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Prizes, praise and accolades have been awarded to more than talented athletes

from arts and science to perfect act scores, accolades abound

lblackford@herald-leader.comSeptember 22, 2012 

Poet Nikky Finney in her new studio at her home in Lexington , Ky., Friday, November, 18, 2011. She won the National Book Award for poetry, for her book of poetry "Head Off & Split", at a ceremony Wednesday night in New York. Charles Bertram | Staff

CHARLES BERTRAM

Sure, the Bluegrass is famous for basketball, as in the University of Kentucky winning its eighth basketball national championship.

But the Bluegrass is filled with other talented people who have won prizes, accolades and praise for lots of other talents besides sports.

Last year, for example, Lexington poet Nikky Finney won a National Book Award, and won countless new fans with her acceptance speech. Wendell Berry, who's won too many prizes to count, not only earned a National Humanities Medal from President Barack Obama in 2011, but delivered the annual Jefferson Lecture in March, called the most prestigious honor the federal government bestows for distinguished intellectual achievement in the humanities.

Others may not get as much ink, but get big honors for their talents as well.

Take UK professors Chris Crawford and Steven Yates. Crawford won a five-year, $750,000 grant from the U.S. Department of Energy to study the forces that hold the atomic nucleus together and that cause nuclear decays. Yates got $880,520 to work on nuclear energy technology in the UK Accelerator Laboratory.

Meanwhile, a graduate of Dunbar High School is preparing to go to Oxford University as one of just 32 American students named Rhodes Scholars. Victor Yang, 21, a 2008 Dunbar graduate, attended Harvard for the past four years. He had already made headlines for getting a perfect score on the ACT college exam.

That tradition has continued at Dunbar. In the past year, six students from that high school earned perfect ACT scores: Melanie Schmocker, Dustin Doss, Corey Lockridge, Casey Ren, Leia Wedlund and William Walters. Macy Early of Henry Clay High School also achieved that high. Nationally, roughly one-tenth of 1 percent of test-takers achieve a composite 36.

UK student Taylor Lloyd was one of just 26 winners of the Astronaut Scholarship Foundation, a $10,000 prize. She was recognized for outstanding college work in science and technology.

Writer David King has won lots of praise for his new book, Death in the City of Light: The Serial Killer of Nazi-Occupied Paris. King, a former history professor at UK, now spends all his time writing. His previous books include Vienna, 1814, and Finding Atlantis.

Not one but three Lexington artists were named the New Superstars of Southern Art by Oxford American magazine.

Lina Tharsing, Phillip March Jones and Lennon Michalski were nominated by local gallery owners, curators and artists.

Connie Waespe, co-chair of the math department at Lafayette High School, won the 2012 John R. Bryden Great Teacher Award from the Rotary Club of Lexington.

"I would define a phenomenal teacher as someone who holds an immense passion for what they teach, a flawless ability to communicate the intricate concepts of their subject, someone who expects nothing less than excellence, and someone who truly cares about and supports their students" wrote Gabriela Drucker, whose essay earned a $100 award. The prize is worth $1,000.

And you never know who will display a hidden talent.

Former State Treasurer Jonathan Miller, now an attorney in Lexington, decided to try his hand at the World Series of Poker in Las Vegas. He came in eighth and won $69,896. Miller was one of nine players left in a No-Limit Hold'em tournament that started with 4,620 players.

Linda Blackford: (859) 231-1359. Twitter: @lbblackford

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