UK's colleges and units selected at least one African American alum whose faith, hard work and determination have positively affected the lives of people on the UK campus, the city, state or nation to receive the Lyman T. Johnson Torch of Excellence Award. These units additionally chose at least one African American student within the college or department whose academic achievement and ability to impact the lives of others would warrant them to receive the Lyman T. Johnson Torch Bearer Award.
Seun Adekunle received a 2022 Torch Bearer award. Adekunle is working toward a bachelor's degree in computer science and has been on the dean's list every semester since starting college. He has been active in research in the field of electric vehicles and energy distribution. Last semester, he presented this research effort at the Showcase of Undergraduate Scholars. In addition to participating in research, Adekunle serves as the secretary for the local chapter of the Association for Computing Machinery (ACM). He plays a key role in organizing the yearly hackathon, CATHACKS. Adekunle is a Chellgren fellow, member of Lewis Honors College, member of the Scholar in Engineering and Management (SEAM) program and holds the title of TORCH chair for UK's National Society of Black Engineers (NSBE) chapter. During a recent summer internship, he worked on new features that will be deployed to the Alexa iOS app and the Echo Frames product line. He also was a Facebook University intern in 2021.
Maya Bentley Anthony received a 2021 Torch of Excellence award. Anthony received her bachelor's degree in biosystems and agricultural engineering in 2014. While a student at UK, Anthony participated in Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Inc., National Society of Black Engineers, Best Buddies International and U-NITE Campus Ministry. Anthony was selected from a competitive group of engineering students to participate in the Dean's Leadership Class, which allowed her the opportunity to accelerate her leadership development. Anthony is a project engineer with Fairbanks Morse Engine and is responsible for providing product engineering support to the shop floor and other areas of the company for current products and aftermarket components. As an alumna, Anthony has served as a member of the College of Engineering's Alumni Association Board of Director, member of the UK Alumni Association and a current inaugural member of the College of Engineering's Young Alumni Philanthropy Council. She volunteers her time mentoring and speaking with UK students. She is conversationally fluent in Brazilian Portuguese, which contributed to her study abroad experience in Berlin, Germany for one month and in Viçosa, Minas Gerais, Brazil for six and a half months. Anthony loves to travel and is interested in various global issues. She has a heart for helping people, a great work ethic and a lot of determination.
Jayla E. McCoy received a 2021 Torch Bearer award. McCoy is from Cleveland, Ohio, where she spent most of her life following in her dad's footsteps to pursue her dream of becoming an engineer. She began that goal by chartering the National Society of Black Engineers (NSBE) Jr. Cleveland Chapter and became the president during her senior year of high school. She is in her fourth year at the University of Kentucky, is majoring in mechanical engineering, is a Lewis Honors College Student and is serving as the president for the UK NSBE chapter, where she works to continuously uphold the organization's mission. She volunteers by teaching youth about STEM, is in the Scholars in Engineering and Management (SEAM) honors pathway in the Lewis Honors College, is an Ambassador for the College of Engineering in the Lewis Honors College, a third-year UK 101 Peer Instructor, K Crew leader, third-year resident advisor and previous communications co-chair for Omicron Delta Kappa — one of the four National Honor Societies at UK. Just like her mom and sister, McCoy is a proud member of Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority Inc. She is the secretary for the UK chapter. During her freshman year, she landed her first co-op with GE Appliances and finished a second co-op with GE Appliances during the summer of 2021. This past summer, she completed her third co-op at Toyota in Georgetown, Ky. McCoy credited her success to the professional skills she learned through the NSBE organization. The mechanical engineering faculty commented that McCoy is "on top of her strong academics," "is professional and a delight to advise" and "can do anything she puts her mind to." She continues to advocate and fight for the diverse members in the STEM community.
Austin Mitchell received a 2022 Torch of Excellence award. Mitchell graduated from the University of Kentucky College of Engineering in 2018 with a bachelor's degree in civil engineering. After graduating, Mitchell returned to his hometown Louisville, Ky., where he began his career at AECOM as a civil engineer in the transportation department. Since working at AECOM, Mitchell has been involved in several projects including the Bridging Kentucky Program that oversaw the rehabilitation and reconstruction of nearly 1,000 bridges across the Commonwealth. He also recently passed the Professional Engineering Exam (PE) and will be applying for his professional license this year. Mitchell enjoys spending time with his family and friends, traveling and is a proud member of the College of Engineering's Young Alumni Philanthropy Council. Mitchell has a special connection to Lyman T. Johnson. He attended Lyman T. Johnson Traditional Middle School and Mr. Johnson was Mitchell's late grandfather's 11th grade teacher at Louisville Central High School in the 1940s.
The University of Kentucky Alumni Association Lyman T. Johnson African American Alumni Constituency Group and the UK Office for Institutional Diversity hosted the awards luncheon as part of the 2022 Lyman T. Johnson Homecoming Celebration. The 2021 ceremony was postponed due to COVID-19 concerns, leading to a combined ceremony this year.
Lyman T. Johnson was a pioneer who challenged the status quo in his landmark court case which opened the University of Kentucky to African American students in 1949. He dedicated his life to fighting against segregation and racial inequalities in Kentucky. The Lyman T. Johnson African American Alumni Constituency Group established an endowed scholarship in his name to provide financial assistance to students of color in their pursuit of higher education.
UK President Eli Capilouto and UK Vice President for Institutional Diversity Katrice Albert provided remarks during the luncheon.
"The Lyman T. Johnson Excellence Awards are a powerful testament to the passion and tenacity with which torchbearers, strategic thinkers and action-oriented visionary leaders uphold Mr. Johnson's precious legacy," said Albert. "UK students and alumni continue to advance critical research, uplift and galvanize their communities and light the way on our path toward inclusive excellence. For 31 years, the Lyman T. Johnson Awards have honored those agents of change who left an indelible mark on our campus. We are made by our history. And we are so proud of and grateful for all those who have helped show us the world what is wildly possible with wide open doors."
Learn about the Torch of Excellence and Torch Bearer recipients and their vast achievements by visiting www.ukalumni.net/ltjrecipients.
The UK Alumni Association is committed to fostering lifelong engagement among alumni, friends, the association and the university. For more information about the UK Alumni Association, visit www.ukalumni.netor call 800-269-2586.