The University of Memphis held its spring Commencement on Saturday, May 5, awarding
a total of 2,321 degrees in two ceremonies at FedExForum. Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam
was the featured speaker at the morning session; Diane Rudner, chairman of the Plough
Foundation, spoke that afternoon.
The U of M presented an honorary doctor of letters degree to Larry Papasan at the
During the 10 a.m. Commencement, the College of Arts and Sciences, the College of
Communication and Fine Arts, and the University College conferred degrees.
At 3 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 received their degrees.
In honor of the University’s Centennial, the U of M Alumni Association selected 101
influential alumni from the University’s history to compose a “Centennial Class” that
was honored at Commencement. The alumni represented each of the University’s 100 years
plus the current graduating class. Participants included former Student Government
Association presidents, past Alumni Association presidents, current Alumni Association
executive board members, and club and chapter leaders. The representatives walked
across the stage during both the morning and afternoon sessions, and each received
a medallion and a certificate of appreciation from U of M President Shirley Raines
and the Alumni Association.
Papasan is a retired director of Smith & Nephew Orthopedics. He joined Smith & Nephew
in 1991 as president of the Orthopedic Division and retired in 2002. During this 11
1/2-year period, the division grew in sales from $300 million to $650 million, while
increasing profitability more than 15 percent each year. Papasan was responsible for
research and development, manufacturing, marketing, sales, and administrative functions
during his tenure as president. Prior to joining Smith & Nephew, he was president
of Memphis Light, Gas and Water Division from 1984 until 1991. He was employed with
MLG&W for 28 years.
Papasan is a longtime supporter of the University. He has served as chairman of the
board of trustees of the University of Memphis Foundation and the U of M's Board of
Visitors. He currently is chairman of the advisory boards of the Fogelman School of
Business & Economics and the Ground Water Institute.
A 1963 graduate of Mississippi State University with a bachelor of science degree
in civil engineering, Papasan has been active in the Memphis community, serving as
general campaign chairman of United Way and president of the Kiwanis Club and of Junior
Haslam was born in Knoxville and had a job pumping gas at his family’s service station
when he was just 13. He graduated from Emory University in 1976 with a degree in history.
It was there that he met his future wife, Crissy. After graduating, they moved to
Knoxville, where Haslam agreed to manage his family’s chain of gas stations “for a
couple of years.”
He spent the early years crisscrossing the country while identifying and purchasing
locations for new truck stops. It was his first experience at creating jobs. When
Haslam went to work for Pilot Corporation, the company had 800 employees; when he
left, that number had grown to more than 14,000 employees in 39 states.
In 2003 Haslam ran successfully for mayor of Knoxville. He was re-elected in 2007
with 87 percent of the vote, balanced seven consecutive city budgets, founded key
education initiatives, and recruited thousands of jobs to the city. In 2010 he was
elected governor of Tennessee, winning 90 of 95 counties, the largest victory of any
non-incumbent in the state’s history.
Haslam is an enthusiastic supporter of the University of Memphis, including the Internship
Program and the Memphis Research Consortium. He funded $10 million in the budget toward
the Consortium, which includes the University of Memphis, Memphis Bioworks, St. Jude
Children’s Research Hospital, the University of Tennessee, and major orthopedic companies
Rudner, a longtime friend of the U of M, is chairman of the board of the Plough Foundation,
which supports several initiatives on the campus. A grant from the Foundation helped
create the New Teacher Center at the University in 2003. She also is a leader in the
University’s “Empowering the Dream” Centennial capital campaign.
Rudner graduated Phi Beta Kappa with a bachelor of arts degree in psychology and sociology
from the University of Maryland. Her professional career began as a management trainee
at Manufacturers Hanover Trust Bank in New York City. Rudner became vice president
of corporate planning during her 11-year tenure there.
While living in Tokyo from 1986 to 1989, she chaired the American Orientations Committee,
acting as a consultant to the Tokyo Community Counseling Service, the only English-speaking
agency of its kind. Shortly after returning to Memphis in 1991 she formed Insight
Associates, which specializes in corporate and strategic planning, primarily for family
businesses and partnerships.
Rudner has held many leadership positions in the Memphis civic community, serving
as chairman of both the Memphis Arts Council and WONDERS: The International Cultural
Series. She was vice chair of the Memphis/Shelby Crime Commission and in 2002 was
selected for Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government inaugural class of Women and Power:
Leadership in a New World. She currently serves on the Memphis Board of SunTrust Bank,
Memphis Tomorrow, and the Overton Park Conservancy.