Lee University will award Governor Bill Haslam an honorary
doctorate when he delivers their winter commencement address on the
Cleveland campus this weekend, officials announced Thursday.
"We are honored that the governor is taking time to come and
speak to our graduates," said Lee President Paul Conn, "and we feel
it's the perfect opportunity to recognize the governor's many years
of exceptional service in public life. We are glad he has
agreed to accept this degree, a Doctor of Laws, as part of
Conn explained that the Doctor of Laws degree is the honorary
degree most commonly given to recognize accomplishment in
government. It is the first time Lee has given such a degree
to an elected official, and only the thirteenth honorary degree the
school has awarded in the past twenty-five years.
Saturday's commencement ceremony at Lee is the first of three
graduations during the school year. The university will
confer bachelors and masters degrees to 275 graduates, a record
number for the December graduation. "It's shaping up to be a
big day," Conn continued, "a major milestone for a lot of students
and their families. We are grateful Governor Haslam will be
here to be a part of that moment.
"Lee University places a strong emphasis on serving
others. Our graduates this weekend have been taught the
importance of service since they arrived on campus as
freshmen. It makes sense for us to bestow an honor like this
on such an exemplary public servant as Governor Haslam."
In addition to Haslam's commencement address, the graduates and
their guests will hear music by the Lee University Chorale. A
full house is expected in the 1800-seat Conn Center, and the
500-seat Dixon Center next door will be linked via widescreen
video. In addition, the ceremony is being live-streamed on
the university website, www.leeuniversity.edu/video.
"We know Governor Haslam will provide our graduates with a
wonderful example of a successful businessman who left private
business to serve the public in government leadership," Conn
said. "We are complimented that he would come to participate
in our commencement, of course, but we also believe he can offer an
important challenge to our graduates, whatever their political
Haslam, who was elected to be Tennessee's governor in 2010, is a
native of Knoxville. He graduated from Emory University as a
history major in 1980. Working in his family business, Pilot
Corporation, he eventually became president of that company.
He was elected mayor of Knoxville in 2003 and served in that office
until his run for the governorship.
Haslam and his wife Crissy have two daughters and a
son. They are members of the Cedar Springs Presbyterian Church
in Knoxville, where he served as an elder for 22 years.