Joyce Hamilton Berry was not a model student when she was in school. She earned all A's, but her behavior could be called into question from time to time.
When she was in seventh grade at the segregated Dunbar High School, she achieved a spot on the honor roll during the first grading period. Her name, along with others who were on the honor roll, was published in the Lexington Leader newspaper under the "Colored Notes" section.
The next grading period, however, she missed the honor roll because of a B in "deportment" or behavior.
"One of the reasons I'm standing here is because" of Colored Notes, Berry said during a recent phone conversation. "When I didn't make the honor roll, neighborhood people asked why I didn't make it, why my name wasn't in the paper."
She never missed it again.
She did miss, however, her induction into the National Honor Society. No one told her about the ceremony. It was to be a surprise. Her mother knew but kept it secret.
On that day, her class was practicing for its baccalaureate at Main Street Baptist Church. Instead of returning to school, Berry went shopping, getting back to school just in time for dismissal. Her mother was not pleased.
Fortunately, Berry, 76, has every intention of being present Friday when she and 22 others are inducted into the 2015 Class of the University of Kentucky Alumni Association Hall of Distinguished Alumni. Berry earned that honor for her many accomplishments after becoming the first black woman to earn a doctorate at UK in 1970.
A clinical psychologist in Washington, D.C., and in Maryland, Berry's expert opinions were sought by newspapers, magazines and TV news shows, and she has answered readers' questions in Jet, Essence and Ebony magazines.
Elaine Wilson, the first black president of the UK Alumni Association, will be presenting Berry with her award. Wilson noted there will be a couple of firsts at this event, with her presenting the award and Berry receiving it.
"I think it is good for us and so encouraging for people who come behind us," she said.
Members of the Hall of Distinguished Alumni are selected once every five years. The process is a long one because each detail has to be meticulously researched.
The names of more than 500 graduates were submitted, and from that 23 were selected.
Berry's English teacher at Dunbar was John T. Smith, the first black student to earn a doctorate at UK. He was named a Distinguished Alumni in 1995.
The Distinguished Alumni honor roll was established in 1965 as a part of UK's centennial celebration. With this year's honorees, the number inducted is 306.
Berry was born in Lexington, the daughter of Sam and Lucille Hamilton. Her father owned Sterling Barber Shop on Deweese Street and was one of the investors in the Lexington Hustlers baseball team.
She started school at an early age, was promoted a couple of times, and graduated from high school in three years, at the age of 15. Berry earned her undergraduate degree from Hampton University, and her master's and doctorate from UK.
After receiving her doctorate, Berry worked at the Hunter Foundation for Health Care, a nonprofit health maintenance organization in Lexington, named for Dr. Bush Hunter, who delivered Berry.
"When I would introduce him," Berry said, "I said I was one of the last three babies that he delivered. The other two were my cousins."
In 1973, she left Lexington to work with the National Medical Association Foundation in Washington in developing an HMO for that area. When the federal HMO movement failed, Berry became a school psychologist with the Montgomery County Public Schools and later a licensed psychologist with a private practice in Maryland and the District of Columbia. She is now retired.
"As the time grows closer, the more excited I get," Berry said of the ceremony. "My friends have said it is about time. But if I had never gotten (the honor), I would be OK. I know what I did is significant."
"This means at some point people have recognized what you've done and said, 'well done.'"