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Press Release

Pulitzer Prize-Winning Alum Receives UT's Sixth Honorary Degree

PR Newswire

KNOXVILLE, Tenn., May 7, 2014 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- Pulitzer Prize-winning science journalist John Noble Wilford has told some of the world's biggest stories since he graduated from the University of Tennessee, Knoxville, almost 60 years ago.

The first walk on the moon. The search for life on Mars. The Challenger disaster.

On Wednesday, Wilford received UT's sixth honorary doctorate and spoke at its College of Communication and Information commencement ceremony.

Wilford won a Pulitzer Prize in 1984 for his reporting of science and space exploration and again in 1987 as part of the reporting team that covered the Challenger disaster. His New York Times front-page story about the first walk on the moon in 1969 is the most widely used account of the historic event.

Now retired, Wilford still writes occasionally for the New York Times.

In his commencement address, Wilford urged graduates to practice "informed wonder."
"Informed wonder is imagination modulated by knowledge, observation, inspiration anchored in real possibilities," he said. It requires one to be open "to experience the new, the different, the unexpected. In short, informed wonder is an agent of inquisitive open-mindedness."

Not just for journalists or scientists, informed wonder is what enables anyone—in any field—to make a difference in the world.

"I wish each of you graduates success in the practice of informed wonder and in making a life in which you are always growing and learning and find ways to contribute to the human experience," he said.

A native of Murray, Kentucky, Wilford went to Grove High School, just across the state line in Paris, Tennessee. During high school and college, he worked for the local newspaper, The Parisian, which ceased publication in 1961, as well as The Commercial Appeal in Memphis. After earning his journalism degree from UT, he received a master's degree in political science from Syracuse University and served in the U.S. Army for two years, stationed in West Germany.

He is a fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences and has authored numerous books including "We Reach the Moon," "The Mapmakers," "Mars Beckons" and "The Mysterious History of Columbus."

UT's other honorary degrees have gone to John Seigenthaler Sr., Howard H. Baker Jr., Dolly Parton, Al Gore, and Charles O. "Chad" Holliday.

SOURCE University of Tennessee

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