Nancy Tomassetti (’74) and 16 other alumnae participate in Kentucky Oaks Survivors Parade

Nancy Tomassetti ('74) pictured right, with her friend Marsha Karaken, a 12-year cancer survivor who works at the James Graham Brown Cancer Center. 

Nancy Tomassetti (’74) and 16 other alumnae participate in Kentucky Oaks Survivors Parade

During the 2017 Kentucky Derby weekend festivities, a total of 17 WKU alumnae were selected to walk in the ninth annual Survivors Parade on Kentucky Oaks Day. The Survivors Parade is a march of breast and ovarian cancer survivors, which takes place on Louisville’s Churchill Downs’ historic racetrack. This year, 143 breast and ovarian cancer survivors walked in the parade prior to the 143rd running of the Longines Kentucky Oaks race on May 5.

According to WKU Regent and Lifetime Member Julie Harris Hinson (’90), Past President of the WKU Alumni Association National Board of Directors and an active volunteer with the WKU Greater Louisville Alumni Chapter, the Longines Kentucky Oaks is America’s premier and most lucrative race for 3-year old fillies held each year on the day before the Kentucky Derby.

“During Kentucky Oaks Day, the racetrack is decorated in pink bunting and guests are asked to prominently incorporate pink into their attire to raise money and drive national attention to the fight against breast and ovarian cancer,” Hinson explained. “The event culminates in the Survivors Parade, which is a march of breast and ovarian cancer survivors that takes place on the racetrack prior to the running of the race. Participants are nominated for the honor and are chosen based on popular vote. I was so excited to learn that 17 of my fellow WKU alumnae received this honor, including my friend, Nancy Tomassetti.”

Nominated for the honor by her daughter and niece, Nancy Tomassetti (’74) of Louisville, Ky., was one of the 143 participants and one of 17 known WKU alumnae who participated this year. “My four-month survivor date was on May 5th, so this was my first chance to participate in the Survivors Parade.”

Diagnosed last year, Tomassetti went through a lumpectomy, chemotherapy and 33 radiation treatments from February to September. “Since that time, it has been my mission to spread the word about 3D imaging mammogram,” she said. “My breast cancer was found during a routine check. It was very small and would not have shown with a regular mammogram. I want ladies to schedule their annual mammograms and for gentlemen to ensure the ladies in their lives do the same. I hope it will save another life as it did mine.” 

The Tomassettis are executive board members for the WKU Greater Louisville Alumni Chapter. “Al has been treasurer for years, and I coordinate the WKU Day at the Races at Churchill Downs Millionaire Row in May and November. We have hosted up to 280 WKU race fans on the May date,” she said.

A retired public school librarian and current part-time private school librarian, Tomassetti said her husband, Al Tomassetti, her huge family, her friends and her students kept her going during treatment. Though she still deals with side effects from her treatments, she has celebrated her new life by going to Colorado for a family wedding and enjoying a Caribbean cruise in January and a 10-day cruise to the Panama Canal in April. The opportunity to participate in the Kentucky Oaks Survivors Parade offered another way for her to celebrate and say “thank you.”

WKU alumnae who participated in the event this year included:

Debra Adams (’14) of Columbia, Ky.
Sheryl Bailey (’02) of Glasgow, Ky.
Sara Bell (’58) of Frankfort, Ky.
Debbie Brock (’94, ’97) of Lexington, Ky.
Katie Brown (’13) of Buffalo, Ky.
Holly Davis (’04, ’06) of Campbellsville, Ky.
Stella Downs (’91, ’96) of Glasgow, Ky.
Tracy Farris (’90, ’96) of Simpsonville, Ky.
Lifetime Member Lynne Givens (’88, ’92) of Greensburg, Ky.
Jennifer Hawthorne (’91) of Breeding, Ky.
Linda Keller (’12) of Owensboro, Ky.
Karen King (’76) of Richmond, Ky.
Amanda Mattingly (’12) of Frankfort, Ky.
Amanda Robinson (’10) of Brentwood, Tenn.
Nancy Tomassetti (’74) of Louisville, Ky.
Christa Wilcox (’08) of Fort Mitchell, Ky.
Gail Williams (’67, ’68) of Bowling Green, Ky. 

Are you a WKU alumnus from the Louisville area? Are you interested in becoming involved with the Greater Louisville Alumni Chapter? If so, contact Laura Smith at