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To support One Day for UK, the Lewis Honors College is highlighting the Kate Johnson Scholarship Fund. Meet the inspiration behind the fund which is celebrating its 20th year since its inception – former Honors advisor Kate Johnson.

As an Honors advisor, Kate tried to encourage students to meet new people and experience new frontiers by studying off-campus. During Kate’s time, the Honors program was built on four courses focused on the Great Books that all Honors students studied together. Honors students supplemented this foundation with 12-15 interdisciplinary courses.

Kate supported students academically and personally. If Kate perceived a student’s interest in a subject, she would find a way to get that student to the right class. Melissa Estes-Blair ’02 said, “She would give us great advice. She was this constant background presence whom we knew we could go to anytime and for anything.”

Jamey Essex ’99 also appreciated Kate’s mentorship. “She was warm and generous with her time and committed to the life of the program and the well-being of all the students going through it,” she said.

Kate also provided inspiration for her students as evidenced by Jill Hardin Wilson ’96 who recalls how relieved she felt when Kate helped make “a place that felt so big and overwhelming” be more comfortable and manageable. “Now I'm in her shoes, advising students. I try to be that welcoming and personal presence for them,” she said.

Kate’s commitment to students continues through the Kate Johnson Scholarship Fund which provides Honors students the opportunity to participate in activities to develop skills and/or field-based experience within their academic field(s) of study. Since its inception in 2004, the fund has been supported by 2,856 gifts from 1,020 individuals, foundations, and corporate entities to date. The fund is to be used exclusively for “student skills development outside the normal curriculum, including but not limited to, non-UK summer programs, educational or conference travel, or research projects.”

Recently, Kate Johnson Scholarships have helped sponsor students to participate in the TuttoToscana program at the Florence University of the Arts and the James Beard Foundation, study sport psychology and physiology in England, work at non-profit organizations in South Africa, and take intensive language classes in Poland and Taiwan. These opportunities and others help Honors students gain invaluable global perspectives and enrich their experience in their fields of study.

Prior to Kate’s 20-year career at the University of Kentucky, she attended Berea College where she learned the value of the dignity of labour working as a breakfast ticket counter, janitor, and assistant for the philosophy department. Kate later received a master’s in child development from Purdue University and worked as a teacher before returning to the Commonwealth. Kate’s vast experience helped shape her career at UK where she directed the university-wide academic scholarship program, including the Singletary Scholarship, and then ultimately created her position to work with Honors students.