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Celebrating the Class of 2015

By Jenny Wells

(May 8, 2015) — On Saturday, May 9, thousands will fill Rupp Arena to celebrate the University of Kentucky Class of 2015.

The May 2015 Commencement Ceremonies will recognize the accomplishments of undergraduate, graduate and professional students who will have completed their degrees by the end of the spring 2015 semester. Graduate and professional degrees will be conferred at 9 a.m.; and undergraduate degrees will be conferred at 1 p.m. and 6 p.m.  All ceremonies will be streamed live on UKNow

Saturday's ceremonies include: 

More than 2,500 undergraduates and over 500 graduate and professional students are expected to participate in Saturday's ceremonies; overall, approximately 2,961 undergraduate, 1,089 graduate and 448 professional degree candidates have been submitted to the UK Board of Trustees for approval. 

The May 2015 graduates, as well as December 2015 graduates, will also receive unique diplomas that honor the university's sesquicentennial. All diplomas will bear a seal commemorating 150 years of UK's dedication to research, education and service. 

While all graduates are celebrated for their tremendous achievements, many have particularly interesting stories to share about their lives and time at UK.

Alex Maina, who is graduating with a bachelor's degree in geography, is a native of Kenya who came to the U.S. at age 12 to find a better life. He was adopted by his parents in Nicholasville, Kentucky, and has not seen his birth parents since he left his homeland. Now, his graduation will bring both his Kenyan parents and his Kentucky parents together for the first time. Maina’s biological sisters and their families will also join the graduate’s biological and adoptive parents in Lexington to celebrate his achievement.

William Hawks, who is graduating from the College of Dentistry, first came to UK many years ago, but had to leave during his freshman semester to serve his country in Afghanistan. He later came back to earn two undergraduate degrees in biology and agricultural biotechnology. After graduation, Hawks plans to continue serving his country after being commissioned as a captain in the U.S. Army Dental Corps in Fort Campbell, Kentucky.

Sarah Haynes, who will graduate with a bachelor's degree in health science with minors in theatre and psychology, credits Kentucky's first fine arts extension program with where she is today. Haynes grew up in a rural section of Pike County, where her opportunities to experience the arts were constrained in the early part of her childhood. But that all changed around her 10th birthday when Pike County became the home of the Commonwealth’s first arts extension program through the UK Cooperative Extension Service and the UK Colleges of Agriculture, Food and Environment and Fine Arts. Haynes became actively involved in the newly established Artists Collaborative Theatre and excelled in school, graduating as valedictorian in 2011 before arriving at the University of Kentucky later that fall.

"I believe that without the influence of this incredible theatre I may have never discovered my true potential, talents, or unique skill set," said Haynes. "I held tight to the drive for success that had been instilled in me. I knew I was capable of anything I set my mind to do. Participating taught me leadership, adaptation, and diligence.

Read more interesting stories about UK's May 2015 graduates.

Student Speakers

UK President Eli Capilouto will deliver remarks at all three ceremonies, and a student will also address the audience at each of the undergraduate ceremonies, as per UK tradition.

  • Brooke Nemec, from Glen Arm, Maryland, is graduating with a degree in agricultural biotechnology from the UK College of Agriculture, Food and Environment. Nemec works as a student lab assistant and undergraduate researcher at the Gluck Equine Research Center. She will deliver the Commencement address at the 1 p.m. ceremony.  
  • Ryan Mosley, from Emmalena, Kentucky in Knott County, is graduating Summa Cum Laude with a degree in both history and sociology from the UK College of Arts and Sciences. Mosley is program director for WRFL 88.1 FM, the university's student-run radio station. He will give the Commencement address at the 6 p.m. ceremony. 

Honorary Degrees

The University of Kentucky will also award honorary doctorates at the 9 a.m. and 6 p.m. ceremonies.

Kentucky Music Hall of Fame member Leslie Coleman "Les" McCann, a celebrated jazz pianist and vocalist widely known as the "Father of Soul Jazz," will receive an honorary Doctor of Arts at the 9 a.m. ceremony.

O. Leonard "Len" Press, the founding director of Kentucky Educational Television, and his wife Lillian Henken Press, a mental health, education and women's advocate who also served as first director of Kentucky's Governor's Scholars Program, will receive honorary doctorates at the 6 p.m. undergraduate ceremony. 

Read more about the May 2015 UK Honorary Degree recipients. 


All three ceremonies will be streamed live at, the university’s news website. Full video of each ceremony will be available within two weeks after Commencement on the university’s YouTube channel,

Followers of UK’s Twitter account ( can follow along with the Commencement activities via live tweets prior to and during the event. Social media users are encouraged to use the hashtag #ukgrad to honor all the graduates.