Last night I attended the University of Kentucky Honors and Recognition Awards Program. A colleague was receiving an award and I was there to celebrate his achievement. The event ended up being over three hours long. Three hours! Anyone who has ever attended an awards ceremony would cringe at the thought. If I had been told beforehand that I would be sitting in my folding chair for three hours, I might have reconsidered going. But I would have missed an amazing evening.
The emcee for the night (a student) was composed and gracious. That in itself made me proud. Several administrators who presented awards were not as fluent and engaging as our emcee. But the true stars of the evening were the student award recipients. I do not understand how students can receive degrees (sometimes two or three degrees) in difficult majors, participate in a bazillion extracurricular and philanthropic activities, and still find time to sleep. One professor made a simple, but eloquent statement. He wrote, “[The student] is an extraordinary individual,” and then listed the student’s honors and achievements. He ended by stating, “One might ask, ‘How does one person successfully accomplish all of this?’ That’s what makes him extraordinary.”
Many of the honorees had been involved with Dance Blue, a student-initiated, student-run fundraiser to benefit the UK Children’s Hospital. This year that event raised over 1.1 million dollars. One young woman was recognized, in part, for spearheading a group that raised over $27,000, the largest donation made to this event by a single organization.
At times the presenter would read a quote attributed to the award recipient. Some excerpts from those quotes include: “I have found that the best way to learn about myself is by serving others” and “It’s amazing what a group can accomplish when nobody in the group cares who gets the credit.” With these philosophies, how can we not have hope for the future?
The University of Kentucky has several great, nationally ranked academic programs, but is not known nationally as an academic powerhouse. In fact, I’ve heard murmurings from colleagues that other schools consider Kentucky students a bunch of country hicks. It doesn’t matter, because I know the truth. We have amazing students. We have extraordinary students. I couldn’t be prouder to be associated with them and the University of Kentucky.