October 1, 2009

The University of Kentucky School of Human Environmental Sciences will add five members to its Hall of Fame during an induction ceremony Oct. 2.

Inductees are graduates or past leaders of the school with a record of commitment or contribution to their professions, the school and its mission.

"Our Hall of Fame honorees have each made contributions to the people and families of Kentucky," said Ann Vail, director of UK's School for Human Environmental Sciences. "We are thrilled that our alumni and early leaders have changed the quality of lives for individuals and families. They serve as role models for our current students as they prepare to begin their careers."

This year's inductees include:

  • The late Mary E. Sweeney -- A nationally and internationally renowned home economist and family relations expert, Sweeney earned one of her two master's degrees from the University of the Kentucky. After completing her studies, Sweeney returned to UK as an assistant professor of household science. In 1913, she was made head of the Department of Home Economics in the College of Agriculture. She briefly served as dean of the department when it became a separate entity in 1916. In 1917, she was appointed to be the chair of home economics for the U.S. Food Administration in Washington, D.C. There, she educated Americans about rationing food during World War I. After taking a leave of absence to serve in the canteen worker corps of the YWCA in Germany, Sweeney returned to UK. In 1920, she became the dean of home economics at Michigan State University. The same year she was named president of the American Home Economics Association. She returned briefly to UK in 1923 but then went on to serve as the director for the Merrill-Palmer School for Child Development in Detroit, Mich., a position she held for over 20 years.
  • The late Myrtle Weldon -- Originally from Illinois, Weldon came to UK in 1924 to serve as the state leader for the home demonstration program. She started with only 24 county agents and a state home economics staff, but by her retirement in 1955, the program grew to 105 county agents, more than 34,000 members of the Kentucky Federation of Homemakers and an estimated 100,000 additional women who had access to the program. During World War II, she worked to promote the Women's Land Army, which recruited women to fill in on the farm for men who were serving in the military. While at UK, she focused on expanding her extension work by forming partnerships with other agencies that worked with farm families and reaching out to limited resource families.
  • Shirley Ellis Sheperson -- Born in Gravel Switch and raised in Forkland, Sheperson received a bachelor's degree in home economics from UK in 1952. The next year, she became the county extension agent for home economics in Casey County, a position she would hold until 1985. As an extension agent, she gained admiration and respect in the community by helping families enrich their lives and providing a connection between them and UK. She received numerous awards over the course of her professional career, and she and other family members established the Ellis Family Scholarship at UK. Dedicated to her community, Sheperson helped obtain the former Forkland School to use as a community center in 1972. Her interests in families and genealogy led her to author or co-author several books including "Roots, Trunks and Branches," "Forkland Heritage: Its People Past and Present 1793-1996," "The Forgotten Past" and "A Family History Going Back 13 Generations." Sheperson currently resides in Danville.
  • Margaret Holyfield Potter -- After graduating from Perry County High School in 1951, Potter went on to study at UK and received her bachelor's in 1955. She received a master's from Purdue in 1958. From there, she worked in the Department of Home Economics at Framingham State College in Massachusetts where she held the positions of associate professor and department chair. Throughout her career, she was a freelance consultant for many projects that involved product promotion, recipe development, recipe testing, recipe contest coordination, feature writing and television production and performance. Active in Phi Upsilon Omicron, she served in leadership positions at the chapter, district and national levels, eventually being elected as director. While director she served for two years as the chair of the Phi U Educational Foundation. Under her leadership, the foundation established two scholarships and one alumni award. She retired in 1989 and now lives in Richmond, Va.
  • Janey Knight Thornton -- Born in Bowling Green and raised in Radcliff, Thornton received her master's degree from the University of Kentucky while employed at the Kentucky Department of Education. From there, she accepted the position as food service director for Hardin County Schools, where she oversaw building and remodeling of new kitchens and used technology to manage inventories, production records and for nutrition analysis. She worked to improve the nutrition offerings in the school district by eliminating deep-fat fryers, making fruits and vegetables more readily available, providing fresh-baked bread each morning and using locally grown foods when possible. She served as president of the School Nutrition Association in 2006. In April, Thornton was appointed Deputy Under Secretary for Food, Nutrition and Consumer Services in the U.S. Department of Agriculture by Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack. In this position, she provides policy direction for the Food and Nutrition Service and the Center for Nutrition Policy and Promotion.