The Alumni Public Service Award honors a faculty or staff member whose work has made a significant impact on the Knoxville-area community.
Every April in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, the rising warmth of the springtime sun encourages wildflowers to bloom. And for almost twenty years, Kenneth McFarland, a lecturer in biology, has helped visitors enjoy those wildflowers and the rest of the park’s natural beauty. McFarland is the chair of the annual Spring Wildflower Pilgrimage, which features walks through the park, photographic tours, motorcades, history walks, art classes, and indoor and outdoor presentations in the Great Smokies and in nearby Gatlinburg. Thousands of visitors have made the event one of UT’s most important community outreach efforts, due in large part to McFarland’s efforts. A committee member who nominated him writes that “without Ken’s leadership, the Wildflower Pilgrimage would not have survived” over the years. Gary McCracken, professor and head of the Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology, adds that McFarland’s service involves other activities, including planting and caring for the native plants and archival crop gardens on campus. He also leads a task force to remove non-native invasive plants from UT property.
Alex Miller, the William B. Stokely Chair in Management and former associate dean of academic programs in the College of Business Administration, has been linking his research to public service for the past two decades. He has built expertise in operations improvement processes through his work with more than fifty corporations, and leveraged that expertise into a partnership with the US Air Force that has brought millions of dollars in research funding and service contracts into the college. An award-winning teacher, an effective administrator, and a volunteer for numerous state and local governments, Miller played an important role in establishing the university’s executive MBA program and was instrumental in revitalizing the Center for Executive Education. Miller has applied his knowledge and experience to a number of economic development organizations. He currently serves on the Industrial Development Board of Jefferson County.