The Macebearer is the highest faculty honor at the University of Tennessee, Knoxville, and is symbolic of the faculty’s commitment of service to students, to scholarship, and to society.
Gary McCracken, professor and former head of the Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology, is a first-generation college graduate who worked hard to get a good education. “I was lucky to find an exciting and rewarding profession that I’ve pursued with passion and energy,” he says. A fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, McCracken is a population ecologist and geneticist who has devoted his research career to the study of bats and his outreach efforts to their conservation. Recognized as one of the world’s foremost experts in the field, he is widely published and speaks often at national and international conferences. He is active in the leadership of scientific organizations dedicated to bat biology and conservation, including Bat Conservation International, the North American Bat Conservation Partnership, and the North American Society for Bat Research, and his expertise is sought by media outlets such as National Geographic, Mother Jones, and National Public Radio. McCracken regularly involves both undergraduate and graduate students in his research, and he is known for developing innovative new courses—most recently, an experiential course in the natural history of the Great Smoky Mountains.
What is your favorite memory on Rocky Top?
I love graduation ceremonies. As a department head, I was on the stage when Dolly Parton received her honorary degree. A couple of years later I was on the stage with Al Gore, whom I nominated for UT’s next honorary degree. But my favorite memories of graduation come from being a part of the lives of our graduates and having helped them to achieve the professional and personal accomplishments that we all are celebrating.