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Lyman T. Johnson award winners announced

By Meredith Weber 

College of Arts and Sciences Lyman T. Johnson award winners with Dean Ana Franco-Watkins.
College of Arts and Science Lyman T. Johnson award winners with Dean Ana Franco-Watkins.

LEXINGTON, Ky. (Sept. 27, 2023) — Nearly 40 University of Kentucky alumni and students will be honored during the 32nd annual Lyman T. Johnson Awards Luncheon 11 a.m. Friday, Oct. 13, in the Gatton Student Center Grand Ballroom on UK’s campus.   

UK’s academic colleges and units select at least one Black alumnus whose faith, hard work and determination has positively affected the lives of people on the UK campus, the city, state or nation. These individuals receive the Lyman T. Johnson Torch of Excellence award. At least one Black student who displays outstanding academic achievement and the ability to impact the lives of others is nominated to receive the Lyman T. Johnson Torch Bearer award.  

Tickets for the Lyman T. Johnson Awards Luncheon are $40 for individuals and $500 for a reserved VIP table of eight. The luncheon features Shelli Freeland Eddie, a graduate of UK’s College of Arts and Sciences and the J. David Rosenberg College of Law, who will present the keynote. Tickets can be purchased by visiting  

Lyman T. Johnson was a pioneer who challenged the status quo in his landmark court case which opened the University of Kentucky to Black students in 1949. He dedicated his life to fighting against segregation and racial inequalities in Kentucky. The Lyman T. Johnson African American Constituency Group established an endowed scholarship in 2008 in his name to provide financial assistance to students of color in their pursuit of higher education.  

The list of awardees by college are as follows:  

Martin-Gatton College of Agriculture, Food and Environment  

Torch of Excellence — Christopher Chance  

Torch Bearer – Harrison Goode  

College of Arts and Sciences  

Torch of Excellence — Eric Smaw  

Torch Bearer — Sam Carrick 

Torch Bearer — Sherelle Roberts   

Gatton College of Business and Economics  

Torch of Excellence — Marilyn F. Clark  

Torch Bearer — Jordan Droege 

College of Communication and Information  

Torch of Excellence — Celeste Warren 

Torch Bearer — Nigel Taylor 

College of Dentistry  

Torch of Excellence — Kwane Watson  

Torch Bearer — Jocelyn Murtha  

College of Design  

Torch of Excellence — Irvin Shaifa  

Torch Bearer — Julia Lutete  

College of Education  

Torch of Excellence — Falynn Thompson

Torch Bearer — Enrika Wright  

Stanley and Karen Pigman College of Engineering  

Torch of Excellence — William D. Thomas 

Torch Bearer — Clifton Grady 

College of Fine Arts  

Torch of Excellence — Angel Laketa Moore  

Torch Bearer — Michael Daniels  

The Graduate School  

Torch of Excellence — Natalie Gibson 

Torch Bearer — Kayla Woodson  

College of Health Sciences  

Torch of Excellence — Harold Dennis Jr.  

Torch Bearer — Kinya Embry 

J. David Rosenberg College of Law  

Torch of Excellence — Carolyn Ann Greene  

Torch Bearer — Desmond Varner Jr.  

Lewis Honors College  

Torch of Excellence — Eseosa Ighodaro  

Torch Bearer — Zora Woolfolk 

College of Medicine  

Torch of Excellence — Kimerli Plumb-Moore  

Torch Bearer — Kendall Noble Halcomb  

Torch Bearer — Jamila Tucker  

College of Nursing 

Torch of Excellence — Shirre Hodges 

Torch Bearer — Chloe Kellom 

College of Pharmacy  

Torch of Excellence — Pheli Roberts  

Torch Bearer — Kristen Crowe  

College of Public Health  

Torch of Excellence — Ahmad Alexander  

Torch Bearer — Destiny Cozart  

  College of Social Work  

Torch of Excellence — Elaine Wilson

Torch Bearer — Rujeko Machinga-Asaolu 

For more information about the UK Alumni Association, visit or call 800-269-2586.  

As the state’s flagship, land-grant institution, the University of Kentucky exists to advance the Commonwealth. We do that by preparing the next generation of leaders — placing students at the heart of everything we do — and transforming the lives of Kentuckians through education, research and creative work, service and health care. We pride ourselves on being a catalyst for breakthroughs and a force for healing, a place where ingenuity unfolds. It's all made possible by our people — visionaries, disruptors and pioneers — who make up 200 academic programs, a $476.5 million research and development enterprise and a world-class medical center, all on one campus.   

In 2022, UK was ranked by Forbes as one of the “Best Employers for New Grads” and named a “Diversity Champion” by INSIGHT into Diversity, a testament to our commitment to advance Kentucky and create a community of belonging for everyone. While our mission looks different in many ways than it did in 1865, the vision of service to our Commonwealth and the world remains the same. We are the University for Kentucky.