KNOXVILLE – Five University of Tennessee graduates who have achieved exceptional success in the fields of agriculture, athletics, business and law are being honored Friday for exceptional service to their alma mater with the highest awards given by the University, designated and presented by the president of UT.
“When a university makes education and preparation possible, that facilitates tremendous career success. And when successful individuals express their gratitude with service and support to their alma mater, they are making it possible for others to follow in their footsteps—for generations,” UT President Joe DiPietro said. “The legacy of those we honor for their support and service is a better UT, better opportunities for our graduates and a better society for everyone.”
Hank Lauricella will receive the Jim and Natalie Haslam Presidential Medal. Donnie and Terry Smith will receive the Philanthropist of the Year Award. Dr. Philip Wenk will receive the President’s Council Service Award, and Worrick Robinson IV will be inducted into the UT Alumni Association past presidents’ council. The awards will be presented during the President’s Council Awards Dinner Friday evening.
The Jim and Natalie Haslam Presidential Medal is presented for outstanding contributions to philanthropic efforts through exemplary giving, volunteer leadership and service. Lauricella came to UT Knoxville as a student in 1949 and played football at the quarterback and tailback positions for Gen. Robert Neyland. Lauricella led the Volunteers to a national championship in 1951 and earned consensus All-American honors and was a runner-up for the Heisman Trophy.
After graduating in 1953, Lauricella played professional football for the Dallas Texans in 1952 before serving the U.S. Army as a first lieutenant from 1953 through 1955, including a one-year tour of duty in Korea. Lauricella then was a long-time Louisiana legislator, serving eight years as a member of the Louisiana House of Representatives and 24 years as a Louisiana state senator. At the same time, he was manager and general partner of Lauricella Land Company.
The Philanthropist of the Year Award is given to a donor who has made one or more significant gifts of profound impact on the University. This year, Donnie Smith and his wife, Terry Smith, have partnered with the UT Institute of Agriculture (UTIA) to establish a new faculty chair position to help bring science-based agricultural solutions to areas of the world with struggling agricultural practices and economies. The Donald and Terry Smith Endowed Chair in International Sustainable Agriculture will be a prestigious, permanently funded position able to attract and retain highly accomplished scientists.
Donnie Smith received a bachelor’s degree in animal science from the UTIA College of Agricultural Sciences and Natural Resources. He joined Tyson Foods in 1980 and was named CEO in 2009. Terry Smith received a bachelor’s degree in education from the UT Knoxville College of Education and is actively engaged in the family’s international agricultural interests.
The President’s Council Service Award recognizes an individual’s exceptional service toward the advancement of excellence at UT. The 2014 recipient, Dr. Philip Wenk, received a bachelor’s degree from UT Knoxville in 1973, and he graduated from the UT Health Science Center College of Dentistry in 1977. Wenk, who is president and CEO of Delta Dental of Tennessee, was the company’s chief operating officer from 1997 to 2000, following a 20-year career as a practicing dentist in Clinton, Tenn.
Wenk volunteers his time and service to the University in numerous capacities. He is a member of the President’s Council, the UT College of Dentistry Alumni Board of Trustees, the UT Alumni Legislative Council, the UT Health Science Center Foundation Board and the UT Health Science Center Development Council. Wenk also is national chairman of the UT College of Dentistry Capital Campaign Committee.
Worrick Robinson IV is the 106th person to serve as president of the national UT Alumni Association. Robinson’s term as UTAA president ended on June 30, and he is being inducted into the UTAA Past Presidents Council. Robinson, whose father, Worrick Robinson III, also is a past president of UTAA, received a bachelor’s degree in business from UT Knoxville in 1987.
Robinson is a partner with the Nashville law firm Robinson Reagan & Young PLLC and a frequent lecturer at universities, corporate and professional organizations, and continuing legal education seminars on sports and entertainment. Robinson also is an adjunct professor at Belmont University, where he teaches sports law in the MBA program.
Established in 1836, the UTAA is one of the oldest alumni organizations among public institutions in the United States and represents alumni of every UT campus, who now number more than 355,000 around the world.
More about the awards:
The Jim and Natalie Haslam Presidential Medal was first presented in 2007 to Sen. Howard H. Baker, Jr. In addition to exemplary giving, leadership and service, honorees demonstrate a willingness and ability to motivate others to support the University, lifelong devotion to UT and higher education, and a personal history of integrity and excellence in all aspects of life.
Previous medal winners are Clayton McWhorter (2013), Andrea Loughry (2012), Phil Bredesen (2011), Scott Probasco Jr. (2010), Pat Summitt (2009), and Peyton Manning (2008).
The Philanthropist of the Year Award also was initiated in 2007, and presented to Jane and David Bailey. Previous recipients include Dr. Robert Kaplan (2013), Brenda Lawson (2012), Moll and Charles Anderson (2011), John and Ann Tickle (2010), Kathleen and Tom Elam (2009) andBarbara and Ralph Hamilton (2008).Tags: Donnie Smith, Hank Lauricella, Philip Wenk, Terry Smith, Worrick Robinson IV