As one of the Cardinal Principles, “Noble Purpose” encourages the UofL community to live and work in ways that make a positive difference in society. University of Louisville Interim President Lori Stewart Gonzalez lifted up this principle at the recent May 2022 spring commencement exercises when she conferred an honorary doctor of science degree on Kevin Nolan, president and CEO of GE Appliances, a Haier Company, who leads strategic investments for GE Appliances.
“Honorary degrees salute special achievements and recognize outstanding service to the university and to the community,” said Gonzalez. “I am pleased and proud to confer this degree on such an extraordinary individual.”
Nolan’s leadership and efforts have resulted in $50 million to help support public education initiatives in Louisville to provide equitable access to quality educational opportunities for all students. For Nolan’s commitment to public education, in 2020, he received the Kelly Award from the Kentucky Department of Education.
During his time as vice president of technology at GE Appliances, Nolan created FirstBuild, a global maker destination, in partnership with UofL. The partnership continues today, boasting 15 products on the shelf and 454 prototypes created.
Nolan is also a longtime member of UofL’s J.B. Speed School of Engineering’s advisory board. Gonzalez noted that, thanks to Nolan, strong ties between UofL and GE Appliances have been built resulting in the development of scholarships and GE’s participation in student organizations such as Speed Spectrum, Society of Women Engineers, the Women’s Leadership Conference and the Engineering Living Learning Community.
Since 2004, GE Appliances has hosted 575 co-op students from the Speed School, which have completed 1,314 co-op rotations. In 2020, UofL honored GE Appliances as its “Outstanding Corporate Partner of the Year.”
“With Kevin’s leadership, GE Appliances invested in first-generation college students through support of the Speed School’s Brown-Forman Engineering Academy,” said Gonzalez. “Kevin has also invested personally, giving to the Mechanical Engineering Fund in the Speed School.”
In his remarks to the graduating class of 2022, Nolan emphasized the importance of how one’s unique gifts and differences can define character and create future opportunities. Nolan, an honors scholar graduate from the University of Connecticut, where he received a mechanical engineering degree, shared how struggles with dyslexia early in his studies hampered his interest in school. It was one of his professors at the University of Connecticut whose belief and support helped drive and influence Nolan’s success.
“It’s your differences that make you special,” said Nolan. “Leverage those differences to create opportunities for yourself. Don’t try to fit in by becoming something else or someone else. Be who you are and who you want to be. We need all of you with all you have to offer. After all, creativity thrives on the diversity of ideas. And that’s why I have been so committed to this university and why I have appreciated the many partnerships we have built with UofL.”
Nolan’s final word of advice to the 2022 graduates: Stay curious.
“Use your skills and innate curiosity to fuel your passion and discover what you love,” he said. “I have been so fortunate to have my career and passions intersect. It is truly something I wish on all of you. Keep learning. Keep growing. Keeping asking the question, ‘what if’.”
Hear Kevin Nolan’s complete remarks on the UofL YouTube channel here.