On Friday, Dec. 16, approximately 1,363 students will graduate in two commencements in Thompson-Boling Arena, one for undergraduates at 9 a.m. and the other a graduate hooding ceremony at 3 p.m.
Former Tennessee governor and businessman Bill Haslam will address around 1,006 undergraduates as keynote speaker. Haslam, a Republican, served two terms as governor from 2011 to 2019. Before his tenure, he served two terms as mayor of Knoxville, from 2003 to 2011.
Haslam is the son of Jim Haslam, founder of the Pilot Corporation, which joint-owns Pilot Flying J, the largest truck stop chain in the nation. The corporation runs over 800 retail and fueling locations across the U.S. and Canada and supplies 14 billion gallons of fuel per year.
With a net worth of around $2 billion, Haslam was the wealthiest elected official in American during his tenure as governor.
The Haslam family, which also includes Bill Haslam’s brother Jimmy Haslam, owner of the Cleveland Browns, is one of the university’s largest donors, having given over $100 million to the business college alone. The college was renamed the Haslam College of Business following a $50 million gift in 2014.
The family name is also attached to the Natalie L. Haslam Music Center, opened in 2013, and the Haslam Scholars Program, the university’s top scholarship awarded to up to 15 incoming freshmen each year.
Since leaving office, Haslam has served on the board of directors for Teach for America and Young Life and was recently appointed by UT System President Randy Boyd to the Board of Fellows for the new Institute of American Civics in the Howard H. Baker Jr. Center for Public Policy at UT. The $6 million institute was signed into law by Gov. Bill Lee earlier this year, in order to combat what Lee called “anti-American thought.”
He was appointed alongside former Democratic Governor of Tennessee Phil Bredesen, who co-hosts a podcast with Haslam out of the Baker Center called “You Might be Right,” which began this year with a focus on bipartisan conversations about political issues. Guests so far have included former vice president Al Gore, former Speaker of the House Paul Ryan and former White House chief of staff Erskine Bowles.
Ashley Reeves, a doctoral candidate in the DVM-PhD program in veterinary medicine, will address graduates at the graduate hooding. Reeves’ research has focused on species conservation, with special attention to ocelot populations in Texas.
Parking for commencement will be available in the G10 and G5 lots, and graduates and guests may enter the arena 90 minutes prior to the beginning of each ceremony. No tickets are required for entry. A clear bag policy will be enforced, and cameras, video recorders and binoculars will be permissible without a case.
Both ceremonies will be livestreamed on the commencement website, which offers additional details about transportation and prohibited items. Graduates and guests are encouraged to use the hashtag #UTGrad2022 to document the day.
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