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Spring 2019 Commencement Speakers

College of Arts & Sciences

Nancy-Ann DeParleNancy-Ann DeParle is a partner and cofounder of Consonance Capital Partners, a private equity firm focused on investing in innovative health care companies in the lower middle market. She is a director of CVS Health and HCA Healthcare, as well as Consonance portfolio companies Enclara Pharmacia, Turn-Key Health, and Psychiatric Medical Care. From 2011 to January 2013, she was assistant to the president and deputy chief of staff for policy in the Obama White House. A health policy expert, DeParle previously served as counselor to the president and director of the White House Office of Health Reform, where she spearheaded the successful effort to enact the Affordable Care Act and managed the initial implementation of the law.

From 2006 to 2009, DeParle was a managing director of CCMP Capital Advisors and a senior advisor to its predecessor, JPMorgan Partners LLC. She was also a senior fellow at the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania and a trustee or director of several corporate and non-profit boards. From 1997 to 2000, DeParle was administrator of the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS). She directed Medicare, Medicaid, and State Children’s Health Insurance (SCHIP), which provide health insurance for more than 105 million Americans at an annual cost of $870 billion. Earlier in her career, she served as associate director for health and personnel at the White House Office of Management and Budget (OMB) and as commissioner of the Tennessee Department of Human Services.

A native of Rockwood, Tennessee, DeParle graduated from UT and received a bachelor’s degree with highest honors in liberal arts. She was in the College Scholars program and majored in history. She was also student body president. DeParle has a JD from Harvard Law School. She also received a BA and MA in politics and economics from Balliol College of Oxford University, where she was a Rhodes Scholar.

College of Architecture + Design

Sheila Dial-BartonSheila Dial Barton, AIA, LEED AP, is a principal with EOA Architects in Nashville. Founded in 1991, EOA is a medium-sized design firm known for what it calls humanizing design, an innovative approach to architectural practice. EOA’s achievements in sustainable and environmental design include the Pinnacle at Symphony Place, Nashville’s first high-rise to meet the LEED Gold standard for sustainability and resource efficiency, along with other sustainable projects including a mixed-use LEED Gold project in Baton Rouge, Louisiana. EOA has also been a leader in building information modeling, a 3D model–based process. The company’s recent work includes the new Tennessee State Museum, which opened in October 2018.

After studying interior design at the Art Institute of Atlanta, Barton received her Bachelor of Architecture degree from the University of Tennessee in 1997 and studied urban planning in Krakow, Poland, through a UT foreign exchange program. She has been involved with AIA, the American Institute of Architects, since graduation and has served on the AIA Honor Awards Jury and the AIA Middle Tennessee Board of Directors­, including a year as president. She has also served as director of the Middle Tennessee Young Architects Forum and a member of the Interior Design Advisory Board at O’More College of Design.

Barton is currently a member of the Metro Public Arts Committee. She serves on—and chaired in 2012—the board of the District, a group promoting historical districts in downtown Nashville. She is also a member of the Urban Land Institute and the Nashville Civic Design Center.

Herbert College of Agriculture

Bill JohnsonBill Johnson is president and CEO of Farm Credit Mid-America, a $23 billion agricultural cooperative serving more than 100,000 farmers, agribusinesses, and rural residents in Indiana, Ohio, Kentucky, and Tennessee. He has over 35 years of financial services experience within the Farm Credit System and has held leadership roles in Farm Credit entities across the country including the Midwest, Pacific Northwest, and New England.

Johnson came to Farm Credit Mid-America in March 2011 from AgriBank in Saint Paul, Minnesota, where he served as executive vice president–chief risk and information officer. He grew up on a small farm in southern Indiana and worked in his family’s farm supply business. Johnson has a Bachelor of Science degree from the University of Evansville and a Master of Business Administration from Gonzaga University, and is currently pursuing a doctoral degree at Vanderbilt University.

Johnson serves as chair of the Farm Credit System President’s Planning Committee and is a member of the Business Practices Committee. He is a board member of Denver-based Farm Credit Council Services and Indianapolis-based AgriNovus Indiana. He also serves on the Board of Visitors for the University of Evansville and is active at other universities in speaking and advisory roles.

Haslam College of Business

John C. ComptonJohn C. Compton is a partner at Clayton, Dubilier & Rice, a private investment firm with a strategy predicated on building stronger businesses. He became a CD&R partner in 2015 after serving as an operating advisor since 2013. Compton is a 29-year veteran and former president of PepsiCo Inc. He currently serves as chairman of High Ridge Brands, TruGreen, American Greetings Corporation, and Drive DeVilbiss Healthcare. Compton’s career at PepsiCo started at Frito-Lay in 1983. In 2002, after serving in positions of increasing responsibility in a variety of operational and sales capacities, he was appointed vice chairman and president of Frito-Lay North America. Compton went on to serve as CEO of PepsiCo Americas Foods, which included Frito-Lay North America, Quaker Oats brands, and all of PepsiCo’s Latin American food and snack businesses. He became global president of PepsiCo in 2011. He serves on the board of First Horizon National Corporation and was previously on the board of Pepsi Bottling Group Inc. In 2009, he was named a CEO of Tomorrow by BusinessWeek. Compton received a BS in finance from the University of Tennessee, where he is a lifetime member of the Haslam College of Business Advisory Council. In 2011, Compton was awarded the Distinguished Alumni Award, the University of Tennessee’s highest alumni honor. He currently serves as chair of the Board of Trustees of the University of Tennessee System.

College of Communication and Information

Martha S. WallenMartha S. “Missy” Wallen is the chairman of Pinnacle Financial Partners and a longtime member and former chair (2015–17) of the CCI Board of Visitors. She has been an influential leader in the Knoxville community during her more than 40-year career in the financial services industry.

In July 2014, Wallen was named chairman of Pinnacle Financial Partners, a Middle Tennessee-based bank system with operations in Tennessee, North Carolina, South Carolina, and Virginia. She previously served as regional president for Branch Banking and Trust Company (BB&T) in Knoxville (2007–13).

She started her banking career as a teller at First National Bank and steadily rose up the industry ranks, holding leadership positions at Valley Fidelity Bank and Trust Company, Bank of East Tennessee, and BankFirst, which was acquired by BB&T in 2000.

In addition to serving on the CCI Board of Visitors, Wallen is a past board member and executive committee member of the UT Knoxville Alumni Association. She also served as a member of UT Knoxville’s Chancellor’s Associates.

Her volunteer civic work and board service include: board member and audit chair of BlueCross BlueShield of Tennessee; vice chairman of the Development Corporation of Knox County; past treasurer of the Executive Women’s Association; past chairman of the American Red Cross, Knoxville Area Chapter; past chairman of the Knoxville Symphony Orchestra; and member of the Great Smoky Mountain Sertoma. She was part of the Leadership Knoxville Class of 2004.

Wallen has won a number of awards including: the 2017 UT Knoxville Alumni Board of Directors Alumni Service Award, the 2006 BB&T East Tennessee Region President’s Award, and Knoxville Catholic High School’s Volunteer Coach’s Award. In recognition of her tremendous generosity and support of CCI, the Martha S. Wallen Classroom was dedicated in her honor on March 5, 2010. In 2016, Wallen created the William H. Swain Endowed Professorship, in honor of her father, in CCI’s School of Communication Studies.

Wallen graduated from the University of Tennessee in 1974 with a bachelor’s degree in speech and theater. She later earned a degree from the Graduate School of Banking at Louisiana State University (’88) and completed the Owen School of Management Executive Leadership Program at Vanderbilt University (’99).

Wallen is married to Joe B. Wallen Jr. They have two daughters: Hallie Elizabeth and Marianne Connolly.

College of Education, Health, and Human Sciences

Keith CarverKeith Carver just completed his second year as the 11th chancellor of the University of Tennessee at Martin. Under Carver’s leadership, UT Martin has experienced exciting growth and a renewed energy about the future.

Celebrating 21 years of service at the University of Tennessee, Carver previously served as executive assistant to the president from January 2011 to December 2016. Prior to that, he held roles at UT campuses in Knoxville, Martin, and Memphis, including serving as interim vice chancellor for development and alumni affairs at UT Health Science Center and assistant vice chancellor for development at UT Martin. He held several positions at UT Knoxville including director of development and alumni affairs for the College of Law, program director for the Office of Student Activities, and co-director of TeamVOLS (community outreach and service program).

Carver has a bachelor’s degree in sociology from the University of Memphis, as well as a master’s degree in college student personnel and a doctoral degree in higher education administration from UT Knoxville. His doctoral dissertation was titled, “A Study of Presidential Derailment in Public Research Universities.”

Carver and his wife, Hollianne, are the parents to daughter, Carson, and two sons, Jack Thomas (J.T.) and Britton.

Tickle College of Engineering

Jerry L. JohnsonJerry L. Johnson is a founding member and partner of the private equity firm RLJ Equity Partners. He has been involved in all the phases of the firm’s development since 2007. RLJ, founded by Robert L. Johnson and the Carlyle Group, acquires controlling positions in United States–based middle market companies. Johnson’s career includes experience as a merchant banker with Donaldson, Lufkin, and Jenrette, and as a management consultant with McKinsey & Company.

He was appointed by President George W. Bush as a White House Fellow to serve as a special assistant to the secretary of defense; his exemplary work on the Quadrennial Defense Review earned him the Secretary of Defense Medal for Exceptional Public Service. He serves on the boards of Crossfuze (chairman), Naylor (chairman), Native Maine (chairman), Command Security (chairman, Compensation Committee), Illumen Capital (Investment Committee), and the Library of Congress James Madison Council. He is a member of the New York Economic Club, Young Presidents’ Organization, the University of Tennessee Investment Advisory Council, and the Tickle College of Engineering Board of Advisors. He is also a life member of the Council on Foreign Relations.

Johnson received his MBA from Harvard Business School and his bachelor’s in chemical engineering, summa cum laude, from the University of Tennessee, Knoxville. While at UT, he served as president of the Tau Beta Pi Engineering Honor Society, and he was recognized with the university’s Distinguished Alumni Award in 2009.

Johnson is a native of Atmore, Alabama. He and his wife, Cara Grayer Johnson, have two children, Cayden and Grayer, and reside in Washington, DC, and West Tisbury, Massachusetts.

College of Law

Ali SafaviAli Safavi received his BA in sociology from UCLA and his MBA and JD degrees from the University of Tennessee. Safavi’s impressive executive corporate experience stretches across several household-name companies, including Hewlett-Packard, Sara Lee, Levi’s, Haagen-Dazs, Procter & Gamble, and Disney. While at Procter & Gamble in a key brand management role, Safavi led the company’s most significant and successful brand launch in Febreze Air Effects—worth $200 million in profitable revenue. Safavi’s last corporate role before diving full-time into real estate was heading up The Walt Disney Company’s international business with a focus on Europe, Asia, Latin America, the Middle East, and Africa. He has held a number of different positions across Disney, including areas such as brand management, distribution, sales, and global account management.

Safavi’s passion is real estate investing. He owns multiple cash-flowing properties across the nation, allowing him to retire before the age of 40. Safavi happily resides in Los Angeles, California, close to the most important thing in his life—his family.

College of Nursing


Kayla LekoKayla Leko is a graduating senior from Knoxville. She has served the UT Student Nurses Association as president (2018–19) and secretary (2017–18). While pursuing her nursing degree, she was a member of the International Honor Society of Nursing, Sigma Theta Tau, and she will be graduating summa cum laude. This past April, she was awarded a Student Nurse Excellence Award from the Tennessee Nurses Association, District 2. For the past three years, Leko has worked as a resident assistant at Laurel Hall. During her time with UT Housing she was a winner of The Rock award for unsung hero and the Stephen Stoll Award for Outstanding Community Development. She has accepted a position at CHI Memorial Hospital in Chattanooga in the medical/surgical telemetry track.


Jennifer ShearerJennifer Shearer Miller is pursuing her PhD in nursing. She graduated with a Bachelor of Science in Nursing from the University of Tennessee and her Master of Science in Nursing from Tennessee State University. Shearer Miller is a registered nurse with experience in neonatal intensive care. She is completing her PhD with a dissertation focusing on examining the long-term effect of neonatal abstinence syndrome (NAS) on neurodevelopmental health in children through the age of 10. Over the past two years, she has worked as a graduate teaching assistant for the College of Nursing as a clinical instructor for the undergraduate nursing students. Her long-term goals include pursuing a faculty position and continuing her research to explore and improve outcomes in newborns with NAS.

College of Social Work


Mackenzie Nicole HunterMackenzie Nicole Hunter is an honors BSSW, first-generation college student, graduating summa cum laude. She has served as a College of Social Work ambassador and Bachelor’s Social Work Organization (BSWO) community service chair. This year she served as the BSWO president. Hunter received the Extraordinary Academic Achievement Award and the Extraordinary Professional Promise Award at the 2019 Chancellor’s Honors Banquet. She has loved every second of her last four years in Henson Hall.


Morgan Elizabeth BookerMorgan Elizabeth Booker earned her undergraduate degree from Louisiana State University in Baton Rouge, Louisiana. In 2013, she graduated with a bachelor’s degree in child and family studies and a minor in psychology. Booker came to UT to pursue a Master’s of Science in Social Work and a certificate in veterinary social work. While at UT, she and her Shetland sheepdog, Saint, completed the Human Animal Bond in Tennessee (HABIT) therapy dog certification program. During her time in Knoxville, the pair visited elementary schools on a weekly basis. After graduation, Booker will return to Louisiana where she aspires to continue facilitating animal-assisted interventions in her social work career and begin a career as a professional social worker.

The Graduate School

Originally from Scotland, Jamie Alexander Greig is receiving his PhD in communication and information, focusing on electric cooperatives as a solution to broadband access in rural areas. He has an MS in communication and information from UT and a BA with first class honors in journalism from Robert Gordon University in Aberdeen, Scotland.

As a graduate student, Greig has been a research associate, compiling a “Treatise on Communication Law and Practice” with Professor Stuart N. Brotman, and a teaching associate, during which time he served as primary instructor for five courses in the School of Journalism and Electronic Media. Greig was awarded a grant by the Office of Information Technology to redesign a multimedia storytelling course for online delivery and was the recipient of the Edward J. Meeman Fellowship in International Communication (2014, 2016, and 2017) and the Karl A. and Madira Bickel Scholarship. In 2017, he was a finalist in UT’s 3MT competition and was awarded an Institute for Information Policy Honorarium for his research on broadband access. His research on broadband access and communication policy has been published in the Journal of Information Policy and the Atlantic Journal of Communication.

Greig has served as both senate chair and vice president of the Graduate Student Senate. Outside of UT, he is currently the communications director for the Broadcast Education Association’s Law and Policy division. He has also frequently volunteered with the SEAD (Sustainable Equitable Agricultural Development) taskforce, an initiative of the Community Economic Development Network of East Tennessee. This taskforce works to develop and establish sustainable, practical, and long-term, land-based economic projects with rural East Tennessee organizations and is currently focused on bringing high-speed fiber optic broadband to rural communities in Tennessee. Greig’s work with SEAD resulted in a $400,000 national first-place award from the Mozilla Foundation and NSF to identify community-based solutions to rural broadband connectivity.

After graduating, Greig will project manage a community broadband project in Tennessee and will connect this work to UT through a research fellowship at the Howard H. Baker Jr. Center for Public Policy. Greig lives in Fountain City with his wife, Kaylen Mallard, who is the chief development officer for Remote Area Medical.

Chancellor’s Honors Program

Drew HolcombDrew Holcomb is best known as the singer–songwriter who fronts the band Drew Holcomb and The Neighbors. After graduating from UT, Holcomb, a Memphis native, went on to attend the University of St. Andrew’s in Scotland, where he earned a master’s degree in divinity. Holcomb married fellow UT honors alumnus and musician Ellie Bannister in 2006. Shortly after marrying, Drew Holcomb and The Neighbors was formed. To date, the group has released 12 studio albums.