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Hall of Fame: Honoring outstanding alumni and emeriti faculty

The College of Arts & Sciences inducts six new members into its Hall of Fame

The College of Arts & Sciences inducted the 2020 Hall of Fame alumni and faculty class in a virtual ceremony April 9, 2021. Visit to read more about the 2020 inductees and to view the event. 

Alumni Inductees

Ouita Papka Michel, Political Science B.A. ’87, was a member of the debate team, honors program and the first class of Gaines fellows. In 1986, she became only the second woman to win a national debate championship. As a restaurateur, Michel has made locally grown ingredients a priority in her cuisine since 2001 when she and her husband, Chris, opened their flagship restaurant Holly Hill Inn in Midway, Kentucky. She has been a James Beard Foundation Award nominee numerous times; her most recent nomination was in 2020 for Outstanding Restaurateur. Michel and her restaurants are regularly featured in media such as The New York Times, Southern Living, Garden & Gun, Food Network and the Cooking Channel. She was also a guest judge on Season 16 of Bravo’s Top Chef.

The Honorable Winn Fleming Williams, Sociology B.A. ‘71, entered federal service upon graduating from the University of Kentucky. During his federal career, he served in numerous capacities as a special agent in charge for law enforcement organizations across the country. Williams also served on many anti-terrorism and counter-terrorism, anti-gang, drug enforcement and white-collar crime task forces. His senior management skills and services were also lent to the White House, the Office of Management and Budget and the Nuclear Regulatory Commission. After 9/11, he was recruited to assist in the creation of two new federal agencies, the Transportation Security Administration and the Department of Homeland Security. A fourth-generation Wildcat, Williams was a founding member of the Arts & Sciences Alumni Advisory Board and received the UK Alumni Association Distinguished Service Award in 2019. He lives outside of Greenville, South Carolina.

Dr. George C. Wright, History B.A. ’72, Sociology M.A. ’74, Honorary Doctorate '04, also earned a Ph.D. in history from Duke University. His illustrious career as a scholar and administrator has included stints at the University of Kentucky, Duke University and the University of Texas at Arlington, where he served as executive vice president for academic affairs and provost. He is the author of three books on the history of African Americans in Kentucky, including Life Behind a Veil: Blacks in Louisville, Kentucky, 1865-1930. In 2003, Wright became the seventh president of Prairie View A&M University, an historically Black college and the second-oldest public institution of higher education in the state of Texas.  He served as president until 2017. That same year, he returned to Lexington as a visiting professor of history to help UK commemorate the 70th anniversary of its integration. Currently, he is a distinguished research professor and senior adviser to President Eli Capilouto. He is also serving as the interim vice president for the University’s Office of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion. Wright is the recipient of many awards for his scholarship and service. In 2004, he was inducted into UK’s Hall of Distinguished Alumni.

Dr. Bing Zhang, Statistics M.S. ’91 & Ph.D. ’94, Computer Science M.S. ’93, was born in the Jiangsu province in China and arrived in the United States to study at UK in 1989. He began his professional career in Lexington as a biostatistician and then moved his young family to the Philadelphia area to begin work at AstraZeneca. He founded MacroStat Inc., a statistics consulting firm that serves pharmaceutical companies, in 2002. He cofounded MacroStat (China) Clinical Research Ltd. in 2005. The company has since merged with Tigermed, the leading clinical contract research organization in China. Throughout his career, Zhang has applied statistical expertise to the development of new drugs in various therapeutic areas and contributed to several new drugs approved for the treatment of hypertension, hyperlipidemia, asthma, psychiatric disorders and pain. Zhang has been an engaged and generous supporter of his alma mater and especially the Department of Statistics. In 2020, the University of Kentucky Board of Trustees named the department the Dr. Bing Zhang Department of Statistics in recognition of his philanthropy. He currently lives in Orlando, Florida. 

Dr. Patricia A. Cooper (Gender & Women’s Studies) grew up in Blacksburg, Virginia, and her feminist consciousness and anti-war activism arose while she was an undergraduate student at Mary Washington College and Wittenberg University from 1967 to 1971. As a graduate student at the University of Maryland, Cooper focused on women’s, Black and working-class history and received an M.A. in American Studies in 1973 and a Ph.D. in U.S. history in 1981. In 1983, she joined the History and Politics Department of Drexel University in Philadelphia where she worked with others to create processes for addressing sexual harassment and helped establish a women’s studies program. Cooper moved to UK in 1993 as director of the Women’s Studies Program. She helped launch the Women’s Studies Graduate Certificate, served on the UK Commission on the Status of Women and was the first chair when the Gender and Women’s Studies Program became a department in 2009.

Dr. Ronald D Eller (History) is originally from southern West Virginia and has spent more than 40 years writing and teaching about the Appalachian region. He served for 15 years as director of the UK Appalachian Center, where he coordinated research and service programs on a wide range of Appalachian policy issues including education, health care, economic development, civic leadership and the environment. Eller holds a Ph.D. in American history from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and has published more than 60 articles and reports, but is most well-known for his award-winning books. Miners, Millhands and Mountaineers: The Industrialization of the Appalachian South was a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize in 1983 and won the 1982 Willis Weatherford Award in Appalachian Studies and the 1983 Thomas Wolfe Literary Award. His most recent book, Uneven Ground: Appalachia Since 1945, won a second Willis Weatherford Award in 2008 as well as the 2009 V.O. Key Award from the Southern Political Science Association. Eller has served as chair of the Governor’s Kentucky Appalachian Task Force, the first chair of the Kentucky Appalachian Commission and as a member of the Sustainable Communities Task Force of President Clinton’s Council on Sustainable Development.

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