UK homecoming royalty: Family has two homecoming queens, one king

Grant and Barbara Mills showed newborn son Jackson their University of Kentucky homecoming crowns. Aunt Amanda Mills Cutright, right, was homecoming queen, too.
Grant and Barbara Mills showed newborn son Jackson their University of Kentucky homecoming crowns. Aunt Amanda Mills Cutright, right, was homecoming queen, too. Herald-Leader

The Mills family has two University of Kentucky homecoming queens, one homecoming king — and a potential newborn homecoming king waiting in the wings.

Jackson Mills might be only 10 days old, but come 2035, his crown might be waiting. At only 4 days old, he was wearing a UK onesie to show his school spirit, as future homecoming kings do. Homecoming 2015 is Saturday through Oct. 4.

Jackson's father, Grant Mills, who works for the health care company TeamHealth and is a Kentucky history buff, was UK homecoming king in 2007.

His mother, Barbara Jackson Mills, a resource special education teacher at Cassidy Elementary, was crowned UK homecoming queen in 2009.

And Jackson's aunt Amanda Mills Cutright, now an executive at Teach for America in Washington, was UK home coming queen in 2005.

Jackson, who was born last week, already has had his first trip to UK, to the Boone Center, where his parents had their wedding reception in 2013.

"I'm the queen mum," says Emily Mills, the mother of Grant and Amanda.

Dad Randy Mills fairly bursts with pride when he talks about his three UK royals: "It's a person who's pretty visible on campus with leadership. You get to know a lot of people when your name is out there."

Adds Emily, aka the "queen mum": "And you're personable. They want someone who represents the university really well."

Homecoming king and queen competitions at UK are more intricately organized than an outsider might expect: Campus organizations nominate candidates — Amanda was nominated by her sorority, Delta Delta Delta; Grant was nominated by his fraternity, Sigma Chi; and Barbara was nominated by her sorority, Chi Omega.

All three had worked at the UK visitors center. Cutright said her favorite activity was introducing new students to UK.

Nominees are then screened and interviewed by a panel of faculty and alumni. Cutright said she wrote an essay and submitted her résumé during the final candidate-selection process. Five male and five female candidates are presented for final voting by students.

"You don't really campaign, which is what is great about doing it," Cutright said.

Grant said he had admired his future wife from afar. Barbara "was the kind of girl I needed to marry, but I didn't feel I was up to snuff," he said.

He said he was happy with his homecoming king recognition because it validated the leadership opportunities UK gave him.

"I felt like I grew being involved in organizations, dealing with conflict and peer-to-peer interaction," Grant Mills said.

Barbara Jackson Mills said joining Chi Omega gave her "an opportunity to meet a lot of people and find out what I was passionate about."

Barbara was active in activities that linked UK students with those in the community with disabilities, including Best Buddies, as well as a dance event that brought together both groups.

Barbara Jackson Mills' parents are both teachers; her sister Erika, a swimmer, has Down syndrome.

She said the home coming competition gives UK the chance to showcase the student leader "who loves on everyone and who doesn't care to get their feet wet and do things, someone who is willing to be there for people."

Grant Mills, who speaks to incoming freshmen, tells them: "I am so jealous of you right now."

Said Cutright: "UK gave me the opportunity to be who I was as a person and a leader."

Homecoming royalty, she said, consists of "someone who loves the spirit of the university, who loves what the university stands for."