Nobel Laureate Dr. Phillip Sharp visits Union College

Pictured are Ann Sharp, Union College President Marcia Hawkins, and Dr. Phillip Sharp.
Pictured are Ann Sharp, Union College President Marcia Hawkins, and Dr. Phillip Sharp.
Dr. Sharp greets Union College student Joshua Souane.
Dr. Sharp greets Union College student Joshua Souane.

BARBOURVILLE, Ky. – Alumni visits are a common occurrence at Union College, but on Monday, the college welcomed two very special alums in Dr. Phillip and Ann Sharp.

The couple, both of whom graduated from Union in 1966, came to campus to tour the new Ramsey Center of Health and Natural Sciences and in particular the Phillip and Ann Sharp Natural Sciences Wing, named in their honor.

Dr. Sharp, a Nobel Laureate and a research scientist at M.I.T., also took time for a question-and-answer session with students and faculty and spoke at dinner held in his honor.

A native of Pendleton County, Ky., Dr. Sharp spoke fondly of his time at Union and the lessons he learned during his time at the institution. Taking advantage of an opportunity and of failure were among the lessons he learned at Union.

“Sometimes a little misfortune is good for you,” he said.

Having played basketball in high school and being a lover of the game, Dr. Sharp tried out for Union’s team when he came to campus.

“After a couple of days, Coach Pete Moore pulled me aside and said, ‘Phil, it’s not going to work,’” Dr. Sharp said as the room erupted in laughter.

Instead of spending time at basketball practice in the afternoons, Dr. Sharp said he then had time to take chemistry. Thus laying the groundwork for the Nobel Prize in medicine he won for his work in molecular genetics.

“You will go through life and you will find there will be moments in which you will need to make adjustments; you will need to overcome the moment and move forward. And Union College taught me that,” Dr. Sharp added.

Above all, Union College instilled in Dr. Sharp the drive to be the best he can be.

“Union taught to get up and do the very best you can,” he said. “And I’ve been trying to do that in my 40 years at M.I.T. “

“Union College taught me to have a thirst for learning, an adventuresome inquisitive nature, and that’s been a very important part of my whole life,” said Dr. Sharp.

“Our students have the ability to go anywhere they want to go and do anything they want to do. They just have to study hard, they have to be dedicated, and they have Phil Sharp to be a model for them,” said Union College President Marcia Hawkins.

Dr. Sharp also launched two bio-tech companies doing research into treatments for cancer and other genetic diseases. For more information on Dr. Sharp and his research, please visit