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The University of Tennessee

Spring 2009 Commencement

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Video Highlights: Governor Bredesen Introduces Dolly Parton, Who Takes the Stage Singing "Rocky Top"

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Before receiving her honorary doctorate, Dolly Parton was introduced by Gov. Phil Bredesen, who also emphasized the importance of hard work in all of Parton's success.

"It's true that Dolly is blessed with natural talent and the great ability to tell stories through song," Bredesen said. "But there is another part of the equation of her success: smarts, perseverance and a serious commitment to putting in the hours."

Parton's philanthropic work has centered on the importance of reading and education in the lives of children. In 1996, she founded the Imagination Library program in Sevier County, which provides children with a new age-appropriate book every month from birth to 5 years of age.

In 2004, Gov. Bredesen established the Governor's Books from Birth Foundation to replicate the Imagination Library program across Tennessee. Today, Parton's program serves 1,000 communities in 47 states, the United Kingdom and Canada, including all 95 counties in Tennessee. By mid-2009, the Dollywood Foundation will have distributed more than 20 million books.

For more than 30 years, Parton also has provided incentives for graduation and college scholarships for Sevier County students, giving them opportunities beyond high school and a chance for a college education.

The degree, a doctorate of humane and musical letters, was given at the commencement ceremony for the UT Knoxville College of Arts and Sciences. More than 12,000 were in attendance for the event, at which Parton shared both songs and wisdom with the graduates and their families.

Video Highlights

Dolly Parton - Click to view video and read her address

Dolly Parton delivers the commencement address to the 2009 class from the College of Arts and Sciences

Sgt. Willis

A surprise reunion between a father and his daughter.

Click to see Dolly Parton perform Rocky Top

Gov. Bredesen introduces Dolly Parton, who takes the stage singing "Rocky Top"

Click to see Dolly Parton receive her honorary doctorate

UT awards Dolly Parton an honorary doctorate of humane and musical letters

Watch Dolly Parton perform 'Try'

Dolly Parton performs a special version of "Try" for UT's graduates