There was a point when Ciaran Fairman was attending Kentucky Wesleyan College that he was at risk of flunking out.

He was struggling personally and academically, and said if it weren’t for a few educators at the school taking a vested interest in him, he would have failed.

Fairman, originally from Dublin, Ireland, graduated from KWC in 2012 with a bachelor of science degree in health science. He went on to receive his master’s degree in kinesiology from Georgia Southern University, and a doctorate in kinesiology from The Ohio State University.

He will be the keynote speaker during the school’s honors convocation at 12:30 p.m. on Thursday, April 8.

Fairman said he was honored to be asked to speak to students.

“My path to being a student at KWC wasn’t a smooth one,” he said. “I was an international student and struggled a bit, and I was really going down the wrong path. To be fully honest, I was at risk of losing my place at the college.”

Fairman’s mother was diagnosed with breast cancer while he was attending KWC, and that changed everything for him. He didn’t want her lasting memory of him to be failing at his educational opportunities in the United States.

“That gave me a kick in the butt to get going, and work harder,” Fairman said.

He currently works as an assistant professor of exercise science and is director of the Exercise Oncology Lab at the University of South Carolina.

Looking at his resume, it might be easy for someone to see his Ph.D. and think he came from pure success, Fairman said.

“The reason I wanted to come back and speak is I think there are a lot of people that can get to that college experience and doubt why they are there, and have barriers that they don’t know if they can overcome,” he said. “There are different ways of defining success, and I just want to talk about what I’ve been through and hopefully encourage them to achieve.”

He said the most important thing for students to consider is that there are no “perfect pictures.”

“I really want to try and normalize a lot of my failures and setbacks and mistakes, and present what I think is a more appropriate picture of what success looks like,” he said.

According to Kathy Rutherman, KWC director of development and campus relations, the honors convocation is an annual event held each April to recognize student achievements and award scholarships, as well as teachers of the year, staff person of the year and adviser of the year.

The event is not open to the public, due to COVID-19 regulations, but it will be recorded and available on the school's website,, and social media for viewing afterward.

The date of the convocation has been corrected in this story.

Bobbie Hayse,, 270-691-7315

Bobbie Hayse,, 270-691-7315

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