth annual pinning ceremony held on May 5, the University of Pikeville College of Nursing and Human Services honored 11 graduates receiving their bachelor’s in social work and 22 graduates receiving their master’s in social work. 

Genesia Kilgore-Bowling, Ph.D., MSW, CSW, professor and chair of the school of social work and director of the master’s program, addressed the new graduates, welcoming them to the social work field.

“Tonight you join the ranks of more than 700,000 professionally trained social workers in our country who are committed to improving human well-being and enhancing the basic needs of all people,” said Kilgore-Bowling. “The profession welcomes you, it needs you. The world needs you.”

The Spirit of Social Work Award was presented to both Justin Lincey of Louisville, Ky., and Devin Little of Raccoon, Ky., for best exemplifying the spirit of social work, its values and its ethics. 

Shena Shepherd of Pikeville, Ky., was the recipient of the Excellence in MSW Scholarship Award for consistently showing a mastery of social work concepts, skills and theories, as well as embodying the profession’s values and ethics throughout her coursework and fieldwork. 

The Outstanding Practicum Student Award was presented to Austin Wright of Pikeville, Ky., for going above and beyond in practicum work, and demonstrating exceptional social work knowledge and skill in his interaction with clients and colleagues of all professions. 

Emily Mills of Inez, Ky., was the recipient of the Excellence in Undergraduate Social Work Award for exhibiting leadership, commitment and values to the ethics of the profession of social work.

The Outstanding Achievement in Undergraduate Social Work Award was presented to Sidney Salyer of Pikeville, Ky., for achieving academic excellence in both the social work program and overall.

See photos from several UPIKE commencement celebration events here.