Campus News

Franklin College honors six with inaugural outstanding alumni awards

Athens, Ga. – The University of Georgia Franklin College of Arts and Sciences honored six of its alumni-who work in fields as diverse as evolutionary genetics, film, design and space exploration-at its inaugural Alumni Awards Ceremony Oct. 18.

“These outstanding graduates have distinguished themselves in their careers and highlight the many contributions that Franklin College alumni make to improving health, enriching quality of life and even answering fundamental questions, such as whether we’re alone in the universe,” said Franklin College Dean Alan T. Dorsey.

The winners of the 2012 Franklin College Outstanding Alumni Award are:

Jennifer Holloway of Athens, a mezzo-soprano vocalist, earned her bachelor’s degree in music from UGA in 2000 and a specialist degree in vocal performance from the Manhattan School of Music. She has performed significant leading roles in major opera houses in North America, South America and Europe, including the Metropolitan Opera in New York and the Maggio Musicale in Florence, Italy. Her voice has been described by The Classical Review as “liquid, lambent and lit from within.”

Roger Hunter of San Jose, Calif., is a project manager for NASA’s Kepler Project. Hunter, who earned his bachelor’s degree in mathematics in 1978, is leading NASA’s mission to determine the frequency of planets that have the potential to harbor life. The mission began in 2009 and already has led to the identification of hundreds of Earth-size planet candidates.

James N. Ihle of Memphis, Tenn., is the Edward F. Barry Endowed Chair in Biochemistry at St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital. Ihle, who earned his doctorate from the department of biochemistry and molecular biology in 1971, is a highly cited researcher who has published more than 350 scientific articles, including a landmark paper in Nature that revealed a key step in the process the body uses to rid itself of faulty or unneeded cells.

Melissa Kirkpatrick of Hidden Hills, Calif., is a noted fabric designer. Kirkpatrick, who received her bachelor’s degree in printmaking in 1989, launched her MK Collection line of fabrics, rugs and wall coverings in 2011. Her work has been featured in publications such as Elle Decoration, Interior Design and House Beautiful. The magazine Garden and Gun noted that she “subjects each design to an uncommon level of thought and scrutiny.”

Judith Mank of London, England, is a professor who holds the chair of evolutionary and comparative biology at University College London. Mank, who earned her doctorate in genetics in 2006, is working to understand how evolutionary pressures differ between females and males and how this ultimately results in the differing observable characteristics that so many animals exhibit based on sex.

Christopher Todd Wells of Playa Del Rey, Calif., is a filmographer known for his visual effects work. Wells, who earned his bachelor’s degree in theatre and film studies in 2010, has created visual effects for more than 50 major movies, in many cases serving as visual effects supervisor. Among his credits are “The Amazing Spider-Man,” “Toy Story 3,” “Avatar,” “The Curious Case of Benjamin Button,” “300” and “X-Men: The Last Stand.”

UGA Franklin College of Arts and Sciences
The Franklin College of Arts and Sciences is the oldest, largest and most academically diverse college at the University of Georgia. It comprises 30 departments in five divisions: fine arts, social sciences, biological sciences, physical and mathematical sciences and the humanities. In addition to educating more undergraduates than any college on campus, the Franklin College offers 76 graduate degrees and certificates in 42 fields of study. To learn more, see