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Commencement Speakers

College of Arts & Sciences

Senator Harrison SchmittHarrison Hagan Schmitt was born in New Mexico and grew up in the American West. He received a Bachelor of Science from Caltech and a PhD in geology from Harvard based on work in Norway as a Fulbright Scholar and National Science Foundation Post-Doctorate Fellow. Between 1964 and 1965, Schmitt rejoined the United States Geological Survey as part of the astrogeology branch in Flagstaff, Arizona, leading to the development of early lunar field geological methods under contract to NASA. Selected by NASA as a scientist-astronaut in 1965, he earned Air Force T-38 jet pilot wings in 1966 and Navy H-13 helicopter wings in 1967. Schmitt flew in space as Apollo 17’s lunar module pilot, landing in the moon’s Valley of Taurus-Littrow, December 11, 1972. He is the only scientist and the last of 12 men to step on the moon.

Elected to the United States Senate from New Mexico in 1976, Schmitt worked on legislation and New Mexico affairs related to technology, immigration, education, health care, commerce, and national security. As part of his consulting business in aerospace and earth science, he served on President Ronald Reagan’s Foreign Intelligence Advisory Board, the Army Science Board, and President George H. W. Bush’s Ethics Commission. He also chaired the NASA Advisory Council (2005–08).

Schmitt has received numerous honorary degrees from American and Canadian universities. In 1983, he became director of Orbital Sciences Corporation, now Orbital ATK. He also has served as a director of several corporations in the banking, technology, mining, and medical fields including the Draper Corporation. Beginning in 1996, he taught the course Resources from Space at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, where he is an associate fellow in the university’s Department of Engineering.

Schmitt authored Return to the Moon: Exploration, Enterprise, and Energy in the Human Exploration of Space and has published numerous scientific and public policy papers since 1964. He travels extensively domestically and internationally. Schmitt lives in the Intermountain West with his wife of more than 30 years, Teresa Fitzgibbon, and several four-legged canine family members.

College of Architecture + Design

Patrick HazariPatrick Hazari (BArch ’05) is the director of design and construction at Friends of the High Line in New York. The nonprofit conversancy is responsible for the maintenance and operations of the High Line, an award-winning public park built on a reclaimed rail viaduct. Hazari oversaw the design and construction of sections 1 and 2 of the High Line and was involved in the construction of the park’s maintenance and operations facility. He currently oversees the design and construction of park projects as well as capital improvement and repair projects.

Before coming to Friends of the High Line, Hazari was a designer at Weiss/Manfredi, where he worked on the award-winning Barnard College (Columbia University) Diana Center and the University of Pennsylvania Krishna P. Singh Center for Nanotechnology in Philadelphia.

During his time at UT, he studied architecture in the Netherlands and held internships at HOK in St. Louis and SOM in New York. His thesis project, High School for Visual and Performing Arts in downtown Chattanooga, was recognized with a Letter of Excellence by the faculty for Outstanding Final Design Project, and he graduated with the American Institute of Architects’ Henry Adams Fund Certificate of Merit.

Hazari’s work Urban Projections (2007, with Melissa Alexander) was awarded first place in the Agent for Human Interaction Competition and exhibited at the Royal Academy in London. Two of his other works were selected for exhibition at the Center for Architecture in New York for the Emerging New York Architects Biennial International Ideas Competition.

Hazari was published in 306090 10: Decoration (Princeton Architectural Press, 2006) and was art director and editor of Designing the High Line: Gansevoort Street to 30th Street (Friends of the High Line, 2009).

He has been an invited critic at UT, PennDesign, and Roger Williams University and is a member of the College of Architecture and Design Dean’s Advocacy Board.

Haslam College of Business

Charlie Anderson

Charlie Anderson serves as chairman of Anderson Merchandisers, a brand merchandising company that focuses on representing major brands inside Wal-Mart Stores Inc. The company traces its roots to 1917 and the family’s business of selling magazines and books in retailers located in the southeastern United States.

Over the years, the magazine and book distribution business evolved from a regional to a national company with four main product lines: magazines, books, CDs, and video movies. As technology advancements started to affect sales of physical entertainment product, the decision was made to sell the distribution business and repurpose the company into a major brand representation company.

Today, more than 5,000 people work for Anderson Merchandisers with the mission of extending major brands from the back room of Wal-Mart to the last 100 feet of the retailer’s shelves. Technology has played a significant role in the company’s success. Each representative is armed with state-of-the-art hand-held technology. This technology allows the representative to execute the brand’s marketing plan and also feed valuable transparent information to both the brand and Wal-Mart.

Anderson arrived in Knoxville in 1972 on a football scholarship. He played from 1972 to 1976 and received three varsity letters. In 1976, he received his degree in business with a major in marketing.

Over the years, Anderson has served on numerous committees at the University of Tennessee. Currently he is a member of the Board of Trustees and serves as chairman of the Finance and Administration Committee. He also serves as chairman of the University of Tennessee Athletics Committee. Anderson is on the board of the National Football Foundation—the college football Hall of Fame board. He is past president of the Country Music Association.

Anderson has been married to his wife, Moll Anderson, for 11 years and together they have four children and five grandchildren.

College of Agricultural Sciences and Natural Resources

Isaac BennettIsaac E. Bennett is the vice president of capital markets at the Farm Credit Bank of Texas in Austin. He graduated from UT in 1984 with a Bachelor of Science in agricultural education. He also holds a master’s degree in agribusiness from South Carolina State University and graduated from the Louisiana State University School of Banking.

He began working for Edisto Farm Credit (now known as AgSouth Farm Credit) in 1985 as a loan officer trainee and was later promoted to vice president and branch manager.

In 1990, Bennett joined the Capital Markets Group of AgFirst Farm Credit Bank in Columbia, South Carolina, as its vice president. In 2003, he joined the Capital Markets Group of the Farm Credit Bank of Texas as one of the initial members. He was named unit manager of the group in 2005 and now leads a team of 13. Since the group’s inception, loan volume has grown from approximately $800 million to over $7 billion.

Bennett is a member of Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity.

College of Communication and Information

Ken LoweKen Lowe is chairman of the board, president, and CEO of Scripps Networks Interactive, a leading global lifestyle media provider for television, the internet, and other media platforms. Previously, he was president and CEO of The E.W. Scripps Company from 2000 until 2008, when Scripps Networks Interactive became a separate, publicly traded company.

Prior to 2000, Lowe was chairman and CEO of Knoxville-based Scripps Networks. He built the company into one of the world’s fastest growing and most successful creators of unique brands for television and the internet. He founded and launched HGTV in 1994; oversaw the acquisition and transformation of the Food Network into an American pop culture icon; and presided over the launches of the DIY Network and the Cooking Channel as well as the acquisitions of the Travel Channel in 2009 and Great American Country television network in 2004. Since 2009, he has directed the company’s rapid expansion as a global media company, including the 2015 acquisition of Poland’s premier multiplatform and multichannel media company, TVN. Lowe also guided the development of the company’s growing portfolio of interactive content services in the food and home-lifestyle categories. The company’s media businesses now collectively engage more than 190 million consumers worldwide each month.

Lowe joined Scripps Networks in 1980 as general manager of the company’s radio properties. In 1988, he became vice president of programming, promotion, and marketing for the company’s nine network-affiliated television stations.

Lowe began his career in radio with Southern Broadcasting in 1969 and continued with various management positions in radio and television with Harte-Hanks Broadcasting in the late 1970s.

Lowe serves on the Board of Directors for the National Cable & Telecommunications Association, the Paley Center for Media, and the Cable Center. In the past, he served on the Cincinnati Business Committee and Cincinnati Center City Development Corporation. Lowe received a Bachelor of Arts in radio, television, and motion pictures from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

College of Education, Health, and Human Sciences

Sarah HillyerSarah Hillyer wants to live in a world filled with innovative ideas, thoughtful people, interesting books that come bundled with chocolate and peanut butter treats, and the time to vacuum and dust every day of the week.

As a consultant and educator with more than 25 years of experience, she’s worked with the US Department of State, United States Olympic and Paralympic Committees, National Hockey League, National Basketball Association, PGA of America, Women’s Tennis Association, Google, Procter and Gamble, and more, creating programs that use the unique attributes of sport and physical activity to create positive social change and promote peace around the world.

In 2011, Hillyer was named the Georgetown University Sport and Peacebuilding Post-Doctoral Fellow—a fellowship sponsored by HRH King Abdullah II of Jordan. In 2012, she launched the University of Tennessee Center for Sport, Peace, and Society, which is housed in UT’s College of Education, Health, and Human Sciences. The center was recognized by then Secretary of State Hillary Clinton as the sole cooperative partner of the State Department to create a global initiative designed to empower women, girls, and persons with disabilities through sport. Since 2012, Hillyer and her team have worked alongside more than 400 women, men, and youth from 75 countries. In 2013, the Public Diplomacy Council named the initiative as one of the top 10 diplomatic accomplishments in the world.

Sarah received her doctoral degree in the sociocultural study of sports from the University of Tennessee in 2010. She holds a master’s degree in sport psychology from Murray State University and a BA in sports administration from Liberty University. She was a division I NCAA basketball player at Virginia Tech.

When she’s not using sports to change the world, you can find her spending quality time with family, cuddling with their 150-pound puppy named Tali, or dreaming of life in a tiny house tall enough to have a basketball goal and wide enough for a three-point line. According to her coaches, she never met a three-point shot she didn’t like.

Tickle College of Engineering

Bennett CroswellBennett Croswell is president of Pratt & Whitney’s military engines business, where he oversees development, production, and support of the company’s military offerings, including the fifth-generation F119 and F135 engines for the F-22 and F-35 fighters, the F100 for the F-15 and F-16, the F117 for the C-17, and the PW4062 for the KC-46A, as well as development of the engine for the B-21 bomber and the small military engine and advanced engine program sectors.

Before beginning in his current role, Croswell held the position of vice president, F135/F119 programs. He also led the company’s maintenance data and support equipment team in supporting all military and commercial product lines and providing customers with innovative and cost-effective maintenance solutions.

Earlier leadership roles at Pratt & Whitney included vice president, military development programs, and vice president, advanced programs and technology. He has been part of three Pratt & Whitney teams that received the National Aeronautics Association’s prestigious Collier Trophy. Croswell first joined Pratt & Whitney in 1979.

He has a Bachelor of Science in mechanical engineering from UT and a Master of Business Administration from Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University. He is also a graduate of the Defense Systems Management College in Fort Belvoir, Virginia.

The author of several papers published by technical societies, Croswell serves as chair of the Tickle College of Engineering Advisory Board and is a member of the Board of Trustees for the Naval Aviation Museum Foundation.

College of Law

Paulette BrownPaulette Brown is the first woman of color to lead the American Bar Association in its 137-year history. As president of this voluntary-member organization of 400,000, Brown was responsible for governance, advocacy, and serving as the voice and face of the association. Because of her initiatives, four major policies were developed and approved by the association’s governing bodies that will have a long-lasting impact. Brown, who simultaneously served as the first person of color to chair the labor and employment section of the New Jersey State Bar Association, is a partner in the labor and employment group of Locke Lord LLP.

Brown has been honored by the National Law Journal as one of the 50 most influential minority lawyers in the United States and by U.S. News and World Report as one of the best lawyers in America. She also is nationally recognized for her efforts relating to diversity and inclusion and has received numerous awards including the Award of Excellence from the Thurgood Marshall College Fund, the Spirit of Excellence Award from the American Bar Association, and the Equal Justice Award from the National Bar Association.

College of Nursing

Tim HoltTim Holt is a registered nurse and clinical nurse educator at Piedmont Health System in Athens, Georgia. His clinical competency spans surgical urology, gynecology, nephrology, and adult critical care. His focus on all aspects of the patient experience drives his interest in nursing policy, leadership, and bridging the gap in mental health care for patients admitted to nonpsychiatric hospitals.

Holt completed the BSN to DNP program with a clinical focus in the psychiatric mental health nurse practitioner concentration. He is a member of the Sigma Theta Tau International Nursing Honor Society Gamma Chi chapter, the American Psychiatric Nurses Association, and the Georgia Board of Nursing. His DNP scholarly project focused on the early identification and management of delirium in the intensive care unit. He plans to continue his passion in developing a tool for pre-surgical mental health screening, advocating for advanced practice registered nurses full practice authority, and spearheading the movement to address the resurgence of black lung in Appalachia via public health policy improvement, extension, and education.

McKinsey PattersonMcKinsey Patterson is a graduating senior from Murfreesboro, Tennessee. While pursuing her nursing degree and a minor in leadership studies, she was involved as a nursing ambassador, the legislative director for the Tennessee Association of Student Nurses, the UT Student Nurses Association president, and the vice president of the Student Government Association. As a student in the Nursing Honors program, she focused on nurses and their understanding of their role in hospital reimbursement. In her own career, Patterson intends to empower nurses as leaders and serve as their lifelong advocate through hospital administration and policy improvement.


The Graduate School

Photo of Phil BredesenDuring his eight years as Tennessee’s 48th governor, Phil Bredesen led efforts that improved education, health care, and economic development.

Under his leadership, the state established the Tennessee Lottery program and associated scholarship programs. He rolled out a statewide Pre-K program and created the Governor’s Books from Birth Foundation, which expanded Dolly Parton’s Imagination Library to offer Tennessee children free books monthly through age five. He also helped improve teachers’ salaries and led the state in using objective student performance data to evaluate teachers.

Bredesen began the state-funded Governor’s Chairs program, which has attracted 15 renowned scholars and researchers to joint appointments at UT and Oak Ridge National Laboratory. He was also instrumental in creating UT’s Energy Science and Engineering doctoral program, which is housed in the Bredesen Center for Interdisciplinary Research and Graduate Education. The center was later named in his honor.

His leadership moved Tennessee forward economically. Bredesen helped recruit Volkswagen’s US manufacturing operations to Tennessee and won multi-billion dollar investments in alternative energy. During his tenure, Tennessee landed more than 40 new corporate headquarters and upwards of $27 billion in new investments.

CoverTN and CoverKids were launched to provide health insurance for working Tennesseans and uninsured children.

Bredesen led the state through a volatile economic time. By the time he left office, Tennessee had passed four balanced budgets, improved its bond ratings, and raised its Rainy Day Fund to a record high.

As Nashville mayor from 1991 to 1999, Bredesen led the revitalization of downtown, the recruitment of the Tennessee Titans and the Nashville Predators, expansion of library and park systems, and the construction of several new public schools.

Born in Oceanport, New Jersey, Bredesen graduated from Harvard University with a degree in physics. He moved to Nashville after marrying his wife, Andrea Conte. They have one grown son, Benjamin Bredesen.

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