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Tracy Drain was born and raised in Louisville, Kentucky, graduating from Waggener High School in 1993 before earning a BS in Mechanical Engineering from the University of Kentucky in 1998. During her time at UK, she interned at the NASA Langley Research Center Virginia. After graduating with her master’s in mechanical engineering from the Georgia Institute of Technology in 2000,  she was immediately hired by the NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory to join the team working on the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter. After the launch in 2005, Drain was promoted to lead systems engineer. Drain joined the Kepler project in 2007 as the Missions Readiness Lead, hunting for Earth-like planets, staying until Kepler checked-out in 2009. In 2009 she joined Juno, which began studying the gravity and magnetic fields of Jupiter when it successfully reached the planet in 2016. She has been with NASA for over 17 years now and is currently the Technical Group Supervisor for the Flight Systems Engineering group and working on the Psyche mission, studying the largest known metal asteroid in our solar system with a projected launching in 2022.
Bryson Tiller is an award-winning and Grammy-nominated rapper and songwriter who was born in Louisville, KY on January 2, 1993. Though the young musician’s career took off only a few years ago, he has made a prominent name for himself in the music industry as a hip-hop, R&B, and trap artist. His debut single “Don’t” reached number 13 on the Billboard Hot 100, and landed him a deal with RCA Records. In 2015, his first studio album ‘Trapsoul’ made its way to number 8 on the Billboard 200. His second single, “Exchange,” earned him a Grammy nomination. In 2016, Tiller received two BET Awards for Best New Artist and Best Male R&B/Pop Artist. That same year, Louisville Mayor Greg Fischer bestowed Tiller with the key to the city along with appointing March 12th as Bryson Tiller Day. At only 25 years old, and with two studio albums under his belt, Tiller continues to make waves and push his career further. His third record ‘Serenity’ is set for release sometime in the near future.
Fans of the hit Showtime series ‘Dexter’ will recognize Jennifer Carpenter from her role as Debra Morgan, the adoptive sister of the show’s title character. Carpenter was born in Louisville, KY on December 7, 1979. She attended Sacred Heart Academy before beginning her training at the Walden Theatre Conservatory program. From 1998 to 2002 she attended the Juilliard School in New York City, during which time she was cast in ‘The Crucible’ on Broadway. Her first big break came with her portrayal of Emily Rose in ‘The Exorcism of Emily Rose,’ which landed her an MTV Movie Award for ‘Best Frightening Performance’ and a Scream Award for ‘Breakout Performer’ in 2006. In 2009, Jennifer received a Saturn Award for her work on ‘Dexter.’ Other film and television credits include ‘White Chicks,’ ‘Quarantine,’ ‘The Good Wife,’ and ‘Limitless.’ She will star in NBC’s upcoming show ‘The Enemy Within’ which is set to air in 2019.
Chuck Brymer grew up in Louisville and is a graduate of the University of Kentucky. Brymer is the current Chairman of DDB Communications Group, one of the top advertising and marketing agencies in the world, where he oversees the operations of the network’s more than 200 offices in over 90 countries. Since joining DDB in 2006 as President and CEO, the company has expanded significantly in size and reputation, voted one of the top agencies in the world by AdAge, Adweek and Campaign and winning more Grand Prix Lions at the Cannes Advertising Festival than any other communications company. As part of his growth agenda, Chuck led the acquisition of leading businesses in Brazil, India, and the UK, and has overseen the transformation of DDB from a traditional advertising network to a communications company with a digital focus. His clients include VW, McDonald’s, Samsung, J&J, Audi, Unilever, Miller Coors, and Pepsi. Although he has lived and traveled around the world,, he credits his Kentucky roots and upbringing for his edge in business. Brymer is also an author. His book, ‘The Nature of Marketing,’ is a guide to engaging online consumer populations. He also co-authored the book ‘Brands and Branding’ in partnership with The Economist. Since 2007, Chuck has served on the Board of Directors of Regal Entertainment, and has been a board director of the US Chamber of Commerce since 2012.
Robert Kirkman was born in Lexington, KY and raised roughly 30 miles northeast in the small town of Cynthiana, KY. Kirkman is best known for his hugely successful comic book series, ‘The Walking Dead.’ Although the story takes place in Georgia, he has noted that much of the landscape and settings in the Image Comics series were heavily inspired by his hometown. First published in 2003 with artist Tony Moore, the comics eventually gave way to AMC’s critically acclaimed serial drama of the same name in 2010. Now in its ninth year, no cable series in television history claims a higher total viewership than ‘The Walking Dead’. It was nominated for Best New Series and Best Television Series Drama by the Writers Guild of America Awards 2011 and the 68th Golden Globe Awards, respectively. Apart from countless prestigious nominations, “Dead”—as it has affectionately been shortened to by fans—has won such awards as Television Program of the Year by the American Film Institute (2010, 2012), IGN’s Best Horror Series (2012, 2016), and 2 Emmy’s for Outstanding Prosthetic Makeup (2011, 2012), among several others. Kirkman continues to pen more comics and is also deeply involved with the production of the show. Even with all that success, Kirkman and his family still spend most of the year living in Cynthiana, Kentucky.
Falmouth, KY native Phillip Sharp currently holds the highest possible academic rank of Institute Professor at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and is also a member of the Department of Biology and the Koch Institute for Integrative Cancer Research. He joined the Center for Cancer Research (now the Koch Institute) in 1974 and served as its director for six years, from 1985 to 1991, before taking over as head of the Department of Biology, a position he held for the next eight years. He was founding director of the McGovern Institute from 2000 to 2004. His research interests have centered on the molecular biology of gene expression relevant to cancer and the mechanisms of RNA splicing. His landmark work in 1977 provided the first indications of “discontinuous genes” in mammalian cells. The discovery fundamentally changed scientists’ understanding of gene structure and earned Dr. Sharp the 1993 Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine. Dr. Sharp earned a B.A. degree from Union College, Barbourville, KY, and a PhD in chemistry from the University of Illinois, Champaign-Urbana. Dr. Sharp is a co-founder of Biogen and Alnylam Pharmaceuticals Inc. When asked about his roots, Dr. Sharp said, “Kentucky taught me how to work. Put your head down. Keep moving forward. And that lesson has been very useful.”
Laura Schwab was born and raised in Louisville and is an alumna of the University of Kentucky. Schwab is the first female president of Aston Martin worldwide. The venerable British company, which is most famous for providing James Bond his cars, is in the midst of working to expand its market share through an ambitious international growth plan. Schwab is primarily charged with promoting, marketing, sales and service for the company in the United States, Mexico, Canada and South America. It’s a big job, but Schwab loves big jobs and credits her childhood in Kentucky for her unbeatable combination of cutting ambition self-deprecating charm.
Journalist and ‘New York Times’ national correspondent Michael Wines was born on June 3, 1951 in Louisville, Kentucky. He graduated from the University of Kentucky in 1973 and received a M.S. degree at Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism a year later. Wines began his career with ‘The Lexington Herald’, but from 1974-1981, he was working at ‘The Louisville Times’ where he covered such topics as local and state government, education, and politics. The 1980’s would see him writing for the ‘National Journal’ magazine and working for the ‘Los Angeles Times’ as their Washington-based correspondent, respectively. Wines landed at ‘The New York Times’ in 1988 where remains a fixture to this day. Over the course of his career there, he has covered many topics, but specializes in United States political coverage. Prior to that specialty, Wines served as the NYT’s bureau chief in China, Moscow, and Johannesburg. He and his wife Sharon LaFraniere, who also writes for ‘The New York Times’, currently reside in New York City where they are continuing their stellar careers in journalism.
Ned Beatty was born in Louisville in 1937. With upwards of 160 film credits under his belt, Beatty was once called as “the busiest actor in Hollywood”. Known for such film and television roles in ‘Deliverance’ (1972), ‘All The President’s Men’ (1976), ‘Superman’ (1978), and even ‘Rango’ (2011), and ‘Toy Story 3’ (2010), Beatty’s long career—spanning over six decades—has landed him quite a number of accolades and distinctions. He has received nominations for an Academy Award, a Golden Globe, an MTV Movie Award for Best Villain, and 2 Emmy’s. Beatty has extensive experience in screen acting, voice acting, as well as on the stage, and in 2004 he took home a Drama Desk Award for his portrayal of Big Daddy in ‘Cat On A Hot Tin Roof’ at The Music Box Theater in New York City.
Perry Bacon, Jr. grew up in Louisville’s Shively neighborhood and is a nationally recognized and respected journalist. By his senior year at Louisville Male High School, he was working at three papers simultaneously: he served as an editor at Male’s student paper, he covered football and basketball games for the University of Louisville student paper, and interned at The Courier Journal. During his college application process, he was interviewed by Yale alum and future congressman, John Yarmuth, who would later become a close friend. Bacon eventually graduated from Yale with a BA in political science and since school, he has served as a journalist, political reporter, and on-air analyst for such prestigious news outlets as TIME, The Washington Post, MSNBC, NBC News, and now FiveThirtyEight. Perry was one of the Post’s top reporters for the 2008 campaign and later on Capitol Hill and the White House. He interviewed many of the 2008 candidates, including Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton, and traveled with President Obama to Brazil and Chile as a White House Reporter.
Justin Thomas was born and raised in Louisville, KY and has recently attracted a lot of attention for his outstanding performance on the fairway. In 2009 at age 16, two years before he graduated St. Xavier High School, the young golfer played in the PGA Tour’s Wyndham Championship with impressive success. Thomas became a professional golfer in 2013 and just a year later took his first professional win at the Nationwide Children’s Hospital Championship. In 2017 he clocked five PGA Tour victories including his first Major at the 2017 PGA Championship. This remarkable achievement landed Justin Thomas amongst Jack Nicklaus, Tiger Woods, and Jordan Spieth as the fourth golfer under 25 to win five events, including a Major, in a single Tour season since 1960. Other accomplishments this year include becoming only the seventh player in PGA Tour history to shoot a 59; becoming the youngest player to shoot a sub-60 round; being named PGA Tour Player of the Year and being named to the U.S. President’s Cup team. With such an outstanding career already under his belt, we can be sure of many great things to come.
Many books have been and still could be written about the “Queen of Country Music”, Loretta Lynn. With an incredibly long and successful career, one could spend ages detailing her life and impact on music. The coal miner’s daughter was born in 1932 in Butcher Hollow, Kentucky. Lynn’s first break came after an appearance on the Buck Owens Show in Nashville, which led to a contract with Decca Records and a performance at the Grand Ole Opry in October 1960. To date, Lynn has recorded over 40 studio albums and dozens of other compilations, collaborative records, and live albums. She has had sixteen Number 1 hits and ten Number 1 albums on country charts; has taken home multiple Grammy’s, American Music Awards, Academy of Country Music awards, and Broadcast Music Incorporated awards to name a few, making her the most awarded female country music star and only woman to have received the ACM Artist of the Decade award. So far, she has sold over 45 million records worldwide. A notoriously hard worker, the country star has been prone to health complications, largely from exhaustion, over the span of her career but is still planning to release and promote a brand new album at the age of 85.
Actor and musician Michael Shannon was born in Lexington, KY in 1974. Shannon is known for his many roles in such notable films as ‘Pearl Harbor’ (2001), ‘8 Mile’ (2002), ‘Before The Devil Knows You’re Dead’ (2007), ‘The Iceman’ (2012), ‘Midnight Special’ (2016), and ‘The Shape Of Water’ (2017). For his performance in the latter, he received three film award nominations for Best Supporting Actor. Making his film debut playing opposite Bill Murray in ‘Groundhog Day’ (1993), the actor has appeared in over 70 movies, 10 television shows, and upwards of 20 stage productions. Even with a full-fledged acting career to manage, Shannon also fronts the indie folk-rock band Corporal with bandmate Ray Rizzo, who he has played music with since 2002. Though they haven’t released a record since 2010, Shannon continues to play shows with Corporal and occasionally as a solo artist. He currently resides in Brooklyn with his partner and fellow actor Kate Arrington and their two daughters, but frequently makes trips back to the Bluegrass state to perform or campaign for local democratic candidates.
Gloria Jean Watkins was born in 1952 to a poor working-class family in Hopkinsville, Kentucky. She attended segregated public schools as a child, but was always involved in her community, writing and reading poetry with her church congregation. Growing up, she was greatly influenced by her grandmother Bell Blair Hooks whom “was known for her snappy and bold tongue.” Gloria took on the pseudonym “bell hooks,” stylizing it in all lowercase letters. She is now an accomplished author and social activist with a long career of addressing race, class, feminism, gender, art, and sexuality. Often cited by feminists as having detailed one of the truest definitions of the movement, she asserted that feminism is “…a movement to end sexism, sexist exploitation and oppression.” Aside from her over three dozen published books, children’s books, and scholarly articles, hooks has appeared in a number of documentaries including ‘Black Is… Black Ain’t’ (1994) and ‘Baadasssss Cinema’ (2002). She began teaching in 1976 as an English professor at the University of Southern California and continued that career throughout the ‘80s and ‘90s at such esteemed institutions as the University of California, Santa Cruz; San Francisco University; Yale; Oberlin College; and City College of New York. In 2014, she founded the bell hooks Institute at Berea College in Kentucky.
John Carpenter was born in upstate New York on January 16, 1948, but his family moved to Bowling Green, KY when he was five years old. Though Carpenter has worked in a variety of genres, including science fiction and action, he’s often recognized as The Master of Horror. In 1978, he directed, scored, and co-wrote ‘Halloween,’ which spawned a massively influential franchise consisting of eleven films, novels, comics, video games and merchandise. The theme song—a panicked piano over low, droning strings—is one of the most recognized pieces of music in horror. The films’ primary antagonist—the ominous, white-masked Michael Myers—has become an icon in horror film and Halloween culture. Other notable films of Carpenter’s include ‘The Fog’ (1980), ‘The Thing’ (1982), ‘Christine’ (1983), ‘Starman’ (1984), ‘Big Trouble In Little China’ (1986), and ‘Prince of Darkness’ (1987), many of which are considered cult classics.