Dolly Parton to offer 'helpful hints' to Tennessee grads

Packed house expected to hear singer give UT commencement address

Dolly Parton poses with Matthew Maples, left, dressed as Porter Wagner,  of the Sevierville Intermediate School Drama Club at Dollywood Thursday, May 7, 2009.  The Drama Club will perform a Dolly Parton tribute play entitled 'Heartstrings' which which will feature different eras of her career.

Photo by ADAM BRIMER

Dolly Parton poses with Matthew Maples, left, dressed as Porter Wagner, of the Sevierville Intermediate School Drama Club at Dollywood Thursday, May 7, 2009. The Drama Club will perform a Dolly Parton tribute play entitled "Heartstrings" which which will feature different eras of her career.

Dolly Parton poses with Matthew Maples, left, who is dressed as country singer Porter Wagner on Thursday. Matthew is a member of the Sevierville Intermediate School Drama Club, which will perform a Parton tribute at Dollywood.

Photo by Adam Brimer

Dolly Parton poses with Matthew Maples, left, who is dressed as country singer Porter Wagner on Thursday. Matthew is a member of the Sevierville Intermediate School Drama Club, which will perform a Parton tribute at Dollywood.

When Dolly Parton makes her commencement address today at the University of Tennessee, she'll set the record straight about wishes and dreams.

"There's a difference between wishes and dreams," the singer said Thursday afternoon at Dollywood. "I want to sort of define the difference for them. I want to give them some helpful hints."

Around 12,000 people are expected to attend the proceedings at Thompson-Boling Arena to hear the award-winning Sevier County native impart some of her mountain wisdom. Tickets for the event were snatched up weeks ago, with a packed house expected to turn out and see Parton in a rare Knoxville event.

Parton will be given an honorary UT doctoral degree - only the second one ever granted by the school -in humane and musical letters.

During her career, Parton has been given many honorary titles, including being a mayor and a law enforcement officer. But she's only been given two honorary college degrees.

Carson-Newman College gave her an honorary degree more than a decade ago.

In talking to the 1,000 graduates, Parton wants to help them understand what it takes to succeed and make their own dreams come true.

"I'll talk about planning. I'll talk about dreaming. I'll talk about sticking with it," she said. "I'll talk about how I, as a young girl, had some dreams and made them come true."

She'll perform a song and talk of her days of struggling as a young performer in Nashville, fresh out of high school and with stars in her eyes.

Parton never attended college and was the first member of her family to earn a high school diploma. Her father and mother never had a formal education.

Now an advocate of early childhood education and fighting the local dropout rate through her Dollywood Foundation, Parton admitted she was tempted not to finish high school.

"I didn't have to go to school, because my dad never realized the need to go," she said. "He never had to go. Nobody made me go to high school. I made myself go.

"I knew I couldn't really leave home until I was 18 or my family would have sent a posse after me. I thought I'd rather go to school, get to know kids and kind of socialize. So I made myself go. I hated it. I hated every minute of it.

"I wanted to go on to Nashville and live my dreams - which I did, but I did it when the time was right to do it."

Parton said she's proud to receive UT's honorary degree. "It always makes me feel good when the people back home recognize what I have done," she said. "I am proud they want to make me a part of (the ceremony) and that they claim me.

"We've become part of each other's lives."

And Parton has high hopes for the graduating class.

"You never know if one of those people out there will go out and change the whole wide world," she said. "It's possible. It can happen."

Terry Morrow may be reached at 865-342-6445.

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Comments » 15

linthat22#485040 writes:

The kid looks frightened by the freak that is now Dolly Parton!

She's starting to resemble Michael Jackson with the plastic-ness of her face.

Pixel writes:

I believe Dolly has a good heart and is a generous person. What she says is good, but what she has DONE is transformed herself, complete with plastic, in order to sell herself. I really would not want my children misconstruing that model as a 'healthy' example to follow in their own lives. I'm still a believer in authentic.

KWVeteran writes:

Life sure has changed. When I graduated, the County Commissioner spoke to us in a hot gymnasium that knew no air conditioning. The old maid school teachers would never have allowed a high voltage type like Dolly to grace the stage, that's for sure.

"Down there in h*ll you'll find only wine, women, and song." From the rear of the church a toothless old codger pipes up: "Oh, Death, where is thy sting?"

scaryworldET writes:

Dolly is one of the savviest business people in the music industry. Yes, she's played up her physical attributes, but she demonstrates the kind of work ethic and intelligence that grads would do well to emulate.

smokymtman writes:

Come on folks, Dolly's given back to society more than most top name entertainers and she is good at heart. All the plastic and artificial comments need to be cut up and thrown in the trash. If you have done more with your life to give back to Tennessee than Dolly has, then have at it. She deserves her honorary degree. Wish I could be there to congratulate her. Hats off to you Smoky Mountain Girl!!!

JustMy0pinion (Inactive) writes:

in response to wlvol:

(This comment was removed by the site staff.)

Do you ever have anything nice to say about anybody? The woman actually DOES look well for someone in their 60's and is a class act that gives of her resources AND her time! She may sell out her name for millions but she has given millions back to where she came from to the schools and community. What have you done for them lately?

jrjenki writes:

This goes for all women....if you think you are a role model what are your boobs saying about you? Something a bit odd about wanting to show your boobs all the time....

mywaynow writes:

You folks must be commenting just to comment. Dolly has done good things for this area for years. As for her looks - I quote Dolly "it costs a lot of money to look this cheap". Get the hint - she knows what she is doing. Yeah, she has made millions - and she has returned millions to the people in this area.

hoofhearted writes:

in response to linthat22#485040:

The kid looks frightened by the freak that is now Dolly Parton!

She's starting to resemble Michael Jackson with the plastic-ness of her face.

You ain't right...LOL Well, yeah, you ARE right. She looks scary to me. Why does she have to dress that way at a Primary school?
Anyway,
Yeah, she does do some good in her hometown but it's always, "look at me!"
I'm done now, let the trashing begin!! =)

KCHS63 writes:

in response to linthat22#485040:

The kid looks frightened by the freak that is now Dolly Parton!

She's starting to resemble Michael Jackson with the plastic-ness of her face.

That's not fright. It's the thrill of standing next to the mentor who's going to give you a college scholarship if you graduate. If your mother is 62, what did she do for society, except for raising a smarmy, cynical child?

AmpTrap (Inactive) writes:

in response to scaryworldET:

Dolly is one of the savviest business people in the music industry. Yes, she's played up her physical attributes, but she demonstrates the kind of work ethic and intelligence that grads would do well to emulate.

You are right. I don't care about the physical stuff. She came from nothing and made it big with hard work and long hours. When I was injured in an on the job accident I used her as a role model to better myself. I am going to graduate this December with a degree in Electronics Engineering at the ripe old age of 50.

clharnden#417001 writes:

Dolly looks good for her age,this is just a bad picture.I do agree she does need to cover up the boobs at a school situation,maybe that's why the young mans mouth is hanging open LOL !!!

sonshyne writes:

in response to smokymtman:

Come on folks, Dolly's given back to society more than most top name entertainers and she is good at heart. All the plastic and artificial comments need to be cut up and thrown in the trash. If you have done more with your life to give back to Tennessee than Dolly has, then have at it. She deserves her honorary degree. Wish I could be there to congratulate her. Hats off to you Smoky Mountain Girl!!!

I agree...she gives back so much to east tennessee...who cares what she looks like..its her giving and caring nature that is the main thing.

hoofhearted writes:

in response to droptopman1999:

(This comment was removed by the site staff.)

That was wrong...LOL

JustMy0pinion (Inactive) writes:

in response to jrjenki:

This goes for all women....if you think you are a role model what are your boobs saying about you? Something a bit odd about wanting to show your boobs all the time....

Got you looking didn't it?

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