|Nationally prominent couple to serve as
Centre commencement speakers
Husband and wife Mitch McConnell and Elaine Chao to address Centre's 180th class
RELEASED: March 27, 2003
DANVILLE, KYA highly distinguished Kentucky couple with long-time service to the nation will address Centre College's graduating seniors this May.
U.S. Senator Mitch McConnell and Elaine Chao, U.S. Secretary of Labor, will speak on Sunday, May 25, at 3 p.m. at the graduation of Centre's 180th class. Graduation ceremonies will take place at Newlin Hall of Centre's Norton Center for the Arts.
Considered one of Washington's most influential people, McConnell is the only Republican in Kentucky history to be elected to four full terms in the U.S. Senate. That accomplishment broke the record of Centre alumnus John Sherman Cooper, under whom McConnell had once served as an intern. As majority whip, McConnell is often considered to hold the second most powerful position in the Senate. McConnell, who was raised in Louisville, currently serves as a ranking member of the Senate Rules Committee and the Foreign Operations Appropriations Subcommittee. He's also a senior member of the Agriculture and Appropriations committees, and a member of the Judiciary Committee.
McConnell is married to Elaine Chao, who has served as president of the United Way of America and director of the Peace Corps. Chao is the first Asian-American woman in U.S. history appointed to a President's cabinet. Secretary Chao's previous government career includes serving as the Deputy Secretary at the U.S. Department of Transportation, Chair of the Federal Maritime, and Commissioner and Deputy Maritime Administrator in the U.S. Department of Transportation.
As Director of the Peace Corps, Chao was one of the first Americans to personally embrace the people of the former communist bloc into the family of democratic nations, establishing Peace Corps programs in the Baltic nations of Latvia, Lithuania, Estonia and the newly independent states of the former Soviet Union. Later, as President and Chief Executive Officer of United Way of America, she restored public trust and confidence after the organization was tarnished by mismanagement and financial abuse, and helped to preserve the nation's largest institution of private charitable giving.
In addition to McConnell and Chao, philanthropist and businessman William T. Young, who founded W.T. Young Foods Inc., and Virginia G. Fox, former executive director and CEO of Kentucky Educational Television, will receive honorary degrees from the institution.
Among Young's many accomplishments is the establishment of a successful peanut butter company later purchased by Proctor & Gamble Co. Young's company became Jif, the world's leading brand. He founded many other businesses and has served on numerous boards.
Young also spearheaded the restoration of the Lexington Opera House, backed the construction of the Kentucky Center for the Arts in Louisville and a downtown Lexington YMCA, and played a key part in supporting the restoration of the Shaker Village at Pleasant Hill in Mercer County.
Virginia G. Fox joined KET in 1968 and became its deputy executive director in 1975. She was named chief operating officer in 1988 before becoming executive director and CEO in 1991.
During her tenure, KET increased the number and quality of its original productions and launched a new GED program through which 11,400 Kentucky adults have earned high school equivalency diplomas. KET launched the state's first digital television channels, which deliver enhanced programs and services to Kentucky viewers.
Student Congress President Alecia Gamm, a senior from Owenton, Ky., will also address the class.
The baccalaureate address will be given by Rick Axtell, Centre chaplain and assistant professor of religion.
Axtell, actively involved in the issues of hunger and homelessness, holds a bachelor of arts degree from Mississippi College. He earned a master of divinity degree and a doctorate from the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, and he has completed additional advanced studies at the University of Notre Dame.
While teaching and working in Louisville, Axtell was honored as Teacher of the Year at Bellarmine College and as Metro Louisville Hunger Activist of the Year.
The baccalaureate address will take place Sunday at 11 a.m. at Newlin Hall, followed by commencement at 3 p.m.
Centre's commencement celebration begins Saturday, May 24. The Senior Class Tribute will take place at 5:30 p.m. behind Old Centre. A senior class photograph will be taken at 6 p.m. followed by a party and picnic for seniors and their families on the lawn in front of Cowan Dining Commons.
The baccalaureate address is open to the public, while commencement and its Saturday celebrations, because of space limitations, is open only for family members of the graduates.
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