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U.S. Sen. Lamar Alexander Will Address U of M Commencement May 11

For release: April 26, 2013
For press information, contact Gabrielle Maxey, 901-678-2843

The University of Memphis will hold its spring Commencement on Saturday, May 11, awarding a total of 2,382 degrees in two ceremonies at FedExForum. U.S. Sen. Lamar Alexander will be the featured speaker at the morning session; Tre Hargett, Tennessee’s secretary of state, will speak that afternoon.

The U of M will present an honorary doctor of letters degree to businessman and philanthropist Jim Ayers at the afternoon ceremony.

During the 10 a.m. Commencement, the College of Arts & Sciences, the College of Communication and Fine Arts and the University College will confer degrees.

At 2 p.m., graduates of the Fogelman College of Business & Economics, the College of Education, Health and Human Sciences, the Herff College of Engineering, the Loewenberg School of Nursing, the School of Communication Sciences and Disorders, and the School of Public Health will receive their degrees.

Jim Ayers
Jim Ayers

Ayers is chairman of FirstBank, the financial services company he nurtured from a single branch to Tennessee’s largest independently owned and operated bank, with more than $2 billion in total assets and more than 40 locations. After building successful health care and real estate ventures, Ayers and a business partner bought Farmers State Bank in Scotts Hill, Tenn., in 1984. After moving the home office to Lexington, Tenn., in 1986 and acquiring First National Bank of Lexington, Ayers changed the name to FirstBank and became its sole owner. Since then, the bank has grown significantly, in terms of both assets and the impact on the communities it serves.

Ayers is perhaps most proud of his contributions to increasing educational opportunities for young people. In 1999 he established The Ayers Foundation, which supports a wide range of programs and institutions with an emphasis on education in Henderson and Perry counties, as well as his home county of Decatur. In addition to his business interests, he is active in a number of civic, educational and charitable organizations. He is the recipient of the Association of Fundraising Professionals’ 2007 Philanthropist of the Year Award, the Joe Kraft Humanitarian Award from The Community Foundation of Middle Tennessee and the 2007 Distinguished Alumni Award from the University of Memphis.

Ayers received a bachelor’s degree in business administration with a major in accounting from the U of M in 1965, becoming one of the first in his family to attend college.

U.S. Sen. Lamar Alexander
U.S. Sen. Lamar Alexander

Alexander, a seventh-generation Tennessean, was born in Maryville, the son of a kindergarten teacher and an elementary school principal. He serves on committees overseeing education, clean air, highways, science, appropriations and the Tennessee Valley Authority. He was elected three times by his peers to serve as chairman of the Senate Republican Conference, the third-ranking Republican position in the U.S. Senate and a position he held from 2007 to January 2012. He is the only Tennessean ever to be popularly elected both governor and U.S. senator.

Alexander has been U.S. secretary of education, University of Tennessee president and a professor at Harvard University’s School of Government. He chaired the National Governors’ Association and President Ronald Reagan’s Commission on Americans Outdoors. In private life, he helped found the nation’s largest provider of worksite day care. In his campaign for governor, Alexander walked 1,000 miles across Tennessee in his signature red and black plaid shirt. Once elected, he helped Tennessee become the third largest auto producer and the first state to pay teachers more for teaching well. He is a classical and country pianist and the author of seven books, including Six Months Off, the story of his family’s life in Australia after he was governor.

Tre Hargett
Tre Hargett

Hargett was elected by the Tennessee General Assembly to serve as secretary of state in 2009, with oversight of nearly 400 employees. He also serves on 15 boards and commissions, and as the presiding member of two. Since his election, Hargett has made it his priority to increase transparency in state government by working with his colleagues in making the proceedings of numerous boards and commissions more accessible to the public. After taking office in 2009, he began promoting a culture that places a premium on customer service, and leveraging technology to create efficiencies and savings for taxpayers and the public.

In 2010, Hargett was chosen as a Henry Toll Fellow, an honor given to 40 of the nation’s top state government officials. Additionally, he is a member of the National Association of Secretaries of State, where he serves as president-elect, and he serves on the board of directors of the American Council of Young Political Leaders. Previously Hargett served as chairman of the Tennessee Regulatory Authority and was regional vice president for a publicly traded emergency services provider. Hargett also served for 10 years in the Tennessee House of Representatives, during which time he was twice elected Republican leader by his colleagues. He was a driving force behind several measures to increase transparency in government, including increased electronic disclosure of campaign contributions and increasing the requirements of officials’ public statements of interest. Hargett is a two-time graduate of the U of M, earning his BBA in accounting with honors in 1991 and his MBA in 1992.

Note: In the event of a Memphis Grizzlies’ playoff game in FedExForum on May 11, Commencement ceremonies will be moved to Sunday, May 12, at noon and 4 p.m.

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Last Updated: 4/26/13