For the first time in 21 years, the Hall of Fame ceremony will take place virtually, offering the campus community and the public the opportunity to watch the induction ceremony and celebration. The ceremony had to be delayed last year due to COVID-19 restrictions. Those interested in attending must register at https://forms.as.uky.edu/hof-rsvp and can tune in at 7 p.m. EDT Friday, April 9, at www.as.uky.edu/hall-fame-live.
The 2020 alumni inductees include:
Ouita Papka Michel (Political Science B.A. ’87)
Since 2001, when Ouita Michel and her husband, Chris, opened their flagship Holly Hill Inn in Midway, Kentucky, she has made locally grown ingredients a priority in her cuisine. Michel’s restaurants have bought $3 million of Kentucky-grown meats, dairy and produce. 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 Cooking Channel. She was a guest judge on Season 16 of Bravo’s “Top Chef.”
Active in her community, Michel is a member of Southern Foodways Alliance, James Beard Foundation and Les Dames d’Escoffier; the free community supper programs coordinator for Midway Christian Church; board member of FoodChain, a nonprofit food incubator in Lexington; and founder of FEAST, a fundraiser for FoodChain that celebrates women chefs. In addition, she is board member of Hindman Settlement School, which is dedicated to enriching central Appalachian culture, and is a member of the Prichard Committee for Academic Excellence, a statewide citizens group working to improve education for Kentuckians. Recent honors include induction into the Junior Achievement Bluegrass Business Hall of Fame and the Bluegrass Tomorrow Josephine Abercrombie Award, given to a person who contributes tirelessly to improve quality of life in the Bluegrass.
Michel majored in political science at UK and was a member of the debate team, honors program (now Lewis Honors College) and the first class of Gaines Fellows. In 1986, she became only the second woman to win a national debate championship. After finishing her studies at UK, Michel moved to New York, where she graduated from the Culinary Institute of America in Hyde Park, New York.
Hon. Winn Fleming Williams (Sociology B.A. ’71)
Upon his graduation, he entered federal service in October 1974. After receiving his criminal investigator training at Quantico, Virginia, and the Federal Law Enforcement Training Center in Brunswick, Georgia, he became a federal law enforcement officer. During his federal career, he served in numerous capacities as a special agent and special agent in charge for law enforcement organizations across the country. He 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. He became the first director of the DHS training academy in Artesia, New Mexico.
Since leaving federal service, Williams has been a program manager, director of operations, vice president and senior consultant for security contracting companies across the country. In August 2017, he was appointed as a Municipal Court judge, serving the municipality of Greer in addition to the counties of Greenville and Spartanburg, South Carolina.
Among Williams’ many commendations are the President’s Council on Integrity and Efficiency Award for Excellence, the U.S. Attorney’s Award for outstanding achievement, two Department of Homeland Security gold medals and the Department of Homeland Security’s highest honor, the Secretary’s Excellence Award. He was also presented the University of Kentucky Distinguished Service Award in June 2019.
Within UK, he represents the College of Arts and Sciences for the UK Alumni Board, where he serves on the Leadership Advisory Council as well as the Diversity/LGBTQ committee. He is a past president of the UK Alumni Club as well as the president of the Kentucky Society, both in Washington, D.C. He lives outside Greenville, South Carolina.
George C. Wright (History B.A. ’72; Sociology M.A. ’74; Honorary Doctorate ’04)
George C. Wright received his bachelor’s degree in history from UK in 1972, his master’s degree in history from UK in 1974 and his Ph.D. in history from Duke University in 1977. Wright’s teaching experience began in 1997 as an assistant professor of history at UK. In 1980, he started teaching at the University of Texas at Austin, where he eventually became a full professor and the holder of the Mastin Gentry White professorship of Southern History. For 12 consecutive years at UT, Wright was voted one of the 10 Best Faculty on the annual list of “10 Best and 10 Worst Faculty.” He received the Jean Holloway Award for Teaching Excellence in the College of Arts and Sciences and the top teaching award for the entire university, the Lillian and Tom B. Rhodes Centennial Teaching Fellow, which carried a $10,000 prize.
In 1993, Wright joined the faculty at Duke University as vice provost for undergraduate programs and director of Afro-American Studies, and he held the William R. Kenan Jr. Chair in American History. From 1996 to 2003, Wright served as executive vice president for academic affairs and provost at the University of Texas at Arlington. He served as president of Prairie View A&M University from 2003 to 2017.
Wright has received a number of awards from UK, including an honorary Doctorate of Letters and induction into the Hall of Distinguished Alumni. He is a distinguished research professor at UK and senior adviser to the president. Also, during the 2020-21 school year, he is serving as the interim vice president for institutional diversity at UK.
Wright has written three books on race relations. For his scholarly activities, Wright received the UK Libraries’ Medallion for Intellectual Achievement in 2015.
Bing Zhang (Statistics M.S. ’91 & Ph.D. ’94; Computer Science M.S. ’93)
Born in the Jiangsu province in China, Bing Zhang arrived in the United States to study at UK in 1989. Zhang flourished at UK, diving deep into graduate statistics courses and work, tutoring in English, pursuing an active life in the Department of Statistics and experiencing life among a growing Chinese student population on campus and in the community. A successful student, Zhang earned his master’s and doctoral degrees in statistics in 1991 and 1994 respectively. He also earned a master’s in computer science from UK in 1993.
Zhang 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, he has applied statistical expertise to the development of new drugs in various therapeutic areas and contributed to a number of new drugs approved for the treatment of hypertension, hyperlipidemia, asthma, psychiatric disorders and pain.
Zhang is passionate about giving back. Zhang and his wife, Rachel, founded a private foundation to support community services, scientific research and education. Zhang has also 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.
Bing and Rachel currently live in Orlando, Florida, and have two children, Emily and Brian, both born in Lexington.
The 2020 faculty inductees include:
Patricia A. Cooper (Gender and Women’s Studies)
Patty Cooper, born in 1949, grew up in Blacksburg, Virginia. 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. Eager to help rewrite the conventional narrative of U.S. history, Cooper started graduate studies in 1972 at the University of Maryland. She focused on women’s, Black and working-class history and held assistantships with the Booker T. Washington Papers and the Samuel Gompers Papers editorial projects. She received an M.A. in American studies in 1973 and a Ph.D. in U.S. history in 1981.
After a year’s fellowship at the Museum of American History at the Smithsonian Institution, Cooper in 1983 joined the History and Politics Department of Drexel University in Philadelphia. She worked with other faculty and staff to create processes for addressing sexual harassment. She collaborated with Ellen Rose and other faculty at Drexel to establish a women’s studies program and taught the first course at Drexel in U.S. women’s history. Her book, “Once a Cigar Maker: Men, Women and the American Cigar Industry, 1900-1920,” appeared in 1987.
Cooper moved to UK in 1993 as director of the Women’s Studies Program with a joint appointment in the Department of History. In her first year as director, Cooper helped create bylaws and guidelines for faculty affiliation with the program and secured paid staff for the first time. She helped to launch the Women’s Studies Graduate Certificate and with assistance secured a suite of rooms in Patterson Office Tower for new program offices. After four years, she stepped down as director. Cooper served on the UK Commission on the Status of Women and taught classes in the women’s studies and history departments.
In 2009, the renamed Gender and Women’s Studies Program became a department with a major, and Cooper became its first chair. She helped in the final stages of the approval process for the department’s Ph.D. program, which was established in 2012. Cooper stepped down as chair in June of 2012 and began phased retirement. She has had fun traveling, hiking and volunteering for RVing Women, her neighborhood association and God’s Pantry in Lexington.
Ronald D Eller (History)
Originally from southern West Virginia, Ron Eller has spent more than 40 years writing and teaching about the Appalachian region. He served for 15 years as the 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. As a Distinguished Professor of History at UK, Eller spoke on Appalachian issues at colleges, conferences and community forums throughout the nation, and he served as a frequent consultant to civic organizations and the national media. A former Rockefeller Foundation Scholar, he holds a Ph.D. in American history from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and is known as a scholar of Appalachian history and the study of rural economic development and social change.
He 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” published by University Press of Kentucky, 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. Among other awards, he is the recipient of the Jim Wayne Miller Award for Distinguished Service to Appalachia, two East Kentucky Leadership Foundation Special Awards (1999 and 2009) and the UK William E. Lyons Award for Outstanding Public Service. Also, he has worked on projects in rural education reform with the Ford Foundation, the American Council on Education and the American Association of Community Colleges, and he has served as the John D. Whisman Visiting Scholar for the Appalachian Regional Commission in Washington. He retired from teaching in 2013.